LAW GRADUATES in Western Australia can expect more opportunities for articled clerkships next year, and some firms have anticipated a pay increase as well, Lawyers Weekly has learned.
Corrs Chambers Westgarth will take on seven clerks this year, up from last year’s four, filling a capacity that has been created by the success of the business in the past year.
While the firm refuses to offer even a ballpark figure of what those clerks can expect to be paid, it promises to be in line with the market. Perth office recruitment partner Bill Keane said the seven recruits have been given an indication of where the market is going right now, and what the firm is likely to pay.
“But they don’t start until next year and markets move so what we want to ensure is that we’re as competitive as possible on salary. So rather than give a firm number now, we give them an indicative number and then we review next year against the market,” he said.
Keane said he was aware of rumours in the market that pay would go up, however. “It would appear on the anecdotal evidence that there are salary increases in the pipeline. We have no particular reason to doubt that but next year we will gather as much information as we can and then we’ll make a call on salary,” he said.
“It’s probably not that responsible to throw numbers around at this stage. We want to maintain the flexibility to be competitive. So if we lock ourselves into a number now, it doesn’t really make a heck of a lot of sense if we’re quite likely to change that number next year.”
Blake Dawson Waldron is also holding off on setting a salary for the 10 article clerks starting in 2008, despite media reports in WA that it expects to pay $63,000. Reports state that this in an increase on the $50,000 it intended to pay earlier this year, however the firm told Lawyers Weekly that these figures were not correct.
Salary surveys of the state this year suggest the market is booming and that salaries can rival those of their counterparts in resource-related fields. In 2007, lawyers in their first year working in a top-tier firm in Perth could expect $65,000, in Brisbane only $60,000 and in Adelaide just $50,000. Perth is competing with the top tier in Sydney and Melbourne, where lawyers in their first year can also expect to receive $65,000, according to the Mahlab Recruitment Survey 2007.
But Corrs national recruitment manager Ben Powell said that new lawyers are more interested in the broader offering from firms. As long as article clerks know the figure they are to be paid is competitive, they are more concerned with other factors, he said.
“While we understand that salary needs to be right, it’s those other areas that we’re trying to focus on to make sure that we’ve got the most compelling offer for graduates.”
Keane also noted that the firm’s offices nationally are making changes to the way they recruit. “Working our what makes sense as far as in providing information to students, training our people better in interviewing and providing a more structured process for recruitment so that we know what we have to do and when we have to do it,” he said.
Powell added that recruitment nationally is very competitive. “While I think there are some relatively unique factors driving Perth’s economy at the moment, the competition for talent is a national phenomenon. It’s not just restricted to Perth,” he said.