HUGE SALARY increases in London will inevitably tempt young Australian lawyers overseas, and Australian firms may struggle to counter this desire to move with non-financial benefits, such as improved lifestyle.
“Australian firms don’t currently compete with UK firms on salary — they compete on lifestyle factors,” Elvira Naiman, managing director of Naiman Clarke recruitment agency said. “The majority of lawyers going to London are not just chasing the dollars but also the experience. This might give them more impetus to do so.”
John Chisholm of John Chisholm Consulting agreed that Australian law firms will always have a difficult time stopping young lawyers going abroad.
“You’re not going to stop people going to London or New York — it’s just going to happen. It is part of Gen Y, and most 25 to 30-year-olds are probably going to at least consider it,” he said.
“The trick for the Australian law firms is to make sure they come back, and make sure they come back better lawyers, and make sure they come back to me. And some of the firms work very hard in facilitating [this].”
Chisholm said many Australian firms are offering to set their staff up in their own foreign offices or an affiliated firm. The firm management reasoning is that if they facilitate an overseas move for their lawyers, most will eventually return, and do so with memories of how accommodating their old firm was, Chisholm said.
London pay rises are also likely to make it harder to attract UK lawyers to Australia, and keep their salaries in line with those of existing staff. Mahlab Recruitment has noted a trend whereby those arriving from overseas are receiving lucrative deals, and as large firms increasingly source lawyers from the UK to counteract their own losses to overseas firms, this trend is likely to continue.
Naiman said that “firms are going to have to get more creative about how to attract staff and know the real motivators for coming to or staying in Australia. The dollars and the work won’t be the reason why lawyers move to Australia”.
“The more firms offer things like yoga classes at lunch time, gym memberships, additional holiday leave, reasonable work hours, and other similar ‘lifestyle’ benefits — these sorts of benefits are more likely to attract people to come to Australia or perhaps be the thing that makes lawyers less inclined to move. If they can enjoy the outdoor lifestyle, their family lives, etc, then maybe they will be less inclined to view London as an option even despite the amazing dollars on offer,” Naiman said.