Survey predicts modest raises for lawyers in 2014

Starting salaries for legal jobs in Canada are set to rise by 2.2 per cent next year, according to a survey by recruitment firm Robert Half.

The Robert Half Legal 2014 salary guide found salaries for first-year associates at large law firms, classed as having 75 or more lawyers, would increase by 2.3 per cent next year and range from $84,750 to $92,000.

Mid-size firms employing between 35 and 75 lawyers will see the same percentage increase with salaries ranging between $66,500 and $79,750.

The increases are slightly lower at law firms of between 10 and 35 lawyers, where salaries span $65,750 to $70,250, and at firms with up to 10 lawyers, which offer newly qualified lawyers anything from $50,000 to $66,750.

Corporate positions for lawyers with up to three years’ experience are due to see salaries rise by up to 1.4 per cent in 2014 with pay ranging from $75,250 to $144,500 depending on the size of the company.

Robert Half Legal was unable to tell Legal Feeds how many Canadian organizations or lawyers the salary figures were based on.

However, a spokeswoman said: “The salary guide information is derived from the thousands of full-time and project placements handled by Robert Half Legal’s recruiting and staffing professionals in North America.

“Each year, our account executives conduct thousands of job searches, negotiations, and placements. We use this data as the basis of the guide. The salary ranges are based on actual compensation levels in 2013 and an extrapolation of that data into 2014.”

Lawyers with mid- and senior-level experience are in higher demand and can expect to receive pay rises of up to 4.3 per cent, the survey suggests.

The guide says: “Well-networked lawyers with 10-plus years of experience, extensive client contacts, and strong business development skills are sought by law firms of all sizes, while corporate legal departments are recruiting lawyers with at least five years of experience.”

Those with more than 10 years’ experience at large law firms earn between $192,500 and $282,000, according to the findings.

In contrast, there are fewer opportunities for entry-level associates and articling students.

The salary guide says law firms in Canada are “primarily focused on recruiting experienced lawyers with established books of business in high-demand practice areas such as litigation and corporate law.”

It adds: “Legal departments, especially those that are focused on containing outside counsel costs, are expanding their internal teams and handling more work in-house.”

More than two thirds of the 150 lawyers from the largest law firms and corporations in Canada who were surveyed said it was challenging to find skilled legal professionals.

The market for skilled legal professionals in Toronto is “tightening,” the guide states. Competition for talent is driving salaries upwards and forcing organizations to pay greater attention to retention efforts.

Ottawa is also seeing an increase in hiring activity, according to the guide, particularly in the areas of intellectual property law, litigation, corporate transactions, mergers and acquisitions, and real estate law.

The findings are markedly different from Canadian Lawyer’s 2013 compensation survey, which was based on 553 respondents and focused on salary decisions made this year.

It found the average first-year associate salary had dropped by nine per cent to $66,000.

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