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Top tier under threat as mid tier lifts game

Top tier under threat as mid tier lifts game

The Australian private practice market is redefining long held beliefs of what constitutes top tier as the mid tier increasingly pays as well, and scoops much of what used to be top-tier work.

THE Australian private practice market is redefining long held beliefs of what constitutes top tier as the mid tier increasingly pays as well, and scoops much of what used to be top-tier work. 


Market leading remuneration has traditionally been offered by only top tier firms. But according to a new salary survey, the mid tier and even some boutiques are paying as well as the big guns. 


The gap in salary offered by top- and mid-tier firms has narrowed, the 2011 Mahlab Salary Survey reveals. In addition, a handful of firms considered boutique often pay well above market rate. 


The shift in pay has coincided with clients' realisation that many mid-tier firms will offer the service, and often better value, than the top tier. 


As clients move across to the mid tier, so too do graduates seeking interesting work. 


"Sustained levels of high calibre work is now available at practices other than the top tier firms," the Mahlab survey reveals. 


"Mid-tier firms are now far more appealing to those lawyers who seek a move away from the top tier environment, but who do not want to forsake exposure to the type of work those larger firms had to offer."


AS the market reconsiders what it regards as top and mid tier, Mahlab for one has began using new definitions for Australian law firms. 


According to Mahlab, the defining criteria of what is a major, mid and small CBD commercial firm include size, location, reputation, quality of work, expectations of employer, remuneration, desirability of employment, and training and development.


According to Mahlab's definitions, a major firm in Sydney will pay graduates between $70 and $80k, and between $183 and $300k for the most senior lawyers. Partners here will be remunerated on average $1.38 million. 


In mid firms, according to the Mahlab definitions, a graduate will earn between $50 and $88k, and the most senior lawyers between $155 and $272k. Partners will be remunerated $856k. 


In small commercial CBD firms, a graduate earns between $50 and $66k, and the most senior lawyers between $150 and $240k. Partners will be remunerated $478k in these smaller commercial CBD firms in Sydney.  

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