CoLegal was delighted to attend the NZ Asian Women Lawyers panel session where there was a Q&A session with Joanna Pidgeon, Partner, Joanna Stevenson, HR Director and Anand from CoLegal as a legal recruiter.
The session was focused on practical tips around job seeking, negotiating salary and considerations for progressing your career. A few key takeaway points that we gathered from the session were around:
• Being open, honest and transparent during a recruitment process is best
Right from the initial stage of working with a recruiter or in an interview with HR or a partner. If you have a short stint on your CV, other interviews on the back burner, a family consideration, or a sensitive topic to cover, how you approach it with a prospective employer is key. Overall, employers are understanding and we can help you with how best to communicate a sensitive message and gauge how much information to provide when applying for a job or at the interview stage.
• Performance review
Be open to constructive feedback in a performance review as employers that give feedback typically care about your development as a lawyer to get you to the next level. This is also an opportunity to discuss what you might need by way of support to progress your career. Keep track of key transactions, projects or matters you've delivered to that can remind an employer of work that highlights your best work; look at how you've performed against budget/targets, business development efforts, the introduction of any new clients, or work you've done in writing articles or mentoring juniors - all these points will help demonstrate to an employer the value you bring into a practice.
• Salary reviews
If you've performed well against the factors mentioned above, then you'll have greater bargaining power during a salary review process. In any salary review discussion, it's best to be prepared, highlighting the positive points from your performance review and the responsibilities you take on. At junior levels, large and mid-sized firm employers tend to have fixed bands based on externally benchmarked data. At intermediate and senior levels, external benchmarking is still done to ensure relativities are in place but there's greater discretion around salary and bonus structures.
• Salary negotiations
Being realistic and approaching these discussions in a respectful manner is key. Preparing in advance with the positive points from your performance review will enable you to put your best foot forward. Generally, the higher the salary, the greater the expectations on output and targets. Salary guides are a useful tool, but they are also only a guide as each person's background and relevant experience for a role is different - it isn't just about years of experience. If you're going into a new role, and you're on an above-market salary, then it’s worth considering whether to let a prospective new employer know this upfront to save disappointment down the track at offer stage if they then offer you within a standard market range. If you feel you're below market currently, then a recruiter can guide you as to what strategy would be best to help you achieve the desired salary and answer any questions around salary expectations in an interview context.
• Returning to work after parental leave
Have a chat with HR and your direct manager in advance of returning to work about what support you might need to transition well, what workflow is on the go and coming up. This will allow you to understand any environmental / team changes and the type of work you'll return to. Each individual's home support system and return can be different and employers are increasingly open to a tailored approach for each employee. If you've missed a salary review / increase while on parental leave (and feel you deserve one), then best to speak to HR around timing for that next review. Salary increases for those returning from parental leave usually look to balance your level of experience (which has increased while on leave), against the fact that you may not have been working / upskilling in the area of work while on parental leave.
A key skill to start developing early on in your legal career, and particularly as you progress into more senior positions, is to effectively delegate which will then help with your own capacity and workflow management.
• Diversity & Inclusion
There has been an increase in Asian lawyers in the legal profession compared to 10 years ago, with more Asian law students entering the profession. Most firms and organisations promote diversity and look at ways to bring in greater representation of other ethnic groups. Having a second language skill set (e.g. Mandarin) can also set you apart from other candidates when job seeking, so language skills are viewed positively, particularly where an employer has, for example, Chinese clients.
Thanks again to the NZ Asian Lawyers for inviting CoLegal to be part of your event. If this is something that interests you, get in touch to find out about the next event.