Valuing your worth

It’s fantastic to receive a job offer - likely the culmination of an interview process that has taken time, hard work and not a little anxiety along the way. But no matter what your seniority or experience, the salary negotiation can be tricky. Done badly, it can also create bad feeling or, worse, can lead to the recruiting firm rescinding its offer. Finance departments of law firms have grown rapidly in recent years, offering many specialist and generalist roles to finance candidates – at all levels of seniority. Traditional finance roles have grown in status while new roles are frequently coming into play, in areas like pricing, project/finance analysis and e-billing. This means there is often fierce competition for good candidates, with law firms willing to offer attractive salaries to those who fit the bill. At the same time, candidates have to be savvy. Law firms will have strict budgets for each role and will enter salary negotiations with a well-informed sense of what they deem a fair market offer that is aligned to their impressions of how much support you will need to get fully up and running. Hopefully, you will see eye to eye on this. But occasionally, there can be a gap between a candidate and a firm’s salary expectations. This is where discussions start.

Balanced approach

So how can you ensure you approach the salary negotiation with a fair-minded attitude that also protects your best interests? In this piece, we provide some tips and advice based on our many years of helping to agree remuneration packages for our candidates.
  1. Research the market. Have a good sense of what is a fair market price for the roles you are seeking. And apply for the right jobs at the right level. A good recruiter will be able to offer advice and support here.
  2. Firms will typically allocate a specific budget for any given role – say £32,000 to £42,000 for a Senior Legal Cashier role. If you are then offered the role at £38,000 don’t immediately come back asking for £50,000. It’s not going to happen no matter how good you think you are.
  3. Speaking of which, be realistic about your skills/experience. If a firm is offering good training, it may be worth accepting a lower offer for the career development opportunities you will get.
  4. There are certainly times when negotiation is necessary – for example, if the offer comes in below your expectations and the salary bracket advertised. In this situation, be professional, outline your concerns and see if there might be movement. Do not go blasting in with an inflated ego or risk losing the offer. Again, a recruiter can be very useful here to act as a fair broker.
  5. If you are in the lucky position of having more than one offer on the table, play it carefully. Yes, you can say that another firm has offered you more in the hope of raising the offer. But only do so for a job you really want, or you may risk a) ending up with the job you didn’t want so much or b) putting off all parties. There is a limit to a firm’s patience on these matters.
  6. Likewise, don’t pretend to have another offer unless it’s 100% true. Firms are not stupid!
  7. Think beyond salary. Firms typically offer a package of benefits beyond just salary. Try to see the big picture.
  8. Also remember that you should not be a finished product when you start a new job. If you meet every requirement of the role and consider yourself to be at the very top end of the salary bracket, it may also be worth considering whether the role will stretch you enough, regardless of salary. It can be easy to allow a good salary to corner you in roles that you have outgrown when it would be better to take a step back, learn new skills and take a bigger career leap forwards long-term.
Confidence to expect a good salary is no bad thing. You should go through the interview process with a positive sense of what you are worth and stand by it. But at the same time, thinking ahead, applying for the right jobs at the right level – and then understanding the big picture – should ensure that any salary negotiations you enter are as stress-free as possible. CB