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Firms to fight for talent

News

Cite as: (2004) 78(7) LIJ, p. 26

A survey of lawyers’ wages has found conditions for experienced lawyers looking to change jobs are increasingly favourable.

A leading recruitment company has predicted a “war for talent” between employers over the next 12 months as the improving world economy creates more job opportunities for lawyers.

The Hays Personnel Services survey, released on 1 June, found improvement in the Australian and key international economies promised increased opportunities for Australian lawyers either returning from or heading overseas.

This environment will create a shortage of quality candidates with solid experience in 2004/05, the survey predicted.

“We are beginning to see a return to a ‘war for talent’ with competing employers bumping up salaries to secure star performers,” the survey said.

It found that some firms were beginning to offer more benefits to attract lawyers.

Among the benefits increasingly being offered were alternative career avenues, flexible working arrangements, further education expenses, secondment opportunities and bonuses.

The information is contained in Hays Personnel’s 28th wages survey, although the legal wages component has only been compiled since 2002.

The salary data is compiled from a combination of all 2003/04 placements made up to the end of March 2004 and a client survey completed by more than 1700 clients.

While the outlook for next year is promising for lawyers seeking change, the past year has seen wages stabilise.

The survey found that wages for practitioners in private practice in Melbourne moved slightly upward, with most movement coming in the bottom end of the salary brackets.

Salaries for first-year solicitors rose from $48,000-$62,000 in 2003 to $50,000-$62,000 this year.

Fifth-year solicitors saw the bottom end of its wage range rise $5000 to $80,000, while sixth-year solicitors enjoyed an increase of $15,000 in 2004 to $95,000.

The wages of salaried partners in private practice rose $10,000 to $140,000 plus.

In-house counsel in Melbourne saw wage ranges stay almost identical over the 2003/04 year. The only rise came in the second-year legal counsel bracket which saw wages rise from $60,000-$70,000 to $60,000-$75,000.

The stabilisation of wages in Melbourne in 2003/04 came at the same time as wages in Sydney and Brisbane continued to grow.

Sydney saw wage increases for private practitioners until the senior associate range, which was stable. However, there was a $20,000 drop in salaried partners wages to $160,000 plus.

There were significant increases in Sydney for in-house counsel, especially for those in practice for more than six years and general counsel who saw the minimum wage rise $20,000 over the year.

In Brisbane, graduates saw their wage range expand from $35,000-$50,000 to $40,000-$54,000 in 2003/04. Significantly, the top end of this range was $1000 more than that of their Melbourne colleagues.

However, in all other private practice ranges Melbourne was either equal or well ahead of its Brisbane counterpart.

Law Institute human resources manager Katie Round said there had been upward pressure on salaries in the private sector over the past year, although the pressure had not been significant.

She said the Hays survey related mainly to top and middle-tier law firms. Anecdotal evidence suggested that small firm salaries had been steady.

Work/life still unbalanced: survey

Almost half of Australia’s young lawyers are expected by their employers to work up to 50 hours a week, according to a Law Council of Australia (LCA) survey.

The online survey of more than 850 young lawyers across the country found 54.8 per cent worked between 41 and 50 hours a week.

However, 46.9 per cent of respondents indicated that they were expected to work these hours.

Despite increased awareness over the past five years about achieving a work/lifestyle balance, 29.7 per cent of respondents said they worked between three and seven weekends a year to stay on top of workloads.

This compared to 21.4 per cent of young lawyers who said they had not had to work any weekends over the previous 12 months to stay on top of workloads.

The percentage of respondents who said they were expected to work the long hours almost mirrors the percentage of young lawyers looking for a change of job.

More than 45 per cent of respondents said they were considering leaving their current job in the next 12 months.

The survey was carried out by the LCA’s Australian Young Lawyers’ Committee to help it better represent the needs and interests of its members.

LCA president Bob Gotterson QC said it was important firms satisfied their junior practitioners by supplying quality legal work and supported their desire to have a life outside work.

Law Institute Young Lawyers’ Section president Iresha Herath said that while the survey clearly showed the importance of a work/life balance for young lawyers, it was also of great concern that men were still paid more than their female counterparts.

