With Kenneth Willis, consultant, Randstad Legal.
It is both realistic and reasonable to expect that someone who studies a difficult degree and works long hours in a commercial law firm is motivated by financial reward, even if this is not the number one driver. Too often, the subject of salary is considered anywhere from crass to completely taboo - a smidgeon of sincerity on the topic is thus both refreshing and helpful for good candidates and employers alike.
Significant disparities still exist between law firms for almost identical roles and it is not unreasonable per se to correct one's salary by changing employer. However, even for those who accept this, a number of misconceptions exist, the greatest of all being timing of the move.
It is commonly assumed that the best time to move is immediately after one's annual salary review. While it is true that more "urgent" vacancies tend to become available around the end of financial year, there is never a bad time to move if one of the motivators is correcting a bottom-of-market salary package.
Those law firms that pay at the higher end of the market are fully aware of their position; they do so because they consider it vital to their competitiveness and performance and they have rightly concluded that attracting top talent comes partly from paying top salaries.
Most importantly, law firms that pay the competitive salaries do not simply pay a premium based on a candidate's present salary. They are in their competitive position as they have better information about their competitors, including EOFY salary increases that the candidate can expect at their present firm.
It is unlikely that any candidate will move purely for money and such a move would be most ill-advised, even where one is blatantly underpaid, as this would almost certainly be accompanied by a number of cultural issues of far greater importance than salary. However, the ideal role can arise at any time and candidates are not obliged to wait for a less-than-satisfactory salary increase to start their search.