Lawyer salaries may vary more in wake of competition law changes: recruiter report

Provisions on price- and wage-fixing could prevent 'lockstep compensation discussions'

Lawyer salaries may vary more in wake of competition law changes: recruiter report
Mark Fenwick, Impact Recruitment

Recent legislative changes prohibiting inter-employer compensation communication could significantly alter legal industry salary structures, according to a new legal profession salary report from Impact Recruitment.

Impact just published its 2024/25 salary guide for Canadian lawyers and legal support professionals.

The guide indicates that salary expectations have eased since 2022/23, when the market was more active. Impact predicts that the Competition Bureau’s recent amendments to the provisions related to price- and wage-fixing and no-poaching agreements in the Competition Act will result in greater variability in salary structures through the elimination of “lockstep compensation discussions.”  

Impact’s guide suggests that the legislative change could mean law firms and other employers will not have knowledge on competitor salaries. The guide said this will lead to more salary variation and salaries more closely aligned with performance and responsive to market demand.

Impact’s findings do not show much movement in lawyer salaries.

“Salaries for lawyers stayed relatively static,” says Mark Fenwick, senior vice president for corporate and professional services at Impact. “In 2024, they were very similar to the numbers that we saw in 2023.”

“Where we've seen the biggest increases have been at the junior end and in legal support staff, both in Vancouver and Toronto.”

In Vancouver, the top end of lawyer salaries is significantly higher than in past years, he says.

Junior staff are seeing pay increases, but lawyer salaries remain relatively stable. There have been significant pay increases for support roles such as paralegals in British Columbia, with the top end reaching $90-130k. Though salaries are higher in areas that are currently in high demand, such as commercial real estate, litigation, and estate planning. On the other hand, those looking for work in securities law face a slower market.

In Toronto, the pay boosts for junior staff in response to inflation have been “modest,” according to the guide. Lawyer salaries, as in other regions, have remained unchanged. Toronto’s salary landscape

Legal salaries currently fluctuate between large law firms and corporate legal departments at small and medium sized companies.

Impact found that in Toronto and Vancouver, half of job candidates are seeking remote and hybrid work. legal assistants and support staff are especially after hybrid work arrangements. At the same time, large law firms want their employees back in the office, but they are worried that if they are too strict, retention issues will follow.

Impact highlighted the importance, in the current job market, that law firms and other employers focus on their branding and culture because lawyers are increasingly attracted or repelled by a company’s reputation, internal culture, and what others have said publicly about working there. The recruiter recommends firms provide “clear career advancement paths, mentorship programs, and continuous professional development” to attract prospects. They also suggest fostering a more supportive and respectful atmosphere will better attract the younger cohort who “are increasingly leveraging social media to advocate for a more civil and less toxic work environment,” and appear to support a shift in legal work from “adversarial and competitive” to “a culture of collaboration and respect.”

The latest salary report is the third Impact has conducted. They compiled the data through a range of interviews with job candidates and thousands of representatives at law firms.

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