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Aussie legal jobs market enjoys ‘relative optimism’

Aussie legal jobs market enjoys ‘relative optimism’

Briefcase

An online survey of Australia’s law firms has revealed that local appetite for experienced lawyers in private practice is positive compared to other regional markets, with a healthy pipeline of deals, projects and matters likely to drive demand for more hires.

A new report has compiled data about the changing hiring and salary trends of law firms in Australia.

According to the 2017 Taylor Root salary report for private practice, not only is there relative optimism in the Australian legal hiring market, but talent retention has become easier. The report attributed this trend to more difficult conditions in the UK and Europe that have seen a number of Australian expats contemplate bringing their careers back to home shores.

“The UK continues to struggle with the challenges of leaving Europe and has all but closed its doors to lawyers from overseas,” the report said.

“Conversely, the uncertainty and changing atmosphere of the UK is leading many Australian lawyers based in London to consider this an opportune time to come home.”

The recruiting agency went on to suggest that Aussie transactional lawyers may have to ditch the dream of the “traditional pilgrimage to London” and turn their minds to domestic options instead, and contemplate whether their current firm is a workplace they want to stay with for the long-haul.

In this climate, the report suggested that competition between local firms for talent would heat up. Following the lead of this trend, Taylor Root said it expected a positive effect on salaries for lawyers practising in particular areas.

Corporate, construction and banking groups were the top three practice areas identified in the report as areas of anticipated growth over the next 12 months.

“We are certainly finding more lawyers willing to explore whether, if they’re not now leaving the country, there’s a better place they could spend their next few years,” the report said.

“Whatever happens overseas, it is evident that Australian law firms will continue to grow many of their practice areas in the coming year. From a hiring point of view, demand will outstrip supply in a number of key practice areas.”

The report’s findings are based on information provided by law firms, job seekers and clients who participated in an online survey conducted by Taylor Root.  

An overwhelming majority, 70 per cent of all of respondents, reported that their firm had hired more lawyers in the past year. About 7 per cent of firms said that in the last 12 months they experienced decrease in fee-earning recruitment.

Taylor Root’s report added that some practice areas had seen record-breaking offers, in some cases with sign-on bonuses additionally being made.

Generally speaking however, the survey reported a “modest increase” for legal salaries across the board.  

A general comparison between starting salaries offered for graduate positions in Sydney and Melbourne revealed a $4,000 disparity, with new hires in Sydney receiving a minimum of $72,000 compared to the $68,000 figure on offer in Melbourne.

Meanwhile, the report indicated a $20,000 difference for Sydney and Melbourne senior associates.

According to Taylor Root, senior associates working for a top-tier law firm in Sydney can expect a minimum salary of $135,000, whereas their Melbourne peers are working from a starting position of $115,000.

The survey also asked about what cut firm partners take from the business, as well the overall profitability of law firms.

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