woman taking control in a meeting, to illustrate how to ask for pay rise

If you were your boss, would you give yourself a pay rise? If you think you’re not worth it, a boss may think the same. Plan ahead, and ask what you can be doing right now to make yourself an invaluable, indispensable and motivated employee.


Timing is everything in asking for a pay rise. If your law firm is downsizing and making people redundant, or has just lost a major client, or revenues are down, or you had a rubbish appraisal, then now is probably not the best time to ask. However if profits are up, you’re being delegated new responsibilities, you had a great appraisal and the firm is hiring, then go for it.

Call or email the decision maker about having a meeting, preferably at 11.30am on a Thursday. (There is a psychological reason for this time.) Say it’s to talk about something important. If they ask what, say “it’s about my future at this firm”.


Create a one-page memo highlighting 10 specific ideas which you could put into action to make you and the law firm more productive. Note what you would like to do differently and better.

Note courses you have done in your own time, how you are following what is happening in your practice area and client’s industries. Note other courses you would like to do and how this will improve the firm’s bottom line. This shows you are using your initiative; you are driven and focused on the future success of the firm.

What to say

Firstly, start on a positive note. Talk about why you love working at the firm and what you love about your job. Go on to say why you believe in the firm’s mission. Note firm and team successes you have been part of and positive feedback you have received. Bosses like happy productive employees because they are motivated and more valuable to the firm.

Secondly, talk about the future. What you have accomplished and what you would like to build on. Why you can see a future at that particular firm.

Lawyers are fortunate in that they can directly show the value they are personally adding to the firm. Show the decision maker your billing figures, highlighting increases, and say how you can improve them even more by adding value to the law firm. At this point, whip out your one page memo and talk about what you could do differently to make you even more productive. Say you want to get more responsibility and exposure to clients, et cetera.

Having framed the conversation in positive terms will make you stand out because decision makers are used to having disgruntled employees not positive ones.

Thirdly, before asking you need to know what other comparable people in your firm or the industry are making. Your figure needs to be reasonable. View current trainee lawyer and NQ solicitor salaries here.

Be totally confident and specific in your figure. Ask the decision maker for exactly what you want. The boss may come back and say ‘That’s too much, I’ll give you a 10 per cent raise.’ This is better than them saying “I’ll give you a raise”, then you find out it’s only 2 per cent, when you were hoping for 20 per cent.

After you have stated all the positives, shown the decision maker your memo, look the decision maker direct in the eye say “that is why I believe I deserve a 20 per cent pay raise effective next month.” Then pause, even if it’s a long pause, smile and look relaxed. Let them speak first. Even if they say no, thank them very much for their time in a friendly way.

Always keep an eye on the job boards, get another offer and create a market place for your services. Tell the decision maker you have another offer, you would like to remain at the firm, can they match that offer? Firms know how much it costs to recruit people and get the new person up to speed: this is a big incentive to keep good employees.

The best way to get your performance polished is to practice on video. Ask a friend to ask you typical questions and record it. Write down what you like and what you don’t like about your performance. Practice again and again until you think you are coming across the best you can be. This will help to reduce nerves and make you feel more confident.

In summary…

  1. Get the timing right,
  2. Back up your positives with relevant data of your performance,
  3. Create a memo showing where you are going to add value,
  4. Ask for a specific amount,
  5. Maximise your chances by having a backup job offer from another firm.