How to Negotiate Benefits and Perks in Your New Legal Job
Jamy J. Sullivan, J.D., Robert Half
Though job offers typically focus on the salary figure, compensation is about more than the numbers on your paycheck. And when it comes to negotiations before you agree to work for an employer, you may find there’s more leeway for enhancing the overall package by way of adjusting (and even adding) benefits and perks.
That’s important because these benefits can play a powerful role in how you feel about the position — not only now but as you grow into the role. They can help you build your nest egg, unlock professional development opportunities, and improve your health and work-life balance.
Of course, while a company’s standard benefits package is usually negotiable, conducting that negotiation isn’t always straightforward. Here are some tips to help you decide what you want and how to go about asking for it.
Do your homework
If you kick off the negotiation by requesting perks and benefits that are simply unattainable, the employer may pay less attention to your more realistic requests. Instead, build credibility by first asking for a tweak or addition to the standard package you’re confident the employer will accept. Start by browsing the firm’s website, looking for clues into how the organization brands itself concerning employee welfare. Does it seem particularly sympathetic to the needs of working parents? Does it promote its professional development and upskilling programs? To benchmark common perks and benefits in similar legal roles, use the Salary Guide From Robert Half, as well as company review sites like Glassdoor and Comparably.
Mention your must-haves early
Before entering the negotiation, list your professional and personal responsibilities. Where do they conflict or overlap? Suppose you need to work from home two days a week for childcare reasons. If the employer is offering only one day, that’s a potential deal breaker that should be dealt with at the start. Don’t burn your negotiating capital on nice-to-haves like a gym membership or an upgraded company laptop before addressing your most critical needs.
Look for win-wins
Is there a legal conference on the horizon that you’d love to attend? Or an online certification or degree program that would help bolster your skill set? Asking about these kinds of educational opportunities is a powerful negotiating tactic, signaling that you want to grow in ways that will also add value to the organization. Similarly, if you’re asking for more days working from home, talk less about how convenient this is for you and more about how remote working boosts your overall productivity and engagement. Benefits that benefit everyone are the easiest to negotiate.
Upgrade your job title
Don’t give up if the hiring manager is politely rebuffing your requests. Perhaps there’s a perk that would cost them nothing but significantly impact your day-to-day happiness and engagement. An obvious example is your job title, the element of the compensation package that affords you status in the organization. For instance, if you’re applying for a job as a paralegal, you could make the case that senior paralegal more accurately reflects your expertise and responsibilities. Take care to present the new title as something that will help you do your job better by, for example, affecting the way teammates will perceive your role. Otherwise, such an ask could be seen as egotistical or a way for you to leverage job opportunities with other firms.
Ask how the benefits evolve over time
Like your starting salary, your perks and benefits package should evolve over time. Unlike salary, it isn’t always clear how this will happen. How will your PTO increase with years of service? What’s the vesting schedule for your stock options? Is tuition reimbursement a one-off deal, or will the firm make an ongoing commitment to your professional development? Asking these questions not only gets you essential information, it also conveys to the hiring manager that you’re thinking about a long-term commitment to the firm — an impression that can only help your negotiations.
Finally, don’t be nervous or apologetic about asking for what you want. You’ve already received an offer, which gives you leverage. You’ll likely have to make compromises, and some requests may be rejected. But at least you’ll start your new job knowing you did everything possible to secure the compensation package you deserve.
Jamy J. Sullivan is executive director of the legal practice at Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized talent solutions firm. Robert Half offers contract and permanent placement solutions, and is the parent company of Protiviti®, a global consulting firm. Visit RobertHalf.com.