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New Paralegal Opporunity - Lowball Offer?


mels1217

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Hello,

 

I am in my mid-20's. I have a B.S. in Administration of Justice and an ABA-approved paralegal certificate. I have 3.5 yrs of law office experience, including 2.5 yrs of civil lit. defense experience. I currently live/work in Richmond, VA for a very small civil lit. firm (3 attorneys). Started w/the firm @ $32k in 09/2011, and by 03/2013, was @ $35.5k. I have not received a raise since then (granted, it hasn't been a full year yet, but I believe I'm close to the "ceiling," being w/such a small firm). I get ZERO benefits here, except PTO (holidays, 10 sick, 10 vaca).

 

I've been job hunting for 15 months. I'm exhausted. Some firms discount my experience b/c the firm I'm currently with is so small. Other firms, based on the fact I still fall under the "recent grad" category (not sure why that is, given that this coming May will mark 4 yrs. out of undergrad), offer me very low $$$ ($29-30k).

 

Last week I received an offer from a firm in which I'd be doing med. mal. defense.

 

PROs

*50-attorney firm collectively (several offices along the east coast), but only 9 attorneys in the location I'd be working in (so, bit of a larger/more reputable firm to add to the resume)

*benefits

*the city it's located in has more growth opportunities for the future

 

CONs

*similar work (I was looking for increased responsibilities/more substantive legal tasks)

*although it's bigger than my current firm, it's not as big as to offer "paralegal II," "senior paralegal," etc in so far as job titles... I always envisioned my next firm a place I could grow with in the long haul. This clearly wouldn't be that place; I'd have to leave again in another couple yrs or so (but maybe it's better this way - a stepping stone from going to tiny firm, to mid-sized, then to big law?).

 

My number 1 concern though is that the firm is located in Fairfax. I'm familiar w/the area, as I lived there for undergrad. Although I plan on finding roommates, I know how expensive it is to live there. That being said, the firm's offer is $42K based on a 35 hour work week. Paralegals typically work 35-40 hrs/week, & HR told me that paralegals tend to earn an additional $2-3K per year w/that "overtime." I would also get benefits. I would also be up for a bonus and raise at my 1 year mark.

 

I suppose I'm just concerned that they're lowballing me.... I'm not trying to be too big for my britches, but I am aware of the cost of living difference btwn RVA and FX, and I'm worried this would be a lateral move (yes, technically I would net more, but not THAT much more, esp. for the cost of living). If it was a Richmond firm offering $42K, I'd jump on it.

 

Thoughts? Please be kind... I'm just looking for some information. Thank you.

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Benefits would include PTO (similar to what I have now), health insurance (a premium paid 100% by employer), & dental is voluntary. They would also contribute 3% gross earning into a 401k.

 

I do not have a 401k w/my current employer, nor do I have health or dental through them. I pay that on my own. Long story short, due to an attorney's wife's medical problems, and the size of our firm, my premium to be on the firm's policy would be mid-high $500s/month. They offered to pay half (but it's crappy coverage anyway). So, I have private health insurance I pay %100 out of pocket for $195/month.

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The cost of housing is not their concern. They are.paying within the bounds and offering benefits, OT and an annual review. I think it is a good offer with room for advancement and certainly a valid next step to medium sized firm.

 

Thanks for the input. I wanted to know how many people feel this way. I suppose I have heard though that higher cost of living cities (NY, DC, Philly, etc.) tend to have higher avg. salaries, in attempts to try to make some sort of balance.

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Can you do a cost comparison? Find out the average rents in the new city, and include any city taxes that have to be paid. Factor in increased cost of going out to eat, movie theaters, and see if the increase in salary makes up for it.

 

You can also tell your current employers that you need a raise and see if they would do it. Renegotiate your benefits.

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Can you do a cost comparison? Find out the average rents in the new city, and include any city taxes that have to be paid. Factor in increased cost of going out to eat, movie theaters, and see if the increase in salary makes up for it.

 

You can also tell your current employers that you need a raise and see if they would do it. Renegotiate your benefits.

 

Using CNN's COL calculator, it compares my salary to ~$50K when living in NOVA.

 

Groceries = 11% more

Housing= 182% more

Utilities= 2% less

Transportation= 5% more

Health Care= 7% less

 

While I believe that, I have to be realistic. Like mhowe stated, how concerned is this new employer with the cost of living increase? I guess I wish I knew what was typical or "normal."

 

Even if I got more a slight bump in salary w/my current employer (which I think is doubtful), I'm not going to get much (and certainly not benefits). Moreover, I want a better opportunity career-mobility wise, I KNOW my current firm can't provide that. I'm not sure if this new firm could... but I just don't want to "jump ship" b/c I'm so anxious for a better opportunity ...but after 15 months of hunting, I'm getting a little impatient.

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Jump. More lawyers, more benefits, more job growth. Plan to stay 2 years.

Get apartment w/ roommates or rent a room in a house. My sis did that and saved a crap load.

You can always head out on weekends to catch up with friends and family.

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Jump. More lawyers, more benefits, more job growth. Plan to stay 2 years.

Get apartment w/ roommates or rent a room in a house. My sis did that and saved a crap load.

You can always head out on weekends to catch up with friends and family.

 

This is what I keep thinking.... I guess I'm nervous that it will look bad on a resume in the future that I have 10 months at one firm (closed), 2.5 yrs at one firm (current firm), & then another 2-2.5 yrs at this firm. I've always heard "job hopping" is a red flag to employers. But I'm just trying to stay afloat!

 

Thanks again, everyone.

