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How To Negotiate Your Legal Pay Rise This Year

  • February 15, 2022

As I sit down to write this post, my phone has pinged to let me know that the UK economy has rebounded with the fastest growth since World War Two. A 7.5% increase despite falling back in December due to Omicron is a positive situation for business in the UK.

In contrast, our cost-of-living worsened in December after inflation jumped to 5.4% – its highest level in almost 30 years – driven by the higher cost of clothes, food, and footwear; this is likely to get worse as the cost of fuel doubles for many.

Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank of England, says to ask for a pay rise now is to cause further economic decline.

In fact, according to a recent analysis by the Office for Budget Responsibility shared in the Newstatesman, the UK is on course to endure two more decades of stagnant wages, revealing the negative news that we should expect to earn less in 2026 than 2008.

Confusing when we consider the legal sector.

The last two years have seen many law firms report their best year ever, which we can confirm with the number of recruitment instructions we are receiving from our clients.

As a hard-working and productive legal professional, what are your options? Let’s share a few suggestions in this post.

Know Your Facts

The legal candidates we work with here at Clayton Legal are switched on. They know how their firm is faring in the market and what growth is anticipated in future years.

When law firms plan growth, they also understand that they will need to plan financially to increase headcount and ensure their current team is engaged and recompensed appropriately.

Well, hopefully, that is the case.

Though not in every firm.

Taking your time to research salary packages puts you a step ahead because it demonstrates that you have evidence to back up your pay raise request. This data is vital because it will give you leverage when starting the negotiation.

The question then is where your current firm sits on the spectrum, and are you being paid the going rate?

This brings me to the next point.

Know Your Value

Pay and remuneration is a prickly subject, and we aren’t guaranteed a pay rise every year for simply turning up and delivering on our objectives.

Remember, no legal manager likes being held to ransom and at the same time, they appreciate honesty. If you aren’t happy with your remuneration package, you have to tell them; as uncomfortable as that conversation feels.

At Clayton, whenever a candidate comes to us where pay is a problem, we always ask if they have had a discussion with their manager first.

It’s surprising how many people haven’t.

Sometimes a straightforward conversation like this works. Sometimes it doesn’t, and this is where honesty with yourself is important. Here are a few questions to consider.

  • What value are you delivering to the firm?
  • What results did you achieve last year that were above what was expected?
  • Is your manager or HR fully aware of your contribution to the firm?
  • Considering this, how will you demonstrate how valuable you are?

As a first start, use your performance objectives showing all your achievements. This way, you will let your firm appreciate your worth and what it might cost to replace you.

You could take your manager through the goals that were agreed upon together and what actions you have taken to achieve the results you have.

You will be surprised how well this works. Your manager could be responsible for a lot of people. They are human too, and might not have all your performance wins etched in their memory.

Know What You Want

This final point is key; know what you want, and here are a few things to consider.

  • Do you have a figure in mind?
  • Is this based on your personal need?
  • Your analysis of the current market?
  • How much you think you are worth?

It is important to know what you want and why and have justification for the figure you are asking.

Here is something else.

Is money your real motivator, or are there other options to consider? The world of work is changing, and many firms could consider hybrid working for day weeks and sabbatical leave. These are all options that are now on the negotiating table that wasn’t just a few short years ago.

Know Your Walk-Away Point And Your Options

You might be pleasantly surprised that your pay rise suggestion is accepted, especially in the current talent market.

However, be prepared that it might not. Therefore you need to consider your options.

The upside is that we are currently in a candidate-driven market because of the skill shortage fuelled by Covid-19.

For you, this means that your options are open, and if you are prepared to move, you can potentially join a new law firm and continue to develop your career while being appropriately rewarded.

And this is where we can help.

The team here at Clayton Legal have placed literally thousands of legal professionals.

Our twenty + year record of success has enabled us to develop trusted relationships with many of the UK’s law firms, including the Legal 500, Top 200 and smaller and independent regional law firms. We work in partnership with all our customers to deliver on both career expectations and business drivers.

