Know your worth: Getting the right job for the right value

July 20, 2017

As a specialist legal recruitment firm, we are often approached by candidates with questions concerning compensation and, particularly, around how to negotiate compensation or start the conversation with a potential employer. Our legal recruitment consultant team have put together some key points on how to prepare yourself for negotiating compensation during the interview process:

Every step counts

Getting the job sometimes seems like the hard part, but in fact it can sometimes be harder to ensure you’re getting the best value for your work. This doesn’t just happen at the offer stage, it can happen during pre-screening when you’re asked your salary expectations. Opinions vary as to whether you should disclose your current salary or not; however, the answer isn’t necessarily one way or the other. You’re marketing yourself as a product and one step of the process is demonstrating your worth through monetary means. The number or range you provide to the firm or company will demonstrate the quality of the product, i.e. you. Stating you’re willing to negotiate for the right position is also an acceptable answer, as long as you’re being realistic.

Overselling vs. underselling

I had a recruiter ask me once what my salary expectations were. Based on my answer, she told me, “Make sure you dress like you earn that much”. She said if you’re going into a company asking for that salary range make sure you look the part. She was right! On the other hand, typically junior associates will fear asking too much for fear of sounding self-entitled. Go back to comparing your merit to what’s standard in the market place. It’s objective and takes away the prejudice of coming off self-entitled, arrogant and asking for too much. Don’t oversell, but don’t undersell yourself either.

Do your research

Before stating your expectations, do some research on salaries for someone of your level with your experience on websites such as (in Alberta) or NOC codes for professions. The Counsel Network also has resources for associates and in-house counsel. Check out our In-House Counsel Compensation & Career Survey Report and our private practice salary charts. Talk to mentors or colleagues at different law firms as to what the expectations are or what the market is. (Be careful about asking anyone’s salary unless you have built trust in your relationship, otherwise it could be seen as offensive as it is generally considered private information). A legal recruitment consultant is also a good resource as they tend to a good sense of law firm and in-house counsel salaries in their market.

Final step

Once you’ve stated your expectations, gone through the interview process and received a job offer, don’t hesitate to tell the firm you’d like to take a day or so to think about it before accepting, if you feel the need. If you feel the offer is below market or undervalued, discuss this with the employer. It’s also wise to have an understanding of where the firm sits in the market before asking for more – and avoid a potentially awkward conversation. Consider the type of employer you have received the offer from – are they a large, national firm? Boutique? Local firm in the suburbs? Keep in mind, negotiation is about finding the middle ground, so your counter offer may result in you receiving a number close to what you asked for, but not necessarily exactly what you asked for, per se.

Lastly, be confident. You’re applying for a job you believe you’re suited for. Be confident in how you present yourself and your worth, without being arrogant. Humility takes you a long way.

– Radha Kuehn, Recruitment Associate