Starting Salary Too Low? Negotiate Perks Instead

 

Question:

I’ve been offered an amazing new legal job, but the starting salary is less than what I currently earn. Can you offer advice on perks I can negotiate to offset the difference? 

 

Answer:

The job market is extremely competitive right now, and skilled legal professionals like yourself are in high demand. Nonetheless, some organizations simply can’t offer the same salaries as their rivals. But, if you are willing to negotiate, potential employers are often willing and able to offer in-demand nonmonetary perks to bring you aboard.

Perks can vary widely depending on each company and their organizational culture. Some of the more common offerings include:

  • Flextime and compressed workweeks — These arrangements allow you to set your own schedule or work fewer days, but you must log a predetermined number of hours every week. Each employer has their own definition of “flexible,” so make sure their rules suit your work-life balance needs before signing on.
  • Telecommuting — Working remotely is becoming increasingly popular, thanks in part to cloud computing and apps like Skype and Slack. This option can help offset lower salaries, as you can save both time and money that would be spent on commuting. Even employers who aren’t comfortable with completely remote legal teams may be open to you working from home a few days a week.
  • Wellness programs — These perks are often tied into the healthcare benefits a company provides. Popular offerings include access to gyms or fitness programs, ergonomic evaluations and equipment, healthy food options, and stress management resources.
  • Volunteer time off (VTO) — As employees are increasingly interested in making a positive difference, this perk has picked up steam. VTO can usually be taken for a variety of reasons, from providing pro-bono legal services to participating in local food drives. Some organizations have a dedicated cause, so check to see if your VTO can be used for any purpose or if you have to work within the company’s own community outreach program.


How to negotiate perks

While job candidates may have the upper hand in the current market, but it’s still crucial to prepare for negotiations. Think about:

  • What perks interest you most
  • The reasons that you should be provided these extras (You’ll want to tout factors like significant accomplishments, advanced degrees, certifications and technological prowess.)
  • Use concrete examples or proven success stories, when relevant. (For instance, employers may be more open to flextime if you present an idea of how you’d structure your workdays or how flexible scheduling worked to another team’s advantage.)
  • What alternatives you’d be open to accepting

A slight salary cut doesn’t always equal a loss. Know the nonmonetary elements that will afford you career satisfaction, and you could come out on top.