Depending on your role and experience, we may be able to personally represent you to our clients too. If you would like to have a confidential conversation about you and your legal career then do get in touch. You will find all our contact details here.

What Next?

Though many workplace sectors experienced poor growth last year, the legal sector wasn’t one of them. Here at Clayton Legal, we have multiple clients looking for skilled and ambitious candidates like you. For a confidential conversation about your legal career goals and your next move, please get in contact with one of our team here.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country
since 1999 and has built up an enviable reputation for trust and
reliability during that time. We have made over 5,000 placements from
Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal I.T.
personnel to Practice Managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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What Are The Key Challenges for Law Firms in 2020?

  • February 14, 2020

Specialist legal recruiters, Clayton Legal, conduct an annual salary survey of over 4000 law firms across the UK. This gives us insight into the challenges law firms face and enables us to provide a comprehensive, streamlined and relevant service to our candidates and clients in the legal sector.

Salary surveys capture the detail of the legal marketplace in terms of remuneration offered by law firms of diverse sizes and disciplines. These surveys also highlight the current challenges faced by many firms – from small family-run solicitors to major household legal names.

In a time of political turmoil, with Brexit uncertainty, a skills shortage and a candidate-driven legal marketplace, the information available from such a report offers value and insight that can positively impact your hiring strategies, as well as provide advice on successful methods of ensuring retention of the very best legal talent in your firm.

Whether your law firm is a small family business on the high street or one of the legal 500, this information is critical to your firm’s success and will keep you ahead of the curve.

In this article, I will address the main challenges illuminated by the recent Clayton Legal salary survey that I hope you will find useful when planning your strategies for 2020.

Challenges Overview

The overall challenges for law firms as we enter 2020 lie around recruitment and retention of employees. Sourcing, attracting, hiring and retaining your legal team in a competitive sector and against a skills shortage background remain the priorities for most law firms.

A key challenge for law firms is that legal candidates are seeking higher salaries, and are often attracted by larger firms who can provide higher levels of remuneration. Consequently, many smaller firms are finding the retention of their top professionals challenging. The impact is not just in the loss of a star performer, but an inevitable increase in workload and mounting stress for the remaining team members.

Additionally, for many firms, there is a desire to expand and scale while balancing staff numbers, continuing to provide excellent service and keeping a cap on overheads. Not an easy task.

With these facts in mind, let’s take a look at the challenges exposed by our recent survey, and offer solutions to manage them successfully.

Skills Shortage

One of the main issues the survey highlighted was the current skills shortage in the legal sector.

Across all disciplines, law firms nationwide are finding it problematic to recruit to specialist areas; property, in particular, is still experiencing significant skill shortages.

Although there is a sufficient number of law graduates per se, not many have any previous experience, and there is a specific gap in the market for candidates with more than three years of PQE.

In addition, a drop in the level of general background education of candidates is reported. Firms describe inferior standards of written and verbal communication skills, including grammar, spelling and vocabulary.

With many disciplines struggling to recruit in specialist areas, law firms need to review their strategy for hiring to be able to combat this situation. So, what is the best way to attract the top legal professionals to your firm?

Attracting Talent

Securing the right legal professionals for your firm is a challenge many currently face. In a candidate led marketplace, how can you stand out above the others as a preferred employer?

Even though competition for candidates with talent and specialist experience is fierce, there are ways to attract top talent to your firm.

Although salary remains a critical factor for legal job seekers, benefits packages add value to your firm. In addition to the traditional pension contributions, flexible working and staff will-writing schemes, there has been a rise in recent years of firms looking to attract candidates by thinking ‘outside the box’.

Hence, many firms are adding additional offers to their benefits package, including duvet days, free fruit or other healthy snacks, enhanced maternity pay, and sabbaticals to attract and retain legal professionals.

Which leads me on to the third challenge.

Skills Retention

High staff turnover, a mobile workforce and increased competition from other firms are factors that you can’t ignore. So, here are three suggestions for ensuring your critical talent want to stay and grow their career with you.