The survey found that more men were in the $60,000 to $99,000 wage bracket, compared to women dominating the $20,000 to $59,999 band.

Ms Herath said a possible reason for this disparity was that the survey had a higher proportion of male respondents in senior roles and working overseas.

“Whatever the reason, the survey result indicates that more research and work needs to be done on the possible disparity in salaries between male and female junior practitioners,” she said.

Jason Silverii

Typical salaries

The following tables indicate the typical salaries to be found in private practice, for in-house counsel and internationally.
In tables one and two the packages reflect superannuation.

Table one - Private practice typical salary


Sydney (A$)

Melbourne (A$)

Brisbane (A$)

New Zealand (NZ$)

Graduate

46,000 - 57,000

45,000 - 53,000

40,000 - 54,000

30,000 - 35,000

1 yrs PAE

57,000 - 68,000

50,000 - 62,000

49,000 - 60,000

40,000 - 50,000

2 yrs PAE

63,000 - 79,000

55,000 - 75,000

50,000 - 75,000

50,000 - 64,000

3 yrs PAE

74,000 - 89,000

62,000 - 85,000

60,000 - 82,000

55,000 - 79,000

4 yrs PAE

84,000 - 110,000

70,000 - 100,000

65,000 - 85,000

65,000 - 80,000

5 yrs PAE

95,000 - 115,000

80,000 - 110,000

75,000 - 95,000

71,000 - 90,000

6 yrs PAE

115,000 - 150,000

95,000 - 130,000

77,000 - 110,000

80,000 - 95,000

Senior associate

130,000 - 190,000

120,000 - 180,000

95,000 - 160,000

80,000 - 120,000

Salaried partner

160,000+

140,000+

130,000+

100,000+

Potential benefits include parking, health cover, MBA studies, gym membership, vehicle expenses, bonuses and laptops. The salary packages above were compiled on the basis of information from first-tier and mid-tier law firms within the CBD.

Table two – Inhouse counsel typical salary

 

Sydney (A$)

Melbourne (A$)

Brisbane (A$)

New Zealand (NZ$)

Legal counsel 1 yr PAE

55,000 - 70,000

50,000 - 65,000

48,000 - 65,000

40,000 - 50,000

Legal counsel 2 yrs PAE

65,000 - 75,000

60,000 - 75,000

55,000 - 75,000

44,000 - 62,000

Legal counsel 3 yrs PAE

75,000 - 90,000

65,000 - 85,000

55,000 - 80,000

48,000 - 70,000

Legal counsel 4 yrs PAE

85,000 - 100,000

80,000 - 110,000

65,000 - 90,000

52,000 - 82,000

Legal counsel 5 yrs PAE

90,000 - 120,000

90,000 - 120,000

75,000 - 100,000

58,000 - 90,000

Legal counsel 6 yrs PAE

100,000 - 140,000

100,000 - 130,000

80,000 - 120,000

65,000 - 110,000

Legal counsel 6+ yrs PAE

120,000 - 200,000+

100,000 - 130,000+

80,000 - 120,000+

80,000 - 120,000

General counsel

140,000 - 500,000+

135,000 - 200,000+

110,000 - 180,000+

100,000 - 150,000+

Potential benefits include car, parking, vehicle expenses, health cover, bonuses, laptops, school fees, gym memberships and interest free loans. PAE in Victoria is experience after one year of articles. PAE in Queensland is experience after two years of articles and in New South Wales PAE is experience from admittance (i.e. no articles).

Table three – International average salary

 

Hong Kong (HK$)

London (£)

New York (US$)

Offshore (US$)

Non-qualified

65,000

45,000

100,000

N/A

1 yr PQE

72,500

50,000

125,000

N/A

2 yrs PQE

77,000

54,000

130,000

N/A

3 yrs PQE

89,000

61,000

140,000

90,000

4 yrs PQE

98,000

68,000

150,000

118,000

5 yrs PQE

107,000

74,000

160,000

153,000

6 yrs PQE

110,000

77,000

170,000

160,000

6+ yrs PQE

116,000+

80,000+

180,000+

175,000+

Typical benefits include medical cover, pension, relocation, expenses, bonuses and HK and offshore low tax.

PAE = post admission experience; PQE = post qualification experience.

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