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A blog with tips and insights into the practice of law

Performance Reviews – how to prepare

Setting aside time to consider your achievements is key when preparing for a performance review. Tips on how to prepare for your performance review and what to expect in terms of a salary increase.

It’s that time of year again – appraisal forms to complete and pay review and bonus expectations. Many lawyers tend to think the performance review system is nothing more than firms paying lip service to lawyers’ career progression, but often this is not the case.

Performance reviews can be used to gauge a lawyer’s potential progression up the ladder to a more senior lawyer role, and this means, among other things, more responsibility and a higher salary.

In terms of preparation, it is important for lawyers to take the time to ‘self-critique’ their previous twelve months’ performance and assess their ‘wins’, the matters they have been involved in and their billable hours achievements – the currency of every modern law firm. This is the time for self-promotion and to remind the partners of their contribution to the firm.

Most firms are indicating salary increases of between 6% and 12%, with exceptions made for ‘superstars’. We are finding that many lawyers’ expectations are considerably higher. As a result, there may be some disappointed lawyers.

In relation to bonuses, with the odd exception, these are always discretionary and again, the real stars will be rewarded accordingly.

At this point, lawyers whose expectations are not met reach a crossroads – they can stay and convince the firm of their worth, or can try and find a position that will give them what they aspire to. Often lawyers move for other reasons – they may feel they are not getting the career progression or mentoring they seek, or they may have been planning to move for a while. In any event, it is important they have a clear idea why they are looking to move and the motivation behind this.