In-house counsel shouldn’t expect a big pay bump this year

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Most in-house legal staff in Australia should expect meagre salary increases, as new research has found that a majority of corporates intend to give small pay raises over the next year.

According to the 39th annual Hays Salary Guide, 65% of employers expect to increase their in-house legal staff’s pay by no more than 3% in their next review. The recruitment company found that 11% said they will not increase salaries at all, while 19% said they will increase salaries for in-house teams from 3% to 6% and just 5% said they will increase salaries by more than 6%.

Firms are feeling just a little more generous than their corporate peers, with 7% expecting to give salary bumps of more than 6%. However, 57% also said they will increase staff salary by no more than 3%. The report found that 26% plan to raise salaries by 3% to 6% while 10% said they will not increase salaries at all.

The luckiest among all in-house legal professionals are those working in the information technology and telecommunications sector, as 20% of companies surveyed said that they expect to increase salaries by 6% or more.

The study also found differing trends in the various states. In Western Australia, the private-practice market is stable as mergers settle into their new structure, said Darren Buchanan, Hays Legal director. Pay is stable with minor increases and firms continue to offer flexible work arrangements to attract talent.

In South Australia, the surplus of graduates is creating a highly competitive market for government roles. There’s also an increasing demand in the state for paralegals, increasing salaries in the space.

Property lawyers and commercial lawyers with two to five years’ PQE are needed, thus and also increasing salaries. In Sydney, there is continued demand for back-end and front-end lawyers with four to eight PQE in construction, private practice, and in-house, he said.

In Victoria’s, the private practice market will remain buoyant, “with steady but cautious growth and demand for infrastructure, projects, and construction lawyers,” Buchanan said.

He added that in Queensland, entry- to senior-level conveyancers are needed, leading to a rise in salaries. Buchanan added that small boutique and specialist firms in the Gold Coast, Cairns, and Townsville are also growing.

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