Candidate Resources

Salary Review Negotiation

Around the middle of the year we get a lot of enquiries from lawyers about what salary they should be on and generally seeking tips on how to negotiate it. Preparation is critical and it shouldn’t be done simply the night before. In preparing for your review we have highlighted some of the key points below.

Business Conversation

A salary review meeting is a business conversation and you have to approach it as such. Law is quite unique in that a lot of lawyers we speak to simply expect a pay rise. However, for many professions, law included, you have to justify any increase in salary.


There are a few key areas to think about when seeking a salary increase:

  • Work quality – Use your review to update your resume / transaction bible. This might help you highlight some of your work achievements for the year or matters where you have gone above and beyond your normal work requirements. Either way, a transaction bible helps form the basis of a good CV! Your Partner / Manager is busy and time poor and may not remember everything you have done during the year so use this opportunity to remind them;
  • Financials – have your financials handy and be across them or at the very least, ask to see them. It shows you are thinking in a commercial way and understand your value/cost to the business;
  • Client feedback – If clients give you good feedback ask for an email or testimonial. It can help build your case for that salary increase especially when your busy Partner / Manager may not be across the great feedback you are receiving;
  • Marketing – what marketing have you done and were there any successful outcomes to report?


Do market research and have a salary benchmark in mind that you can back up with data. The best source of reliable data doesn’t just come from a salary survey but speaking to experienced, specialist legal recruiters (like Peppercorn Recruitment!) who can give you market based salary advice specific to your individual situation (level of post admission experience, firm type, practice area and performance).

For those of you in big firms there are salary bands that come from significant research done by your HR Departments (typically Mercer data for the big law firms) and there is usually a top and bottom range. Knowing what they are might help push you to the top of the band. In smaller firms, who often don’t have access to such data, it may be the case that you need to educate your Partner about the market more generally. If you don’t ask you definitely won’t get!

Negotiate goalposts

If you don’t get the salary increase that you wanted, it might be worth negotiating some KPIs or outcomes and link a salary to achievement of those outcomes with a specific timeline. Some firms do out of cycle salary reviews and this may allow you to be caught by that. For example, one candidate we recently placed was in line for a salary increase not in the June/July review but in the October “market review” where the firm again reviews data.

Career check

Use the hour you have with your busy Partner / Manager to do a career check. Your salary review is also the time to raise any other related issues with your supervisor. This is an hour you rarely get to discuss your career and nothing else. Some of these concerns might include:

  • are you being given enough work or indeed the right type of work to get you to the next step in your career (promotion, building your practice or moving on to a bigger firm, overseas, in-house/government)?;
  • are you getting sufficient supervision/mentoring/guidance?;
  • do you want to do further study;
  • do you see business or client opportunities;
  • what goals/KPIs do you need to achieve next year to achieve a bonus if you didn’t get it this year?


At Peppercorn Recruitment, our Partners are both former lawyers and have a combined two decades of legal recruitment experience. We have provided frank, honest and pragmatic advice to many lawyers over their careers on matters such as negotiating salaries, drafting CVs, interview tips and tricks and of course, changing jobs.

We hope you find this a useful point of reference in your career planning, but should you wish to have a confidential discussion about how we can help, please contact either Peter or Ross on 07 3031 3625. We’re happy to help!