Print/PDF this page:

Print Friendly and PDF

Share this page:

Salary Negotiation

Many candidates express concern over how to effectively negotiate their starting salary and/or future raises.  It is common for some employers to have a set starting salary and thereby no room for negotiation; however, with other employers, there may be an opportunity to negotiate.  If you have a chance to negotiate your starting salary it is a good idea to do so because that salary will provide the basis for future raises and possible potential bonuses. 


When to Discuss Salary

The topic of salary may come up as early as the initial application process when an employer may ask an applicant to specify his or her "salary requirements" in the application materials. Alternatively, it may not arise until after an offer has been made.  As a general rule, unless specifically raised by the employer earlier in the process, you should avoid discussing salary and other benefits until the employer has made you an offer. This will allow you ample time to fully articulate your value to the firm throughout the interview process, and put you in a much better position for salary negotiation.


In any type of salary negotiation it is important that you fully prepare for the discussion:

  1. Know the average salary range across the industry for the type and level of position you are applying. This can be challenging to research particularly for smaller private employers. The CDO has a variety of resources, including the Annual NALP Associate Salary Survey, which can help you with this step.
  2. Create a budget to determine the annual salary you require. Be sure to include all expenses to create a salary range with which you are comfortable.

In the event an employer asks for salary requirements before the first interview, provide them with the appropriate salary range you have calculated based on the above two steps.  Be aware you do not want too large of a range, and that the lower end of the range is fair game so it should be a sufficient salary for you to accept. To keep the negotiation lines open you may also tell the employer that, although this is the range you are seeking, it may be flexible for the right opportunity.


If at all possible, let the employer offer his or her salary range first so you have a better sense of what the employer has in mind. However, even if you give your salary range first, you can still ask the employer what pay range he or she is considering. In addition once the offer is made, it is important to gain a full understanding of the entire compensation package, which may include valuable non-cash components.


Negotiating a Raise

If you have been with your organization for more than a year, you may be in a position to negotiate a raise. Timing is important for successful salary negotiations, so be aware of the internal and external pressures on the organization, including the current economic situation. If the firm is doing well, it may be a good time to ask for a raise. Other good times to ask for a raise are when you have recently experienced a significant achievement, such as winning a large case, or you have been handed additional responsibilities.


Keep in mind that other benefits, such as vacation time or any available bonuses may also be negotiable. The negotiations may factor in all of these things and you may find, for example, that based on your personal situation and the employer’s needs that you would take a slightly lower salary for an additional week of vacation.  Prior to scheduling the meeting with your supervisor, review your achievements and be ready to discuss how you have added value to the organization.