We know it’s not just about salary. Wellbeing is cited as a growing area which can attract and retain talent by offering a supportive environment, excellent workplace culture and better work-life balance.

Also, with recent emphasis placed on mental health in the workplace, by cultivating a culture of wellbeing and inclusion, you will gain happier employees and consequently, higher retention rates.

It’s worth noting that a wellness programme not only builds camaraderie, but research has shown the significant benefits of regular exercise in helping to increase happiness levels and lower stress.

Learning Opportunities 

 Creating a supportive environment means actively seeking to support and nurture your legal talent throughout their career. Feedback, mentoring, recognition of achievements and a focus on lifelong learning opportunities will demonstrate investment in your employees.

LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report showed a huge 93% of employees would stay with their employer longer if an investment were made in their careers.

Offering the opportunity to develop additional skills and qualifications will demonstrate your commitment to your legal team, resulting in higher productivity and establishing your firm as an inclusive and invested employer.


Workplace diversity was one of the critical trends last year – with no signs of stopping as we head into 2020.

Proactively hiring for difference in gender, race, age, ethnicity and outlook will contribute to making your law firm diverse and encourage your legal talent to stay.

Diversity also brings in more clients, spurring economic growth as well as leading to increased innovation. Creating an excellent company culture that embraces diversity will result in a dynamic workplace that helps sow the seeds of creative ideas. Your legal team will feel valued and more likely to want to grow their career with your firm.

Implementing these benefits will improve employee engagement and heighten your chances of holding on to top performers, even against the lure of bigger salaries from the competition.


Despite the recent election win, the stark reality is that there is still a considerable number of unanswered questions in relation to the UK’s economic future, the impact of which are likely to be felt by law firms up and down the country as we go forward in 2020.

In the face of continual changes, the pressure to exploit growth opportunities while remaining agile is high – but for those law firms that can adapt and hone their attraction, hiring and retention rates, 2020 could prove the most successful year yet.

Next Steps

If you’re reading this article because you are looking to develop your legal team, or you would like a copy of our Salary Survey 2020, please call one of the Clayton Legal team on 01772 259 121.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal IT personnel to Practice Managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year, download our latest guide here.

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Clayton Legal’s 2020 Legal Salary Report

  • February 8, 2020

Attrition rates in UK law firms increase by 34%

Law firms up and down the country are fighting to keep hold of their legal talent according to specialist recruitment agency Clayton Legal’s 2020 salary survey. The most comprehensive of its kind in the UK involving over 4000 law firms, Clayton’s survey offers a unique insight into the challenges facing law firm in the country across every region. Significantly, these results come after an optimistic 2018 survey when 78% of firms reported decreased attrition rates from the previous year. So why the sudden reverse?

According to Clayton Legal’s latest report, the lure of bigger salaries from larger firms is enticing candidates away, placing greater economic pressure on smaller firms forced to compete. Yet financial remuneration isn’t the only factor at play. According to Lynn Sedgwick, Managing Director of Clayton Legal, “candidates are looking for a better work-life balance and workplace culture, and they’re prepared to move firms in order to get it. We’re increasingly seeing a real parallel with those firms that are offering attractive workplace benefits, and those that are able to hold onto their top talent”. The survey reports that flexible working is the second joint most popular benefit offered by firms in the salary survey with private health insurance, additional holidays and professional study support as other popular draws. As Lynn highlights “employee expectations are high and law firms know that in order to keep hold of their talent they need to be offering something beyond a competitive salary – those that don’t adapt to the current candidate-driven market are finding themselves at real risk of losing their legal talent”.

