Jobs freeze starts to thaw as market moves up a gear

THE IN-HOUSE job market is picking up, according to a new business salary survey.

Legal recruitment firm Michael Page Legal says it has noticed signs of a distinct improvement in the job market for in-house lawyers who can generally expect to earn more than they would in private practice.

The average starting salary for a newly qualified in-house lawyer stands at u25,000 and moves to u50,000 for lawyers with 10 years' experience, according to the firm's annual survey of in-house lawyers' wage packets.

The top salary recorded in the survey is u192,000 for the head of legal in the pharmaceuticals chemicals sector. The national average for the legal department head stands at u73,200.

According to the survey, the most common size for an in-house team is two lawyers plus support staff. Just under three quarters of the companies surveyed employed less than five in-house lawyers.

Former in-house lawyer Susanne Vahl approached 500 companies to compile the survey.

The survey contains no data on the level of recruitment activity in the industry, but Vahl says companies were questioned about their hiring policies.

She is confident young lawyers with two to four years' post qualification experience are benefiting from a “distinct improvement” in the legal recruitment market.

“For the last few years there have been head count freezes at many companies. The heads of department I've been speaking to say they have been rushed off their feet and the first thing they're doing as the freeze is lifted is recruiting juniors to take on some of the burden.”

Michael Page Legal's optimistic assessment of the in-house job market is supported by a survey published earlier this year by the City law firm Manches.

Forty-two per cent of the companies approached in the Manches survey said they had legal departments, 10 per cent more than last year. Eleven per cent of the companies with in-house departments anticipated increasing their legal staff in the next 12 months.