Legal & Compliance Salary Survey & Employment Overview 2016
Legal Market Overview
2015 was a good year for the larger commercial firms in Dublin and Cork in particular. They have all ramped up recruitment, seen growth in revenues and reported a positive outlook for 2016. The larger firms have all retained or sought to retain, their newly qualified solicitors for the first time since 2007, with salaries at the junior end of the market increasing again this year.
Of course, there are still challenges facing many smaller firms, with insurance costs and rising rents being of specific concern. Many of them will seek to merge with similar sized firms or be assimilated into larger firms over the coming year.
Replicating last year, we see both companies and firms shifting from offering contract positions to permanent roles. While in 2014 this was due to increased confidence in the market, in 2015, it was more to do with the demands of the candidates, many of whom would only accept an offer of a permanent role, even for significantly less remuneration in order to secure one. This was also reflected in our survey data where the top rated factors critical to Legal professionals looking to change roles is more manageable working hours (82%), followed closely by better job security (77%).
Many solicitors who are actively looking for new roles are seeking a new challenge rather than merely looking for more money, autonomy, or career progression. A significant percentage of those actively on the market are seeking a move in-house (especially at the senior end of the market). The reasons for this include a perception that an in-house role will be less demanding (which is not always the case) or they have no interest in pursuing the partnership track in their firm. Consequently, when in-house roles come onto the market, competition can be fierce, with large numbers of applicants applying for the role. The importance of a candidate’s recruiter is intensified in such a situation. A competent recruiter will talk to the prospective client to make sure their candidate stands out from the hordes of other CVs that the employer may have received.
“In the Legal market we are seeing both companies and firms shifting from offering contract positions to permanent roles…due to the demands of the candidate market.”
As the year progressed, we saw increasing numbers of in-house roles coming online. Many of the roles were in Financial Services, although some of these had a slant toward Property, Litigation or Products and Regulation. Aircraft Leasing has continued to be an area where there is a sustained shortage of suitably qualified individuals. This shortage applies to both in-house and private practice. As I think everyone in the Legal market knows at this stage, Funds Lawyers continue to demand salaries above market rate (both in-house and in private practice).
There has been a lot movement of solicitors moving from the Mid-Tier to the Top 6 firms (many of whom are keen to gain bigger ticket experience) and a contra flow of candidates from the Big 6 to the mid-tier firms in order to have a better work-life balance. You could say, “The grass is always greener”!
Law firms continue to seek new partners who have a nook of clients or are proven business developers as they seek to regain some market share lost over the past number of years. These roles have been at both equity and salaried partner levels.
Support Staff, Legal Secretaries, Executives & Paralegals
We have seen continued growth within the Legal market in 2015 and predict this will continue to develop as companies are continuing to expand. Law firms now truly understand the benefit of having excellent Support Staff within all departments. They are continuing to invest in their Support professionals in order to retain employees and lower staff turnover. We are also seeing an introduction of professional training and development programmes within Mid-Tier as well as Top-Tier firms. Moreover, firms also implement technological investment, ensuring that employees are equipped with the latest legal technologies (e.g. Legal Document Management Software).
As the market has picked up over the last couple of years, we are now seeing smaller and medium sized firms hiring an increased number of support staff due to higher workloads. Recruitment activity has risen within the Top 6 and across small to medium sized firms, but the majority of roles in practice still come from the larger firms.
Legal Secretaries and Executives with a strong background in Property and Corporate will remain in demand in 2016 as activity is increasing within this area. Financial Services – Funds, Aviation and Commercial Property – is seeing a growing requirement for Paralegals in both Practice and In-House areas.
In recent years, companies have been suffering staff turnover due to candidates moving towards the attractiveness of an in-house position offering a better lifestyle and work life balance. This is shown regularly within the Finance areas within Aviation and Funds. Due to this, we are now seeing firms improving their entire package, not just monetary salary in order to overcome this issue and make Practice positions more appealing.
In the ever growing corporate world, the requirement for an expert within all sectors has become essential. With this growth comes the necessity of a company secretary. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the Company Secretary role in Ireland is fast becoming a valued position as demand is increasing across the board. Often known as “The eyes, ears and hands of a company”, having a good Company Secretary within your workforce can be worth its weight in gold – firms & companies are quickly realising this.
Demand for Company Secretaries is on the rise in Dublin and nationwide, especially for in-house roles in Public and Private Companies, and Private Practices (both Accountancy and Legal). This can be across the board in areas of Funds, Corporate Governance and Financial Institutions. Throughout the past 12 months, we have seen the need for Company Secretaries rise at all levels; be it trainees to managerial levels. We anticipate this to continue with more and more companies realising that without someone looking after this area, the company could be at risk. This is heightened with the transition period of the new Companies Act (which was introduced on June 1st 2015 and expected to continue until November 30th 2016) as ensuring that the company’s statutory books and registers are all up to date and following the current legislation will be vital. Incorrect management may see the firm lose its company status.
The Year Ahead
As we move in 2016, we continue to see a shortage of suitably qualified solicitors in the areas of Corporate Law, Tax, Financial Services Regulation, and Capital Markets. Salaries are on the rise, bonuses are being paid and confidence has returned to the market.