Sign on bonuses and good salaries show Australian law jobs are in good space notwithstanding the difficult 2020 year
A recent survey of Australian legal salaries showed records being made in what a surveying firm said was a “great year”. The outlook for Australian law jobs continues to be good.
That may be surprising given the pandemic, but according to Beacon Legal’s Private Practice Salary and Market Report 2020, lawyers experienced “record-level” salaries, particularly in the areas of litigation, public M&A’s, construction and banking.
However, there will be tougher competition for law jobs and higher sign-on bonuses required for those seeking top legal talent.
“Demand for 3-6 PQE lawyers should outstrip supply and cause a price war,” Beacon Legal reported. “With a number of firms offering high salaries, even at a junior level, this forces the hand of other firms to do the same or risk missing out on candidates.
“Our clients have reported work pipelines going into 2020 which will continue to create job opportunities for lawyers to move laterally. As a candidate, we predict 2020 will be a great year to find a new role and achieve salary growth.”
Top Salaries in Sydney
Sydney is the place where salaries are highest, although Melbourne is close behind.
The “record-level” salaries saw special counsel in construction earn an average of a $300,000 salary, plus a $10,000 signing bonus. Litigation lawyers with the level 9 PQE earnt $220,000, construction litigation at 7 PQE earnt $190,000 and project finance at 5 PQE hit $160,000. The lowest record level saw litigation at 2 PQE earn $120,000.
Sign On Bonus Levels
Bonuses increased too, both in dollar value and in percentage of the firms which have paid bonuses. Beacon Legal said more lawyers are requesting bonus information from firms more regularly at offer stage and firms are competing to offer.
Top-tier firms are more generally operating on bonus schemes of up to 25 per cent of salaries, based on individual and firm performance.
“Sign-on bonuses are now commonplace and are usually between $5,000-$10,000. We expect this trend to continue into 2020,” according to Beacon Legal.
High Demand Australian Law Jobs
Recruitment in top-tier and large international firms improved according to Beacon with litigation being a leader in this regard.
However, the survey noted that Australian law jobs with high earnings included those who specialised a technology, media and telecommunications practice area and in banking, while those practicing in M&A private exclusively felt a drop compared to recent years.
“The market demand for litigators has grown significantly over the past year,” Beacon Legal said. “Recruitment has remained constantly high. This is a trend we expect will continue in 2020, with a number of firms establishing ongoing recruitment drives.
“The main drivers have been the banking royal commission, increased regulation in financial services and the banks requiring more legal services than ever before.”
The final quarter of 2019 was noticeably busier within M&A, despite starting off slower than previous years, and Beacon Legal anticipates that this will continue. Lawyers with public M&A, IPO and ECM experience should expect higher demand in 2020.
Candidates with banking and financial services regulatory experience had higher than average demand, as did the market for TMT lawyers. The commercial property market was relatively slow in 2019 but demand in construction and infrastructure will be high.