Craig Wilson
Craig Wilson
Director

Articles From the Team

Don't lose sight of the positives during offer-stage salary negotiations

In the current employment market, offer stage salary negotiations are becoming increasingly difficult. For many years, employers have been in the driving seat. However, in the past two to three years the pendulum has returned and swung (significantly) the other way: in favour of the lawyer candidate. Specifically, those at the one to six 6 years’ PQE range. 

Some employers are still working on an understanding of legal salaries from four to five years ago, as well as internal benchmarks/grading that includes non-lawyers. This disconnect can result in offers that are behind the wider market, are ultimately uncompetitive and fall short of prospective employees expectations. This can result in disappointment at best and a rejected offer at worst.  

It’s also important to note, that while salaries have increased significantly at the junior end of the PQE range, this is less true of individuals in the 8+ PQE range. This has resulted in a narrowing of the salary gap between the PQE ranges; consequently, some 4-6 years PQE solicitors earning the same or greater than those with 8-10+ PQE. This is great news for the junior-mid level lawyers who are lucky enough to take advantage, but potentially, it encourages employers to forego junior solicitors in favour of marginally more costly individuals with greater PQE. As an employer, why not pay a bit more to get more bang (experience) for your buck!

In an offer situation, it’s important for both parties to consider the market, what’s happening with legal salaries and what constitutes a fair offer for the role, responsibilities and/or a person’s level of PQE. Junior commercial lawyers have never been so in demand and well remunerated. However, there’s a point where time served and experience is king. It’s a fact that some employers who are looking, need to make more attractive offers. It’s also beholden on junior lawyers to be self-aware and recognise their level of PQE and salary demands relative to others; particularly solicitors with a much higher level of PQE. Pushing too hard on salary can lead to the employer foregoing a junior hire in favour of someone with greater PQE; in an increasing number of cases: for the same or marginally more money.

You might like to read: How do I negotiate a job offer?

What to bear in mind

When an employer makes an offer they’re doing so because you interviewed well, possess the right skills, experience and/or cultural fit; they feel you’re the right person for the job. The overriding feeling is one of positivity and an employer/hiring manager makes an offer hoping they’ll secure their chosen candidate’s services.

Unfortunately, from time to time, and as alluded too above, the offer stage can become one of negativity on one or both sides. 

During any offer at the negotiation stage (and this is applicable to salary negotiations when you’re already in a job), there’s a danger that one or both sides have a very different idea of what constitutes a fair or appropriate offer. In this situation a prospective employee (or current employee) can lose sight of the positives that attracted them to the role: the position, the work, the company, the people, the culture, the career prospects etc., and so begin to focus on (perceived) negatives e.g. the employer doesn’t value me or the role, they’re opting for the cheapest option etc.

While undertaking offer negotiations, it’s imperative that both parties actively listen to each other and focus on the positives. If there’s a significant gap between expectations and the offer that’s made, then I highly recommend both parties have another conversation in person to discuss their reasoning: why the offer is at the level it is (employer) and why they feel the offer should be higher (employee). In rare cases, no middle ground is found, which is unfortunate. However, for the most part, a bit of self-reflection, common sense, dialogue and creative solutions (salary increase after probation, higher bonus, the inclusion of a car allowance etc.) can help to navigate the impasse.

A good legal recruiter is familiar with most scenarios and they should offer help. As a partner to both employer and applicant, they should act as a useful intermediary when a challenging offer negotiation arises.

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