Despite continued market volatility, on average 45 per cent of companies predict growth in their in-house legal departments in the next six months, according to a recent survey

But overall the results of the annual in-house survey by recruitment consultancy Gar-field Robbins International paints a gloomy picture. It found that in 2002 salaries increased by 6-7 per cent, compared with around 9-11 per cent in 2001. Consequently, in-house salaries still lag considerably behind the rates on offer in private practice.

The highest average basic salary across all industry sectors for a head of legal stands at just £133,750. In comparison, the most junior equity partners could expect to earn £326,000 at Clifford Chance or £215,000 at Newcastle firm Dickinson Dees.

In-house salaries have increased over the past 12 months, but performance bonuses have either shrunk or been frozen.

Garfield Robbins director Julian Stone says: “Overall, it's been a frustrating and turbulent 12 months for legal departments, and nearly all industry sectors have been affected by the downturn in the economy. This has resulted in hiring freezes, and in some cases redundancies. On the whole, most lawyers have escaped redundancy. But bonuses have fallen sharply, especially in financial services.

“On a brighter note, it appears that there's still plenty of work to be done in most legal departments, and future expansion of these departments is perceived by many to be not too far off.”

Garfield Robbins surveyed 4,000 in-house lawyers across several industry sectors.