Pay Negotiations during a Pandemic

Pay negotiations are tough at the best of times, particularly within the legal industry where there is generally no opportunity given for negotiation. This year is going to be tougher still. A lot of firms reduced hours, delayed pay increases, and some made redundancies. Here are our tips:


  1. The legal industry has actually seen a rise in work and an increase in billable hours and utilisation during the past 6 months and this is set to continue. In any normal year this would be coupled with a very generous increase in salary. This year should be no exception. Go into your ‘review meeting’ with this knowledge in mind and conduct some research into your own firm/team performance and workflow.
  2. Don’t accept a letter. Some firms try to separate pay increases from performance reviews by simply sending a HR letter. You need to link your pay to your performance, now more than ever. Go into the meeting knowing what your value to the firm is.
  3. When discussing your worth have clear examples or outline key milestones achieved. If you have billed over your target then make sure you have those figures, if you have managed a team, contributed to knowledge, worked with pro-bono clients, co-authored a thought piece etc, have these examples ready.
  4. Put it in writing. As a lawyer, you should be used to following up agreements with an email in writing. However, this is not common in practice. In your meeting be clear, calm, and professional, and then make sure that you follow up the meeting with an email outlining what you said and what was agreed.
  5. Set a follow-up meeting if targets were set. Put this into your, and your partners, diary early.


The legal recruitment market is busy at the moment with lots of opportunities. As such, there is no need to ‘bunker down’ if things are not going according to plan. However, if you are generally happy in your role then it is best to try everything possible to correct any issues before you look at the market more broadly.

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