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In-house lawyers feel the squeeze

In-house lawyers feel the squeeze

A major survey of corporate lawyers has found that many in-house departments have been doing more with less this year.

Taylor Root released its In-House Legal Commerce & Industry Market Update & Salary Guide 2013 yesterday (12 November).

The survey featured the responses of more than 300 general counsels and in-house legal heads from a range of industries, including IT/telco, media and entertainment, energy and resources and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG).

The survey painted a glum picture of the in-house recruitment market.

It found that less than 25 per cent of companies surveyed recruited lawyers into their in-house team, compared to almost 50 per cent last year.

The survey stated that “this trend confirms that most legal teams and in-house lawyers are now asked to do more work with fewer resources available”.

“In certain sectors, yes, this has been a slow year for in-house legal roles, although it’s not doom and gloom across the board,” Taylor Root manager Brian Rollo told Lawyers Weekly. “There are certain sectors that have been fairly active this year, such as energy and resources, mining, and construction and technology, while others have been noticeably quiet.”

Rollo, who heads the firm’s in-house recruitment team in Sydney, said property, manufacturing, media and banking were sectors where demand was down this year.

One third of respondents also said they had been in a “hiring freeze” at some point over the past 12 months.

However, Rollo does not believe the trend of doing “more with less” is leading to a greater rate of burnout among in-house lawyers.

“The tendency will be for legal teams to outsource and project manage the legal work in those circumstances, rather than spending endless hours in the office doing the additional work internally,” he said.  “This explains why there has been a more buoyant private practice market this year in comparison to in-house legal.”

Riding the resources boom while it lasts

The report found that companies in Western Australia and Queensland have been the most active in-house recruiters this year. Perth offered the most significant salary increases, with many WA-based in-house roles now paying more than equivalent positions in Sydney or Melbourne.

An energy and resources lawyer with six to 10 years post-qualified experience (PQE) can expect to earn $165,000 to $250,000 in Perth, compared to $160,000 to $240,000 in Sydney and Melbourne.

Perth-based lawyers with 10 or more years PQE can also expect to earn more than their Sydney and Melbourne counterparts in trade and transport and property and construction.

While the money is good for in-house lawyers in WA and Queensland in industries associated with resources, the number of available roles might be dwindling.

“Perth and Brisbane are already showing signs of a real slowdown in demand for resources lawyers,” said Rollo.

The survey found that 90 per cent of respondents were awarded a performance-related bonus in the past 12 months, with more than 60 per cent of those bonuses being up to 20 per cent of annual base salary.

The Taylor Root analysis excluded banking and finance lawyers.

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In-house lawyers feel the squeeze
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