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Lawyers to see salary boon

OVERSEAS DEMAND for Australian lawyers will place inflationary pressures on local salaries, according to recently released legal salary reports. This is good news for legal professionals, who…

OVERSEAS DEMAND for Australian lawyers will place inflationary pressures on local salaries, according to recently released legal salary reports. This is good news for legal professionals, who will now see local firms actively compete with the lure of international opportunities with bigger pay packets.

This year’s salary reports are now being released, with both ‘The Michael Page Salary Survey’ and ‘The 2006 Hays Legal Salary Survey’ published late last week. According to the reports, legal salaries are expected to rise towards the end of this year — between 5-8 per cent, the Michael Page report states.

The domestic legal sector is now competing with international companies, and the global market for Australian lawyers is at its strongest, according to the Michael Page report. This will exacerbate domestic labour shortages as Australian legal professionals are lured by overseas opportunities.

But for those staying in Australia, some attractive salaries should be offered. Phillip Guest, Michael Page managing director for Australia, said that as local firms struggle to compete with the lure of overseas opportunities, particularly at firms in the United Kingdom, Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore, they are being competitive on a global scale.

“Overseas demand will place inflationary pressures on local salaries, which are expected to increase in the next 12 months between 5-8 per cent for average wages, and 10-15 per cent for hard to find skill sets. These levels may even be exceeded to reward exceptional performance as part of strategic retention initiatives,” Guest said.

Lawyers have not had a bad year to date. According to ‘The 2006 Hays Legal Salary Survey’, 58 per cent of employers in Australia and New Zealand increased salaries by 3-6 per cent, while 25 per cent of employers increased by less than 3 per cent. Thirteen per cent raised salaries by 6-10 per cent and 4 per cent of employers by more than 10 per cent.

“The last 12 months was characterised by one of the most sustained periods of low unemployment and jobs growth in modern times, [as well as] the well-publicised joining of Generation Y candidates to the workforce and the fierce global resources boom,” said Liz Rooke, manager of Hays Legal. She said it was therefore not surprising that it has been a year in which there has been an unprecedented focus on the candidate.

But while the lure of overseas opportunities has put some pressure on salaries, local firms are also adopting a practical approach to the problem, and are supporting moves overseas in the interest of maintaining a positive relationship with lawyers. According to the Michael Page survey, this is a long-term strategy to keep options open and secure the loyalty of lawyers returning to Australia after a stint overseas, with their valuable global experience.

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