find the latest legal job
Part Time Risk & Compliance Officer
Category: Other | Location: Brisbane QLD 4000
· Brisbane City · Flexible Part Time Hours
View details
Infrastructure Lawyer/SA
Category: Construction Law | Location: Sydney CBD, Inner West & Eastern Suburbs Sydney NSW
· Global elite law firm · Dedicated Infrastructure team
View details
Property Lawyer
Category: Property Law | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· 12 Month Contract · Diverse Work
View details
In-House Legal Counsel (Mid to Senior)| Regulated Markets (Energy and Gas)
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Full PD on Request · Exciting High Impact Role
View details
Family Lawyer
Category: Family Law | Location: Eastern Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Boutique Firm · Great Reputation
View details
Salaries stagnate, bonuses restricted

Salaries stagnate, bonuses restricted

Katherine Sampson

The latest survey by Mahlab shows rises in legal salaries are sluggish and bonuses are being reserved for high performers.

The Mahlab Report 2015 found legal salaries increased by an average of just 3.4 per cent in 2014-2015, compared to 3.8 per cent last year.

Mahlab managing director Katherine Sampson (pictured) said firms had shifted away from offering automatic increases towards a reward-based system.

“What you're getting in [salary in] private practice now, it's less related to the size of the firm and more related to how that firm rewards you as a top performer,” Ms Sampson said.

“If you are a top performer, then you're going to get your increase through a bonus – but even bonuses now are harder to get.”

The survey found good performers were offered a 5 to 10 per cent bonus and exceptional performers offered up to 20 per cent.

Ms Sampson suggested law firms were coming into line with other major corporations, which have long given minimal salary increases while focusing on the possibility of a year-end bonus.

“They've tightened everything,” she said. “They've tightened the number of partners they want, they've tightened what points those partners have and it's harder to get partnership.

“The good old days of 10 per cent per annum salary increases are long gone.”

Incomes are also falling for equity partners, even at major firms. The report found that while a partner at a major firm three years ago may have earned $1.2 million and upwards, the average at some firms had dropped to $750,000.

Another trend identified by the report is less movement among salary bands. Ms Sampson suggested firms are no longer rewarding their lawyers with a salary bump for each year of experience.

“What's happening is the bands now are becoming less significant. You're not automatically going up into a whole other band just because you've worked another year.

“That's a trend we've seen over the past three years – the logical conclusion is that bands for solicitors will largely disappear.”

Increasingly, significant salary rises are only offered in conjunction with a new title, such as senior associate or special counsel.

“At each of those big leaps you'll get something, but running on as a senior associate for four years or five years, you're not going to move up into another band,” Ms Sampson said. “It's not a longevity benefit.”

Salary bands rose by just 2.5 per cent in the past year, with 44 per cent of firms increasing their bands. By comparison, 90 per cent of firms increased their bands in 2011, Mahlab reported.

 

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Salaries stagnate, bonuses restricted
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Law Council of Australia
06:04
LCA calls for urgent adoption of ‘game-changing’ recommendation
The Law Council of Australia has urged for the immediate adoption of a key recommendation put forwar...
Sally Wheeler
Nov 20 2017
ANU College of Law appoints new dean
A distinguished legal academic and the former head of law of a higher education institution in Irela...
Violence
Nov 17 2017
It's time for politicians to commit to eradicating domestic violence
The national shame of domestic violence cannot be left unaddressed, writes Christine Smyth. ...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...