in Salary Reviews, Staying in Your Job

Annual Reviews for Lawyers

Annual reviews & and salary reviews are one area of practice that a lot of lawyers deal with poorly as they fail to prepare for them, and do not appreciate the opportunity you have when attending them.

Annual reviews can consist of an apologetic partner ticking boxes on a pre-printed form, whether to simply add the form to your file to comply with internal requirements, or for external assessors to see, such as the LSC contract manager or for Investors in People accreditation. They can also be spent discussing irrelevant issues such as a case you dealt with last month that was of particular interest.

Some firms take the opportunity to tell you how poor your billing levels are, and how lucky you are that you have a position still let alone a payrise.
Think of an annual review in the following way:

1. Check the current rate of inflation. – this is the Office for National Statistics.
2. Consider your current costs for getting to work. Any equipment you are required to own (books, bags, suits etc..) Travel costs including car maintenance, train tickets, car parking fees, lunch and snacks costs.
3. Calculate your earnings for the firm in the past 12 months, not forgetting work in progress, any repeat clients that will come back, and any benefits you have gained for the firm.
4. Know your worth. When asked (if asked) what you should be paid (some firms do this to pass the buck!) bear all of the above in mind and have a figure ready that you think is reasonable and justified.
5. Consider the ancient 1/3 rule that a lot of solicitors firms work to – 1/3 wage, 1/3 profit and 1/3 overheads is the old method for paying a salary.
6. Concentrate on the matter to hand – you are speaking to the partner or HR Director specifically to assess how much you are worth to the company – do not be sidetracked.
7. Be firm and confident. Tell your employers what you think you are worth and do not be embarrassed.
8. In essence give them the figure required for the firm to retain the benefit of you working for them. Have the thought in your mind that it is an honour for the firm to employ you, not vice versa.
9. Consider other options to salary increases – what about a targeted bonus, payments for any overtime worked, payments for clients introduced, expenses, golf club membership (it happens), extra annual leave arrangements, flexible hours, an option to work from home, car park permits, health club membership, private health insurance, pension contributions, profit share or partnership offers either immediate or within 24 months etc..
10. If you get an offer of a rise you consider unreasonable think carefully about your next move. One option is to decline the offer immediately and request a higher figure. Another option is to look elsewhere for work in the meantime. It is important to be careful here – if there are no other posts out there, you may be cutting your nose off to spite your face if you decline and demand extra money.
11. Above all, do not miss the opportunity to progress your career – if like most lawyers you only get one chance each year to promote yourself and obtain a higher income it would be a shame to miss it and spend the rest of the year stewing it over!
Further in depth advice can be found at and

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 20 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at You can contact Jonathan at