Junior London lawyers — especially in property and banking — should not expect large salary hikes this year, but the best midlevel associates remain in demand, according to new research.
Those are the key findings of a recent survey, which underlines widespread expectations that the current slowdown in commercial activity has ended the upward pressure on salaries for most levels of assistants.
The poll of nearly 150 senior U.K. partners found that 57 percent thought associates will see a modest increase in salary, while 38 percent thought salaries will remain static. Three percent were expecting to see cuts in pay bands, while 2 percent were forecasting “considerable rises.”
“I suspect that there will be no great jumps in salaries this year,” said Jonathan Blake, senior partner at SJ Berwin. “The last few years have seen a number of very large changes, but now firms will be looking at more modest levels while the market plays out.”
Richard Ziegler, a senior consultant at EJ Legal, said: “There will be modest increases this year. I cannot see, in current market conditions, how firms will be able to significantly increase pay.”
The findings come after Legal Week recently reported that leading London firms are considering whether to make changes to their pay bands, although firms are currently dead set against the kind of raises seen in the boom years of 2006 and 2007.
“The bargaining position for associates has seriously diminished. Most of them will not have been through a downturn before, so there may still be a mismatch in terms of their expectations,” said one partner.
“Firms should explain to associates very frankly what the market position is and what is likely to happen,” he continued.