Mid-level lawyers lured by higher salaries and fast-tracked career opportunities

by NZ Lawyer17 Feb 2014
Auckland and Wellington-based law firms are promising higher salaries and a fast-track to career progression in order to appeal to a shrinking pool of intermediate-level professionals, according to the latest Global Salary Survey from multinational recruitment consultancy, Robert Walters.

The survey found mid-level lawyers are the preferred choice at law firms because of their ability to hit the ground running and relative affordability compared to senior lawyers. On average, the company predicts permanent salaries in 2014 will increase by 2.93%, with Auckland’s growth rate likely to be slightly higher than the national average, at 3.4%.

“In-house legal teams are unlikely to receive the salary rises of their law firm counterparts, as lawyers leaving private practice to work in-house are usually prepared to accept pay cuts in return for a better work/life balance,” said James Dalrymple, director of Robert Walters in Auckland.

“Even the more mature talent pool retuning to Auckland after working internationally will be flexible with salary expectations in order to secure good in-house opportunities with long-term career options.”

Furthermore, a surge in business mergers and acquisitions has led to more demand for legal professionals in 2014, according to the survey.

Robert Walters says mergers and acquisitions that occurred in late 2013 have had a ‘knock-on effect’ and lawyers with skills in corporate restructuring and infrastructure will be highly sought-after in 2014 worldwide.

Andrew Hanson, director of financial services, marketing, sales and legal at Robert Walters in Australia, says the company is seeing an increasingly positive outlook among firms this year across the ditch as well.

“With the [Australian] federal election out of the way and a sense of confidence returning to the market, hiring managers are starting to look for talented people. Many partners and senior legal counsel who moved to smaller organisations in 2013 will this year need additional support from more junior lawyers.”

Key highlights from the survey included:
  • Large-scale technological change in Wellington in both the public and private sectors will likely drive recruitment in this area
  • More activity is expected at the senior end of the in-house jobs market in Wellington as General Counsel and Assistant GC look for new opportunities following little movement in the last 2-3 years
  • In-house procurement and commercial teams will be recruiting commercial contracts specialists, particularly in the telecommunications and energy sectors
  • Corporate, commercial litigation and financial services regulations will offer the majority of new roles
  • Hiring activity in firms will be focused on graduates and mid-level lawyers as companies focus on client engagement at a reduced cost
  • Pay rises will remain marginal except for those moving into new roles and top performing lawyers staying in their current roles
The Global Salary Survey is compiled annually by Robert Walters and covers 24 countries and multiple disciplines.