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(but maybe it's better this way - a stepping stone from going to tiny firm, to mid-sized, then to big law?).

 

Jump. More lawyers, more benefits, more job growth. Plan to stay 2 years.

Get apartment w/ roommates or rent a room in a house. My sis did that and saved a crap load.

You can always head out on weekends to catch up with friends and family.

 

If you're having a hard time getting noticed by Big Law firms right now where you work, it's unlikely that it's going to change the longer you stay there. You're already maxed out in terms of salary that they can offer you where you work. Job hopping would be a red flag if you were doing it every 3-6 months. IMO (and I'm not someone who hires people, so grain of salt), you've been where you are for 2.5 years, not months, I wouldn't see that as job hopping, I would see it as someone who has outgrown the challenges at their current job and is looking for new ones. Frankly, when I was working full time, when I quit a job, my next job always came with a salary bump -- which I wouldn't have gotten from raises if I had stayed. One person I used to work with doubled their salary when they changed companies for the same position. Then they came back to the company after a year and kept the higher salary.

 

I hate to be blunt about this, but you can't graduate, work a few years and expect to have money, perks and positions raining down on you. Sure, that would be nice and it does happen to a very lucky few.... but they're the exception rather than the rule. You want to work at a bigger firm, then take the job. Once you get there, you may find that there is room to grow that you couldn't see before, or other opportunities. If not, there's no rule that says you can't look for a new job if you don't feel you're a good fit in their culture.

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This is what I keep thinking.... I guess I'm nervous that it will look bad on a resume in the future that I have 10 months at one firm (closed), 2.5 yrs at one firm (current firm), & then another 2-2.5 yrs at this firm. I've always heard "job hopping" is a red flag to employers. But I'm just trying to stay afloat!

 

Thanks again, everyone.

 

Firm closed...not your fault. Two+ years...fine. Move from small firm to med size firm. Shows desire for growth...not stagnation. If mid size firm is working out after two years...stay. This isn't seen as job hopping... it is seen as climbing the career ladder!

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If you think they're low-balling you, don't take the job! Something I read that always sticks with me is receiving a lowball offer is like a guy asking you to marry him and then giving you a cheap ring. It's a red sign if nothing else.

 

On the other hand, you sound like you're not sure if this is a low salary.

 

First, can you ask for more money?

 

Second, how much did you actually want? So what is the discrepancy with what they offered?

 

If I was pushed to advise you now, I would say take the offer. They're offering you more than 10K more than other firms for just a 35 hour work week. Personally, I would be trying to establish what I'm worth - future hiring managers will consider salary (if you raise it in the negotiation) not cost of living.

 

Also, if this firm knew what you were on now, I'm sure they'd offer you less.

 

Plus, you need to get away from your current firm, and if it turns out to be a lowball offer, 12 months from now, start looking for your next job.

 

(Btw: I think you've revealed far too much personal information in this post - someone could easily identify you if they knew sufficient info.)

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This is what I keep thinking.... I guess I'm nervous that it will look bad on a resume in the future that I have 10 months at one firm (closed), 2.5 yrs at one firm (current firm), & then another 2-2.5 yrs at this firm. I've always heard "job hopping" is a red flag to employers.

 

I don't think those are red flag figures. If you had three 1 year positions that might be different. But I do think you would have to stick with this one for at least 2 years, so choose carefully.

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Thanks for the input. I wanted to know how many people feel this way. I suppose I have heard though that higher cost of living cities (NY, DC, Philly, etc.) tend to have higher avg. salaries, in attempts to try to make some sort of balance.

 

Nope that is false, I am in one of those cities and high salaries are not being offered

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This is what I keep thinking.... I guess I'm nervous that it will look bad on a resume in the future that I have 10 months at one firm (closed), 2.5 yrs at one firm (current firm), & then another 2-2.5 yrs at this firm. I've always heard "job hopping" is a red flag to employers. But I'm just trying to stay afloat!

 

Thanks again, everyone.

 

 

Employers don't get caught up in job hopping, if you have the experience they are looking for then a interview is scheduled

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I appreciate the feedback (to every one).

 

My potential new employer knows my entire salary history, b/c it was a part of the interview process.

 

Correct, I'm not sure if it's a lowball offer. It wouldn't be in Richmond, but in NOVA, that's a different story.

 

As far as the other poster asking why this isn't a "no brainer," well, for reasons previously mentioned (not much of a greater increase in responsibilities & a fairly low salary in comparison to avg. earnings of those living in NOVA). I do believe the pros outweigh the cons though, so I think I know my decision... I just think it's always smart to get 3rd party feedback.

 

Thanks again.

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A. It is a buyers market...meaning employers have upper hand.

B. If they know your salary....that was a rookie mistake. Your current employer will never give a salary. At best a range. So you told them what you are making. Always punch it up. You are negotiating from the moment you enter the interview and you showed card early.

 

You are looking at 15k more in salary/benefits.

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So you told them what you are making. Always punch it up

 

Really not a good idea. When we hire people they sign a release allowing us to do a background check. That includes salary history. If we found out they lied about any of their history they will be terminated.

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Most companies will not give out salary history...the will give title and dates of employment.

They may give a range...so move it to upper end of range. If every employer gave out the dollar figure it would eliminate employee ability to negotiate salary. Employers have been sued such essfully over this.

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Most companies will not give out salary history...the will give title and dates of employment

 

That is not the only place to get salary history. Credit reports are commonly pulled as part of employment offers and there is an income history in there. If you've signed a release allowing a company to check your background then there are no grounds to sue if something unpleasant or dishonest is discovered.

 

Dishonesty is a poor way to negotiate.

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