Lawyer salary survey reveals great disparity in incomes

This article first appeared in The Australian at 12:00AM July 14, 2017. Written by Chris Merritt, Legal Affairs Editor

The latest salary survey has revealed a major divide within the legal profession, with some lawyers receiving record offers while the sector as a whole is making do with modest pay rises.

Sign-on bonuses are being ­offered to the best-performing solicitors, and equity partners at the top eight firms are on annual incomes of between $700,000 and $2 million.

The income divide is the highlight of the salary survey produced by legal recruiter Taylor Root, which found most firms expect to offer their solicitors pay rises ranging from 4 to 7 per cent.

“However, in some practice areas we have seen record-breaking offers — sometimes including sign-on bonuses — and very high salary increases to attract and retain the best people,” the survey says.

The survey found top-tier firms in Sydney are still paying higher salaries than their interstate counterparts.

But it also found that in the top two salary bands covered by the survey Melbourne has been overtaken by Canberra as the city with the second-highest incomes for employed solicitors.

The survey shows that third-year senior associates at top-tier firms are earning up to $210,000 in Sydney, $192,000 in Canberra, $190,000 in Melbourne, $174,000 in Brisbane, $170,000 in Perth and $165,000 in Adelaide.

The highest starting salaries for graduates — $82,000 — are being offered by top-tier firms in Sydney and Melbourne. The lowest starting salaries in the top tier — $50,000 — are being offered in Adelaide.

Taylor Root partner Tim Fogarty said demand for partners was “insatiable”, particularly from those mid-tier firms where profitability “is through the roof”.

There was also an undersupply of senior associates from good firms, particularly those with a background in property, banking, construction or corporate law.

“If you are in the sweet spot of having, say, three or four years experience — up to about 10 years experience — then there are lots of opportunities at a whole range of law firms,” said Mr Fogarty.

For your copy of our 2017 Private Practice Salary Guide, please request a copy here.