Survey predicts healthy job, salary environment for mid-sized firms

It’s a good time to work for a mid-sized law firm, according to new legal salary predictions from Robert Half Canada for 2015.

For senior lawyers with more than 10 years of experience, the 2015 Robert Half salary guide released last week predicts salaries at mid-sized law firms will go up by 4.8 per cent, putting them in a range of $159,000 to $222,750. For large law firms, the predicted increase is 3.3 per cent with smaller mid-sized firms also seeing a generous 4.9-per-cent boost and small firms giving raises of about 3.2 per cent.

The trend holds for less-experienced lawyers at mid-sized firms (defined as those with 35 to 75 lawyers) as well. Those with between four and nine years of experience will see raises of four per cent; those with one to two years of experience will get 3.4 per cent; and first-year associate salaries will rise by 2.7 per cent. Those numbers are generally higher than other sizes of law firms.

And despite the clouds hovering over the legal profession with the collapse of Heenan Blaikie LLP this year, Robert Half predicts a decent hiring environment in 2015 with starting salaries going up by an average of 2.6 per cent in the legal field.

“The legal job market in Canada is expected to see modest gains in the year ahead, with growth in the litigation and corporate law practice areas driving much of the hiring,” according to the guide’s overview of trends in Canada.

“Many law firms and corporate legal departments are taking a strategic approach when adding headcount. Law firms are looking for midlevel associates and law clerks with highly specialized qualifications to help them grow revenue in niche areas such as litigation, corporate law and commercial real estate. Corporate legal departments are hiring experienced legal professionals who do not require extensive training and can make immediate contributions to rising caseloads.”

As for regional trends, the guide notes mid-sized firms in Toronto are looking for senior associates with client contacts in corporate/commercial law.

“Legal professionals with compliance and litigation experience are also finding ample opportunities,” according to the guide.

In addition, it predicts increased demand in Ottawa fuelled by government, technology, and Crown corporations. Those in demand include people with backgrounds in corporate law, litigation, intellectual property, and labour and employment matters.

Robert Half says it bases its predictions on a variety of sources, including the postings for the jobs it fills; surveys of executives and hiring managers; extrapolation of current trends to 2015; and insights from its staff on the ground.

The survey commissioned by Robert Half Legal and conducted by an independent research firm, surveyed 150 lawyers among the largest law firms and corporations in Canada.

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