Of course, the challenges faced by law firms in 2020 aren’t just around retaining candidates. Clayton’s survey discovered that finding and recruiting them in the first place is just as important a factor; a task that’s easier said than done when you’re operating in the midst of a nationwide talent shortage. According to the salary survey, 54% of firms are experiencing a reduction in the availability of legal skills across the board, and in particular a gap in the market was reported of candidates with more than 3 years PQE. “We’re seeing plenty of graduates coming through to sustain the breadth of entry level roles in the industry”, explains Lynn. “However, those with experience – and in particular specialist experience – are lacking, and it’s independent firms that are feeling the brunt of it”. For legal firms in the UK, the economically unpredictable year ahead is far from reassuring and with Brexit ever looming, firms have to look at ways to expand and promote growth while keeping overheads to a minimum. It’s a tough game to play when you’re under pressure to retain your key talent. The uncertainty of Brexit will no doubt remain a key challenge for firms in 2020, and the impact this will have on profit performance remains to be seen.

Clayton Legals salary survey shows that it’s not all doom and gloom though. Thinking outside the box when it comes to benefits can really pay off with the report citing duvet days, free fruit and healthy snacks, and enhanced maternity pay as benefits with strong appeal. As Lynn explains, “added benefits that offer something different to the traditional can really set firms apart from the competition, and act as a useful leverage tool when higher financial offers aren’t an option”. Increasingly too it’s been reported that firms are starting to address health and wellbeing initiatives within the workplace, with inclusion and diversity now at the forefront of employee engagement.

Despite the challenges of the year ahead, effective talent attraction strategies remain the key to combatting recruitment issues. Firms overwhelmingly reported that professional legal recruiters were the single most effective source of recruitment within the industry. Specialist recruitment partners that have an in-depth knowledge of the market as well as an extensive network of candidates can play a major part in enabling firms to not only recruit carefully, but to retain that talent for the long term; a strategy that will no doubt be the key to success for any law firm in 2020.

With over twenty years’ experience helping law firms recruit and retain their talent, Clayton Legal can provide expert recruitment advice and support to help build and grow your talent pipeline. Specialising in all areas of law, and with unique and expansive access to exclusive candidate databases, get in touch today to find out what they can do for your law firm. To start a conversation or to request a copy of the latest 2020 legal salary report, please visit their website, or contact them directly at or call 01772 259 121.

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Why the Gender Pay Gap is an Issue that Needs Addressing

  • October 18, 2016

Pay scales are a prevalent topic of conversation in almost all legal circles. However, in recent months a great deal of the discussion around remuneration has been leaning towards rising newly qualified pay, and away from the ever important topic of the gender pay gap. According to a recent study from Deloitte the gender pay gap won’t close until 2069, and as a profession known for its male heavy leadership teams, the legal sector needs to do more to address the gulf.

Gender equality – Are legal firms making progress?

The profession is certainly making progress. Earlier this year eight London law firms were recognised in Business in the Community’s Top 50 Employers for Women league table for championing gender equality. The annual league table recognises businesses that ‘demonstrate gender equality as a key part of their business strategy’ throughout all levels of their organisation – including leadership positions.

Gender equality is a concern for a number of sectors, but the legal profession frequently finds itself under fire for a having a lack of women at partner level. However, Linklaters, Addleshaw Goddard, CMS, Eversheds, Hogan Lovells, Herbert Smith Freehills, Pinsent Masons and Simmons & Simmons proved themselves worthy of a place in the top 50, by demonstrating a ‘commitment to creating workplaces and cultures that are inclusive of women.’

The gender pay gap – a long game?

However, Deloitte’s analysis not only indicated that pay parity won’t be achieved until 2069, 99 years after the equal pay act of 1970, but also that the gulf widens over time in all 10 of the most popular graduate careers surveyed. A recent salary survey from The Law Society supports Deloitte’s findings, indicating that while on average men earned 19.2% more than their female counterparts, the gap is widest for equity partners.

So while many firms are working to make their cultures more inclusive and diverse, it is clear that few are tackling the pay crisis head on. Firms need to ensure that they actively work to address the pay gulf, particularly at partner level, to guarantee that they attract and retain the top talent. Many firms are working to encourage women to stay in the profession by offering flexible working policies that allow them to effectively balance their work and home lives, but as discussions over gender pay find themselves back in spotlight, practices need to ensure they are working to close the gulf or risk losing some of their most talented professionals.

Do you know what you are worth – why not take a look at our salary survey

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