The New Zealand legal market remains firm, with half of the firms surveyed recently indicated they expected to hire further staff this year.
The research conducted by Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA) andMcLeod Duminy indicated that the key issue for firms was employee retention.
The research showed an average employee turnover at 14 percent at NZ lawfirms over the past year.
“It’s clear that law firms have been focusing on addressing this retention, as employee turnover is down four percent from a high of 18 percent in 2017,” says Ms Kirsty Spears, Director at McLeod Duminy Legal Careers.
“When you consider that ‘finding good people’ is second biggest challenge for law firms it certainly makes good business sense to develop new strategies to keep the people you have,” she says.
However the gender imbalance within the profession, well reported over recent years by LawFuel, continues.
According to the survey research,which covered more than 100 New Zealand law firms from across the country, employing 2,676 people, women make up 71 percent of all staff at New Zealand law firms and 63 percent of all lawyers.
However those figures are not reflected in partner ranks. The number of female equity partners increased a modest four percent to 23 percent in 2018, while the numbers of salaried female partners remained the same (43 percent).
“While there has been some positive movement, it does seem that the partner gender imbalance is entrenched across the industry and firms must do more to address this,” says Sheryll Carey, ALPMA NZ chair.
“Given the number of women in the industry and the need to retain them, firms need to embrace more family-friendly benefits and policies and use these to gain strategic advantage in the employment market.
“While flexible work arrangements are on the rise, the research show that only 19 percent of firms offer parental leave entitlements over and above the government scheme, which is a real missed opportunity,” she says.
Close to a third of respondents believe there is a gender pay gap in the NZ Legal industry (up seven percent from 2017) – yet despite this, few (six percent) believe there is a gap at their firm. Accordingly, only 11 percent of firmsplan to conduct a gender-pay gap audit.
A pay rise was also signalled by the research with most firms expecting to receive an increase above the Consumer Price Index (CPI), according to
“Fifty percent of respondent law firms expect to be offering pay rises above the rate of CPI this year” says Ms Carey.A further 22 percent of firms are planning on increases in line with CPI, while 19 percent of respondent firms are planning a limited or total wage freeze.
“The majority of firms (56 percent) supplement these increases with bonus payments available to all staff – 15 percent more firms than offered this in 2017,” said Ms Carey.
“For fee-earners, bonus payments are calculated on their individual financial performance – usually based on fees they generate for the firm – while bonuses for other staff mainly relate to discretionary individual performance measures.”
Most lawyers can expect to receive at least an additional five percent of their base salary in bonuses; senior managers can expect between three to five percent, while support staff can expect less than two percent of base remuneration from bonus payments.
In addition to salary data, the survey includes questions about staff employment profiles, employment benefits, bonuses paid, employment and salary projections for the next 12 months and the HR issues facing the legal community in 2018.