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Guardians of the Salary

Guardians of the Salary

We’re now a few days into the new financial year and, like mine, your LinkedIn feed is probably awash with news of people starting new jobs and securing promotions.  Behind all this good news however lies the question “but what are all these people getting paid?” and lurking behind that question is the real question, “am I being paid enough?”

Over the course of the last couple of months, we’ve been observing and digesting salary information brought to us by candidates who have had their reviews as well as the insights we gain from offers made to candidates soon to be starting new jobs who won’t be reviewed until 2025.

It was always going to be difficult to predict what would happen with salaries this year as, although the signs are pointing towards better times approaching, there is still a lot of uncertainty in the world, uncertainty that 12 months ago resulted in some less than exciting pay rises for most.  There was a good argument for this year’s increases being a bit soft also.

However, it seems there has been some significant thought put into reviews in 2024 and, from some quarters, we’ve seen some simply staggering uplifts.  Amongst the tier-one firms in particularly we’ve seen some serious goal post moving in the tried and tested ranks of what 3-year PAE lawyers are being paid and what first year SA’s are being paid, with the rungs in between all stepping up to even the playing field.  These two “tent pole” salary levels are important as they’re often the only two somewhat fixed points across the market that all other salaries swing around.  Seeing salaries paid at these levels step up by $20k/$25k at some firms is the first major foundational shift we’ve seen in several years and the knock-on effects will be felt at all firms, in all tiers.

Our expectation is that the salary increases we’ve seen this year are built upon solid financial results which should be an encouraging sign for us all.  However, we also have the strong belief, particularly seeing how busy our Montgomery team in London is at the moment, that Australia’s top-tier firms are attempting to protect themselves from a storm that’s gathering.  With an ever-growing pressure cooker filled pot of Australian transactional lawyers who’ve been told for nearly two years they can’t go to London, when the doors in the UK and the US open once more, more money might be the only way firms here can convince some of their lawyers to stay at home.

Matt Harris

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