Top-tier firms are no longer the only firms offering market-leading remuneration as the gap between top and mid-tier salaries narrows.
Mahlab Recruitment's 2011 salary survey, Seismic Shifts: Redefining the Legal Market, has revealed that Australia's top-tier firms are not necessarily offering the best salaries in the market as the industry's boutique firms increasingly pay well above the market rate.
"Clients are continuing to move their work from 'top-tier' to 'mid-tier' firms, meaning that sustained levels of high-calibre work is now available at practices other than the top-tier firms," the report states.
"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."
The 2011 survey also confirmed a significant increase in base salary levels for private practice lawyers, reporting an average salary increase of 23 per cent nationally, as well as an increased willingness amongst law firms to consider paying bonuses and sign-on bonuses.
"On average, salary bands increased by 6.53 per cent," the survey revealed. "The range within bands is narrowing compared to previous years. Perth salaries have been steadily increasing at a faster rate than other states over the past few years and are now on par with Melbourne salaries or higher for certain practice areas, for example energy and resources and corporate/M&A. Brisbane salaries followed a similar trend."
According to the survey, recruitment activity levels in the Australian legal market lifted dramatically, with the majority of firms anticipating a continued increase in the number of fee-earning staff over the next financial year.
"The demand for lawyers has been most evident in banking and finance, front and back end construction, property development and property finance, planning and environment, energy and resources, insurance, workplace relations and litigation," the report states. "In addition," corporate/M&A as well as infrastructure work have been high demand areas in Perth and Brisbane."