With 2014 now in full swing a few trends are starting to emerge providing an insight into what we might be able to expect from the legal services market, writes Naiman Clarke’s Elvira Naiman.
At this early stage of the year the market is more buoyant than it was at the start of last year. One of the interesting developments we are seeing is an increase in hiring activity in the corporate and banking practice areas which have been subdued for some time. Property and dispute resolution have also picked up across all tiers of firms, with insurance and employment law continuing to stay active.
We have also observed an increase in confidence as the result of an uplift in work across a number of key areas, with domestic top tier and international firms starting to recruit in numbers again. However, while many of our clients have indicated they are likely to require additional staff during the course of this year, hiring activity is not likely to be constant. A degree of volatility is expected with periods of frenetic activity balanced by quieter times.
On the partner front we are seeing a lot of movement in Sydney but not as much activity in the other major cities. This is likely to be the result of Sydney being the primary entry point of international firms into the Australian market creating a destabilising influence for partners in a range of practice areas.
With performance reviews around the corner, firms are starting to finalise their remuneration strategies for the coming financial year. Early indicators show that lawyers in private practice should expect similar increases to last year (10-15% for those significantly exceeding their budget, 5-7% for average performers and nothing or CPI increases for those under budget without good reason).
The other side of the remuneration equation is bonuses, and firms have been very tight-lipped when it comes to discussing their plans for this year. Those who have been prepared to share their thinking with us are saying that they will not be paying bonuses across the board but will be “strategic” in their approach. Based on past experience, being “strategic” usually means bonuses are only likely to be paid to lawyers significantly out-billing their peers or as a retention toll for high-performing lawyers at risk of leaving.
Copy supplied by Naiman Clarke. For more information visit: www.nclegal.com.au