2017 Legal & Compliance Salary Survey & Employment Overview

John Macklin / January 20, 2017

Legal & Compliance Salary Survey & Employment Overview 2017

 

Legal Market Overview

2016 saw Irish Law firms recruiting normally again. By this I mean they replaced (or tried to replace) natural churn and sought to expand departments, rather than merely work their current staff harder as new instructions came in.

The Effects of Brexit
As we neared the end of Q2 and the ever-closer Brexit vote, the legal recruitment market began to slow down. Law firms are notoriously reactionary and they like to take a ‘wait and see’ approach to recruitment decisions whenever there is uncertainty.

There could, of course, be great opportunities for lawyers in this new post-Brexit world. There could be an influx of new companies coming to Ireland in order to take advantage of our continued access to the Free Market. Many contracts may have to be renegotiated (depending on what EU laws the UK decide to accept and reject). Many clients will certainly be seeking advisory counsel on what this all means to them, their overseas offices, staff and existing contracts. The law firms Clifford Chance and Dechert both established 24-hour Brexit Hotlines for their clients to contact them in the immediate aftermath of the vote.

One of the consequences of Brexit was an unprecedented number of UK Lawyers being admitted to practice in Ireland, as once the UK leaves the EU, UK Lawyers will not be permitted to argue cases before the European courts.

For breakdown of salaries in this sector please click here

 

The Effects of Brexit

As we neared the end of Q2 and the ever-closer Brexit vote, the legal recruitment market began to slow down. Law firms are notoriously reactionary and they like to take a ‘wait and see’ approach to recruitment decisions whenever there is uncertainty.

There could, of course, be great opportunities for lawyers in this new post-Brexit world. There could be an influx of new companies coming to Ireland in order to take advantage of our continued access to the Free Market. Many contracts may have to be renegotiated (depending on what EU laws the UK decide to accept and reject). Many clients will certainly be seeking advisory counsel on what this all means to them, their overseas offices, staff and existing contracts. The law firms Clifford Chance and Dechert both established 24-hour Brexit Hotlines for their clients to contact them in the immediate aftermath of the vote.

One of the consequences of Brexit was an unprecedented number of UK Lawyers being admitted to practice in Ireland, as once the UK leaves the EU, UK Lawyers will not be permitted to argue cases before the European courts.

 

Solicitors

There is still a shortage of good solicitors in the areas of Corporate Law, Tax, Financial Services Regulation and Capital Markets. Experienced Funds Lawyers are constantly in demand with a dearth of candidates for law firms and in-house in Financial Services institutions. The most in-demand area was for Banking Solicitors, across all sizes of firms. Most firms reacted to this shortage by significantly increasing their Banking Solicitors salaries and aggressively counter-offering them if they sought to leave.

There was a lot of solicitors moving from Mid-Tier firms to the Top 6 firms, in a similar way to 2015 (many of whom are keen to gain bigger ticket experience) and a contraflow of candidates from the Big 6 to the mid-tier firms in order to have a better work-life balance.

While there has been movement at partner level in the market, it has not been as active at this level as last year. This is most likely due to firms matching the financial and career aspirations of junior partners and, therefore, powdering any ‘itchy feet’.

Salaries continue to rise for junior solicitors in commercial law firms (although at nowhere near the rate of increase we saw over the past two years) and bonuses have been described as ‘healthy’ and ‘generous’.

Many solicitors actively looking for new roles are seeking a new challenge rather than merely 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 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 on to the market competition can be fierce, with a large number of applicants applying for the roles. The importance of a candidate’s recruiter is intensified in such a situation. Your recruiter will be talking to the prospective client to make sure their candidate stands out from the crowd. Because of 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.

 

Support Staff, Legal Secretaries, Executives & Paralegals

There has been a quite noticeable shift within the market over the last few years in relation to support staff within the Legal area. We noted the distortion in favour of employees last year and this year it became even more apparent; if you have experience you are in demand, with more than one opportunity to choose from.

Employers are realising the importance of staff retention which has seen new benefits being (re)introduced, discretionary bonuses being given, and in terms of staff resignation, a rise in counter offers being made over the past 12 months. From an employee’s perspective, it is important not to get carried away with the idea of being in demand. In the long run, it is critically important to look after your CV, as you are the person wholly responsible for this. If your CV gives the impression that you are either covetous or a “job-hopper”, it could be difficult to explain this to an employer. Therefore, it is paramount that you always look to make a move for the right reasons, which can be clearly explained to a prospective employer.

Support staff, such as Legal Secretaries, Legal Executives and Paralegals, are crucial to every practice and legal department, as they enable it to run efficiently and allow companies to develop and expand. Firms now truly understand the benefit of having an excellent support staff operation within all departments, and they are continuing to invest in their support professionals in order to retain employees and lower staff turnover.

We have seen a significant rise in companies that are implementing professional training and development programmes within Mid-Tier firms, as well as Top-Tier. This is supplemented by firms investing in technological investment in order to ensure that employees are equipped with the latest legal technologies (e.g. legal document management software).

Legal Secretaries and Executives with a strong background in Property and Corporate will remain in high demand in 2017 as activity is increasing in this area. Healthcare and Employment are also areas that we recruited more for in 2016, compared to 2015. We predict the growing need of Financial Services, Funds and Aviation for Paralegals in both Practice and in-house areas will continue.

 

Company Secretaries

In the ever-evolving corporate world, having an expert within all sectors has become essential and with this comes the position of company secretary. It is increasingly apparent that this role – often known as “the eyes, ears and hands of a company” – is fast becoming a valued position in Ireland, as demand is increasing across the board. Having a good Company Secretary within your workforce can be worth its weight in gold and firms are quickly realising this.

Last year’s shortage of Company Secretaries continued in 2016 with requirements for the profession steadily increasing throughout the year. We have seen a growing strain on some Company Secretarial teams In Dublin and other parts of the country due to a lack of talent. Companies, both private practice and in-house, are aware of the detrimental effects this could have on their department, sometimes leading to a landslide of staff turnover due to there being too high a workload. Throughout 2016, we saw this requirement for Company Secretaries increase at all levels, from trainees to managerial levels. We have noticed that, due to a lack of candidates, trainee and part-qualified company secretaries are being given more responsibility and so rising up the ladder a lot quicker. We anticipate this to continue straight through to 2017 with more and more companies realising that they could be at risk without a talented individual at the helm.

 

The Year Ahead

Heading into 2017, we anticipate a significant increase in new roles in both private practice and in-house. We can also predict, Post-Brexit, an increase in the number of lawyers that return home to Ireland. The market will continue to be one driven by a shortage of suitably qualified candidates. Lawyers on the market are confident, they know their value, and it is imperative for Irish law firms to make the best efforts to reward, motivate and develop their staff.

 

To learn more about career opportunities in the legal industry contact John Macklin, Lincoln Recruitment for a confidential discussion on 01-6610444 or email jmacklin(@)lincoln.ie

To view the full survey results please click here.

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