Salaries on the up for law firm support staff, research shows

Salaries for most business support professionals in UK law firms rose last year despite the ongoing tough economic climate, new research has found.

The findings in legal market management recruitment consultancy Totum’s annual salary and benchmarking survey pointed to better pay and benefits generally for business support professionals within firms.

The research also found evidence for cautious optimism about the year ahead, with 20 per cent of respondent firms expecting to increase salaries for business support professionals by more than 3 per cent in 2013. Last year 14 per cent of respondents said the same.

In addition, 11 per cent of those offering bonus schemes (80 per cent of respondent firms) expected them to rise this year.

“It may not have been a year to break salary records, but [Totum’s research] shows modest pay rises across HR, finance, IT, and marketing and business development (BD) functions,” said Totum founder Tim Skipper. “At a time of ongoing cost-cutting across business sectors, these pay packages send a signal: that business services professionals have proved their value and are understood to play a critical role in ensuring law firm sustainability and growth.”

Totum’s research found some significant variations in the rewards offered to senior professionals in different disciplines, with IT specialists in particular lagging behind on salaries.

“Finance continues to pip other functions to the post when it comes to salaries, with finance directors taking home on average £164,625, compared to £158,754 in HR, £151,720 in marketing and £113,785 in IT,” Skipper said.

In HR, a 9 per cent increase in director-level salaries in London since 2010/11 was balanced out by only marginal increases across other seniority levels and regions in the same period.

“But what’s striking is the significant difference between HR salaries in London and outside the capital,” added Skipper. “London HR directors, for instance, are earning on average 56 per cent more than HR directors elsewhere. This compares to a difference of 30 per cent in IT, 32 per cent in finance and 31 per cent in marketing.”

Skipper argued that this may be down to the fact that London firms tend to be larger, with more people management and recruitment responsibilities involved in effective management, especially where these firms are increasingly pushing out internationally or globally.

“Or it might suggest that a salary catch-up is due at director level among non-London firms in the year or two ahead,” he added.

Skipper’s full article can be read tomorrow as part of The Lawyer Management.