No time for complacency

by 19 Aug 2008

THREE OUT of five private practice lawyers list remuneration as the main reason for leaving their firm despite salary bands remaining constant in 2007-2008.

According to the 2008 Mahlab survey of salary and engagement trends in the legal and professional services markets, salaries across the legal sector in Australia increased because of the resources boom and the strength of the Asian and newly emerging markets, which helped fuel activity.

However, while the slowdown in the US and UK did not impact on the local market in 2007-2008, the survey revealed signs that an impending slowdown was noticeable towards the very end of 2007-2008. While 56 per cent of corporate respondents are satisfied with the outcome of their salary review, this has taken a huge drop from last year when 80 per cent of people were happy.

But a pending economic slowdown does not mean legal that HR departments can kick back and relax on their recruitment strategies, according to Gareth Bennett, HR director of Freehills.

Just because there may not be such pressure to fill job vacancies, he said, this does not mean that companies can afford to relax on recruitment strategies because the demand for good people will always be there.

“What we might find is that it (the recruitment market) will drop a little bit. But that can’t make you complacent and think there will be a queue of people at your door looking for a role. The demand for good people is always going to outstrip supply,” said Bennett.

Retention strategies will remain high on the agenda for legal HR companies, according to Bennett, and he predicts they will remain one of their biggest challenges in the future. But increasing salaries as a means of retention has not been a common retention tactic to attract the best people, he said.

“The overall market for really good people will always be tight. You’ve always got to pay top of the range if you want to be a top firm. You have to pay at the appropriate point in the market place. The really, really good people know they’re really, really good,” said Bennett.

Although many lawyers and professionals are making their way back to Australia following the slowdown in the UK and US, a large portion of Australian lawyers still want to work overseas: 48 per cent favour the UK, 19 per cent the US, 10 per cent Asia and 9 per cent the Middle East

“Our main source of good lawyers is here in Australia and growing our own through the ranks,” said Bennett. “So we cannot afford to be complacent and say the economic times mean we don’t have to try as hard. We have to keep absolutely pushing that the best people should come here and stay here.”


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