This all time low comes immediately after a previous all time low of 2.8 per cent in 2015. The last year of recorded growth was 2014 – at a rate of 4.8 per cent growth in 2014, according to The Australasian Legal Practice Management Association’s (ALPMA) latest Australian Legal Industry Salary & HR Issues Survey. Nor do prospects in the short term look good. One fifth of firms expect a limited wage freeze this year, with five per cent anticipating a total freeze. And, while almost three quarters of firms, 73 per cent, expect to increase wages at or above the Consumer Price Index this year, that figure is down four per cent on last year. However, Emma Elliott, ALPMA board member business manager of Perth commercial law firm Steinepreis Paganin, explained that the low wages growth has helped firms protect profitability in a challenging marketplace.
Bonuses offset low salary rises for select few
While wages have stagnated, a select number of staff at most firms saw the trend offset by major bonuses based on financial performance with the study finding that nearly 40 per cent of firms paid lawyers and partners bonuses of more than five per cent of base pay, with 32 per cent of equity partners and 23 per cent of partners receiving bonuses worth more than ten per cent of their base salaries.
Staffing levels to rise
The study also revealed that 51 per cent of firms expected to increase staffing levels over the next year - one third of those hires will replace staff who have left.