in Employers, Legal Profession

Bonus Schemes – love them or hate them

Bonus schemes are either loathed or hated in equal proportion by solicitors. I recently read an article about recruitment consultant’s salaries, which was talking about the average bonus given to consultants and the way it was done.

It was surprising to find that in what is considered a sales orientated environment, most consultants were getting something lower than 20% above their basic salary as a bonus, whilst it seemed the average was closer to 5-10%.

Solicitors have traditionally been very wary of such schemes, as usually they are weighted so far in favour of the employer, they are a complete waste of time. I have come across schemes that require 5 times the salary to be earned before the scheme kicks in, and then only 10% of earnings paid. I have also come across schemes where the whole firm has to earn x before one particular candidate gets any extra payment.

The most generous bonus scheme we have ever come across was with a commercial law firm in Bristol. This firm offers every fee earner the same package, which is 10% of everything they earn (even their base salary). So if they earn £20,000 in fees, the solicitor gets £2,000 of that. In addition to this, the solicitor also gets 5% of anything their subordinates earn.

I must say that I have always found working for bonuses the better option than salary – salary results in drudgery – people work to survive, rather than living to work occasionally, and salary ends with people clock watching and not being interested in their activities each day. Bonus schemes that work can galvanise whole teams of people to push towards achieving goals, and bring in higher fee income for the firm.

Unfortunately a lot of employers see ‘the bonus’ as an excuse to dangle a very small and mouldy carrot on the end of a very long stick…

Author: Jonathan Fagan MIRP MAC Cert RP LLM Solicitor (non-practising) – Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment ( – save time, skip the legal job boards and register with us! Jonathan Fagan is a specialist legal recruitment consultant, author of the Complete Guide to Writing a Legal CV and the Guide to Interviews for Lawyers. He has recruited for law firms across the UK and overseas in all shapes and sizes. If you have any questions that we have not covered above, please email us at

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