My Starting Salary as a Black Female Lawyer in NYC
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take
I can’t believe I’m about to tell the world my starting salary. Part of me thinks this is a terrible idea. But fortune favors the bold, right? I’m doing this because transparency around numbers would’ve helped me immensely when entering the job market. So, here goes.
I was the worst — the literal worst negotiator when I started my career. You know why? Because I never negotiated. It’s like that famous quote from Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” I never took a shot. I was so desperate and scared when I was looking for work that I didn’t dream of countering when I was made my offer. I just took it. I wasn’t connected to my value. I wasn’t aware of how business was done. I didn’t even do any research. Can you imagine?!
I vaguely remember a little voice in my head suggesting I should counter, and in an instant, the loud fear voice raged in, saying that I better not dare ask for more money. So I didn’t. And just like that, poof, I chose to be fear’s bitch.
The salary I was offered in 2007 for my first job as an Attorney was $50,976.00. In 2007, the median salary was $62,000, and the mean/average salary was ~$80,000. These figures are for the entire country. Not New York. Starting salaries for the major New York Law firms were as high as $190,000 in 2007. Certainly between $145,000 — $160,000.
This offer didn’t come from a big firm, and it wasn’t from a small public interest firm either. This was my offer from a Fortune 100 company. So, no, it would not make sense for me to get an offer of $190,000, but I wasn’t working for the legal aid society either. At the very least, I could’ve asked for $65,000 or $70,000 and then settled at something a bit lower.
But I didn’t. And I felt so shitty about it. I felt shitty about myself. I felt shitty about the job, and I felt ashamed. I told no one that I’d heard a small voice saying to counter and that I then heard a much louder voice saying not to. I just sat in shame.
The funny thing is, I negotiate cases all the time now, like every day. I’ve negotiated as many as 12 cases in one day. At this point in my career, I eat, sleep and breathe negotiation. But in…