Geoffrey Rapp, an assistant professor of law at the University of Toledo, has posted some advice about job negotiation for those fortunate enough to receive an offer of a teaching position. Most of this advice seems to me sound and useful, with one major exception. Professor Rapp's first piece of advice pertains to salary; he writes:
Particularly at state schools, while starting salaries may be negotiable, they are likely negotiable only within a small range. That is, if a school wants to start you at a certain amount, you might be able to negotiate a few thousand dollars more, but even if you are a Supreme Court clerk with 15 Harvard Law Review articles, you probably can't get ten thousand dollars more. While some academic types, who usually aren't all that interested in money in the first place, may feel it unseemly to ask for more money, it's not. You're likely negotiating with a Dean who him- or herself negotiated their own salary package with a university president or provost, so, as long as you are polite, I would be surprised if you ruffled any feathers. Similarly, even if you end up getting a higher amount than junior faculty already "in the building," that should work in their interest (i.e., it will make it easier for them to ask for a raise), so don't worry about coming in at a salary higher than what "the last person came in at." Negotiating for a higher salary will likely be easier if one has (1) advanced degrees (Ph.D.s), (2) prior visiting experience, and (3) multiple offers. Keep in mind, though, that the cost-of-living will vary widely, and an $85,000 offer from a small town school may well mean more money in your pocket than a $105,000 offer from a big city school. So a small-town school may not feel compelled to match a big-city offer. Finally, when negotiating a salary, one might want to do one's research. State school salaries are often a matter of public record, and you might want to investigate what other state law schools in the state you're headed to pay in order to get a ballpark figure.
My judgment is that unless you have another job offer, to even begin negotiating about the salary (unless it is made clear at the start that the salary is negotiable) will make a candidate look like a prima donna, and will get you off to a bad start in your new job. Rookies are rookies are rookies: for any one such rookie candidate to presume that s/he deserves more than others the school has hired is, I would venture, going to make the school think twice about its decision to have made an offer. Even if a rookie candidate has a tenure-track offer from another school, one should proceed very gently on salary issues, and always in the spirit of, "I really would prefer to teach at your school, but the salary differential is just too great, is there anything that might be done to level the field a bit?"
To be sure, if you'd rather stay in practice than take a teaching job at the salary offered, then raise salary as an issue. But be prepared to return to practice as well.
Am I wrong? Is Professor Rapp right? Non-anonymous comments will be strongly preferred; comments may take awhile to appear, so post only once.