Aussie cash: Sydney still leads the way
Researchers also found that Sydney lawyers remain the best remunerated in the country, but Melbourne and Perth saw bigger pay rises for younger lawyers as firms in those cities bid to attract talent away from New South Wales.
The survey -- conducted by Australian legal recruitment specialists Mahlab -- found that 56 per cent of firms increased their staff, while 38 per cent reported no change. The growth was mainly enjoyed by resource-rich areas such as Brisbane and Perth, with only slight gains seen in Sydney and Melbourne.
According to the survey, the introduction to the jurisdiction of more global brands has had a particular impact on recent graduates and junior lawyers, who are attracted to the benefits of working for international firms. However, 68 per cent of firms said their graduate intake remained the same, while 15 per cent reported an increase in recruitment.
Junior lawyers in Melbourne enjoyed a healthy 12 per cent increase to their salaries compared to a 10.5 per cent increase for their Sydney counterparts. However Perth lawyers received the biggest boost with a 13 per cent increase, pushing many salaries in the area to being on a par with those in Sydney.
Overall, Sydney-based senior associates at the top firms continued to pocket the biggest pay packets, with a median figure of A$255,000 ($267,000). Their counterparts in Perth were next in line, with a median figure of A$235,000, followed by Melbourne (A$205,000), Brisbane (A$152,000) and Adelaide (A$130,000).
Remuneration levels at in-house corporate legal departments followed a similar pattern. Sydney again came top of the tree, with the median level for general counsel in that city coming in at A$310,000; Melbourne and Perth were jointly on A$305,000, with Brisbane on A$275,000 and Adelaide on A$260,000.
The researchers forecast that the next two quarters will see ‘steady’ recruitment activity in the Australian market generally. Although the report warns that law firm managers ‘will watch their costs carefully and are likely to be more vigilant in managing underperformance. This is particularly the case for firms still considering a merger with an international practice’.