Aussie associate pay begins to lift as partners move on

Is the Australian legal market on the road to recovery? 

If associate salaries are anything to go by the answer is yes. As The Lawyer reported earlier this year, tough trading conditions had forced firms such as King & Wood Mallesons and Herbert Smith Freehills to take a look at their cost bases, with many choosing to freeze junior lawyers’ salaries and bonuses as a short-term solution.

However, as a study from Australian legal recruiter Mahlab has found, those freezes are now being lifted as a direct consequence of a rise in business confidence.

It’s not all good news, though, as salary band increases have remained small, with an average national rise of 3.8 per cent in the last financial year.

But if junior lawyers think they’ve got it bad, they should spare a thought for those at the more senior end. Partner moves have been a theme in the past year, with DLA Piper, King & Wood Mallesons and Allen & Overy all bidding farewell to at least one senior lawyer.

According to Mahlab this trend is set to continue, as firms seek to grow their salaried partner ranks and retain only top-performing partners.

There may be some green shoots showing, but the Australian market is clearly still some way off a real return to growth.

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