If you feel that you are underpaid and undervalued as a lawyer, the truth of the matter is that you may well be. Lawyers working very similar jobs in similar firms can be paid vastly different salaries, and the gaps only widen as you progress up the food chain. Being smart in managing your career can help you improve your financial position.
Huge variation in remuneration
Salary levels vary widely within the different levels of lawyers, with as much as a $20K – $30K difference in mid-level salaries between firms at the same level of the market. For senior associates, the salary variation can be even more marked, with a spread of between $20K and $50K.
Further, there has been a shift towards a culture of bonuses in an increasing number of firms in recent years. An often overlooked feature of remuneration packages, we have seen a trend in larger firms consistently paying upwards of 20% in bonuses. This not insignificant addition to a base salary is essential to keep in mind when thinking about getting the most financially out of your career.
Of course, lawyers often say that moving is not about the money! The question is however, why would you do the same work for less money than a similar person in a similar firm?
Possibilities and opportunities
Making the most of it financially involves having an awareness of the current market and taking good opportunities as they arise. The current local market offers large numbers of possibilities for lawyers across the board. If there is nothing suitable however, it is important to be patient and wait for the right role to arise.
For lawyers looking to move now, the market in both Sydney and Melbourne is patchy at present, with obvious strengths in energy & resources, project finance, M&A and workplace relations. There are steady opportunities arising for litigation, TMT, competition and insolvency lawyers and occasional good offerings in Property Law.
In terms of levels, the 4-6 years level is where the majority of roles lie, with some very good Senior Associate roles in busy teams and even partnership options in the second tier firms keen to capitalize on opportunity as the top tiers merge and consolidate their international competitive positions in our region.
In Perth & Brisbane, fuelled by the resources boom, there are strong options for lawyers at all levels across all areas of practice.
Flexibility is key for financial reward
Not all the best jobs are at your front door. To work in the fastest growing and busiest teams in this market may require relocation to different cities and states. As the gap between average salary levels closes between Sydney, Brisbane and Perth however, this may be to your financial advantage.
If making such a move is on the cards for you, get in touch with one of our Senior Consultants on +61 2 9266 2900 as soon as possible for a confidential discussion about the legal market.