US multinationals are on a hiring spree but many UK lawyers may be pricing themselves out of the in-house European market, according to a new survey out last week.
Figures collated by an international recruitment consultancy show that for companies to recruit a UK lawyer they must pay up to four times the salary of a European counterpart.
While a seven-year qualified lawyer from the UK can expect a salary of £65,000 to £84,000, a lawyer with equivalent experience in Italy is paid between just £26,000 to £32,000.
Wage rates stagger upwards to similarly experienced lawyers from Germany receiving £53,000 to £64,000, but few European salaries come close to the remuneration of UK lawyers.
Naveen Tuli, head of the in-house counsel division at Laurence Simons recruitment consultants, which carried out the survey, says: "Over the past two years demand for European lawyers from US multinationals has increased at a rate not seen since the late 1980s.
"But general counsel are becoming less inclined to seek multilingual UK or other common law qualified lawyers who often demand substantial expatriate packages.
"There is a growing tendency to hire locally-qualified lawyers with ground-level experience and local cultural skills to provide effective counsel."
Companies still prefer to hire UK lawyers rather than local counsel because of their common law experience, but Tuli says this does not sway the multinationals as much as it used to. Domestic lawyers are now seen as having their own advantages.
He says: "It is the ability of these local individuals to relate to business clients internally and externally that is key.
"US corporations have recognised the differences between various countries in Europe and that it is more pronounced than between States in the US.
"They now understand that a German lawyer may not operate as effectively in Spain as, say an Italian lawyer would."
"These domestic skills assist European legal departments' abilities to inspire confidence in business people and help lead to less of a 'them and us' mentality."