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House splits over money

A major in-house salary survey has shown that the gap between senior and junior in-house salaries is growing.

A major in-house salary survey has shown that the gap between senior and junior in-house salaries is growing.

Yesterday (20 November) the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association (ACLA) released the first part of a remuneration report into the salaries of corporate lawyers.

The ACLA report found that that the majority of the 239 in-house lawyers surveyed earned between $100k and $200k (61%).

At the top end, around 10 per cent of the in-house lawyers surveyed earned in excess of $250k.

Similarly, around 10 per cent of respondents earned less than $100k at the bottom of the salary range.

A report in December 2012 by ACLA and the University of Technology, the ASX 100 General Counsel Report, found that general counsels (GCs) in key management positions earned more than $1.2 million per year. That is more than double that of the average GC salary.

That report’s editor, Benevolent Society GC Alexandra Rose, spoke to Lawyers Weekly today about in-house salary trends.

She said yesterday’s ACLA report reinforced findings that in-house departments are facing cost-cutting and budget and salary pressures.

“The salaries [in the ACLA report] are slightly lower than expected,” she said. “There is a significant difference between the salaries in this report and the ASX100 report, and there is more scope for salary increases at the top-end of the market.”

In August, an in-house salary survey from Mahlab found that the average salary increase for in-house lawyers in 2012-13 was 2.8 per cent. In 2010-11, the average salary increase was 4.69 per cent

Just under a third (28%) of respondents to the most recent ACLA report were executive GCs, with 18 per cent GC or equivalent. Around one third of respondents (32%) were senior legal counsel and the remainder held middle-ranking to junior roles.

Seventy-five percent of respondent were with an in-house team of 10 or less people.

The ACLA survey showed that senior lawyers in smaller companies earn significantly less than GCs in large companies.

It cited the example of a GC in Western Australia with an in-house team of three lawyers working for a publicly-listed, moderate-paying resources company; that GC could expect to have a salary package between $177k and $240k.

This compares poorly to GCs in ASX100 companies not holding management positions; the average salary for GCs in that group, according to the ASX 100 GC Report, was $494,000.

Staying inside the house
The ACLA survey also showed that the average salary for an in-house lawyer is less than junior private practice positions.

A Taylor Root private practice salary survey released in August showed that lawyers with top-tier firms in Sydney can expect to be remunerated to the tune of $170,000 to $240,000 at the seven-to-10 year PQE level.
Despite that, Rose reckons that more and more young lawyers are looking to leave private practice.

“A number of junior private practice lawyers are desperate to get into in-house roles,” said Rose. “They see it as a stronger career path and the hours are more flexible... and it is an easier way to control their careers rather than being held to the vagaries of law firm partnership.”

The ACLA report also found that more than 80 per cent of in-house counsels received some form of value added benefit in their salary package, but only seven per cent of those received a bonus.

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