How to cut a better deal with your current firm
Working in a solicitors firm and getting paid the salary or package you feel you deserve are very often quite separate points.
You probably accepted a salary offered when you first started with the firm some time ago and have seen little movement since. Indeed, our own anecdotal evidence from speaking to candidates is that the vast majority of solicitors firms in the UK have not offered their staff pay increases for a very long time.
Quite often the only way to get a pay increase is to threaten to move firms, be seen to be in the market to move firms, or to actually move firms. However once you go down this route it is usually irreversible – even if you remain with your current practice after handing in your notice or looking for other work it is very likely your relationship with colleagues will have deteriorated.
You will be back looking for alternative employment in no time at all (our recruitment software actually has a category for this type of candidate as it is a recognised industry rule of thumb that you will seek alternative work within 6 months).
So what if you could improve your package with your existing firm and not have to bother with the pantomine of pretending to move firms or the upheaval of actually moving firms?
Tips for Staying Put and Increasing Your Worth
1. Make sure you advertise yourself to your bosses. In my local cricket team one of our players always emails the captain at the end of the season to point out how many runs he has scored (if he has done well). He hopes to keep his batting position for the following year. When was the last time you reminded your boss of your value to the business, whether through mentioning a transaction you have just concluded, or the value of a case that has just been costed?
2. Keep an eye on your billing levels and once you are exceeding any targets start to advertise this to everyone else in the firm. The more people are aware of your ability to generate income, the higher the value of goodwill is in your own personal brand (business speak for ‘you’).
3. Insist on an annual or 6 monthly review of your performance. Don’t waste your time in this. Make sure you attend equipped with plenty of statistics and facts to promote your value to the firm. Do not let your boss take it over with comments about your work – make sure you stick to salary levels etc..
4. Work out how much you actually want to earn and aim to get to this level quickly. So – for example – if you want to be on an income of £45k within 5 years – what do you need to do? You will know yourself what billing levels are currently being achieved – how much extra work will you need to get in to generate the required amount? Is it ever going to be possible or do you need a plan B? Does the plan B include becoming a partner or shareholder in the practice? What level of investment will you need to take?
5. Have a long term plan. So many solicitors spend the middle part of their career stuck in a rut and fall into mediocrity without realising they are there. Retain some of your ambition and keep an eye on the future as it tends to be the past before you know it…
If necessary, make a move, but don’t just do it to show your current firm that you are valued elsewhere. Think very carefully before changing firms and ask yourself if you are making the move for the right reasons. Some candidates seem to move simply to spite their old boss, but in fact really like their current place of employment and then start feeling very unhappy in their new firm.
Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment and a non-practising solicitor. Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment handle both permanent and temporary posts for solicitors firms and in house legal dpeartments and donates 10% of profits to charity. Established in 2000, over 11,000 solicitors and lawyers are registered with us.