Legal professionals still feel 'undervalued and underpaid': Hays Salary Guide

Many are seeking salary increases of more than 10% to reflect their performance

Legal professionals still feel 'undervalued and underpaid': Hays Salary Guide

Legal professionals are still feeling “undervalued and underpaid” by their employers despite intents to bolster salary, according to recruitment and workforce solutions specialist Hays.

The Hays Salary Guide for FY 23/24 indicated that 32% of legal professionals are looking for salary increases of more than 10% from their employers as a reflection of their performance and market demand. However, only 3% of legal employers are willing to match it. A total of 33% of legal professionals are seeking increases of 7%-10%, but just 9% of employers plan to meet the desired percentage.

On the flip side, just 6% of legal professionals think an increase of less than 3% reflects their performance, but this range is what 23% of legal employers are open to. The closest compromise appears to be an increase of 3%-6%; 53% of employers are willing to meet this, while 25% of legal professionals find this range to be reasonable.

“Despite the increased salary boost, employer and employee expectations in the legal industry still fail to align. Many legal professionals…feel their current salary doesn’t reflect their individual performance”, Hays managing director Darren Buchanan pointed out.

The salary guide highlighted uncompetitive salaries as the biggest reason for turnover in the legal industry, emphasising how pay is a leading career priority for professionals in this field. Nonetheless, professionals are also keen to leave if they feel that there are limited opportunities for promotions, or as a result of higher costs of living.

Thus, legal employers were encouraged to focus on offering strong benefits packages as well. The guide revealed that the three most well-received benefits provided by employers are training, above mandatory paid parental leave and ongoing learning and development.

“To stand out in the race for talent, review the benefits you offer. Consider what else you can offer to attract and retain talent, such as opportunities for growth, wellbeing days, additional annual leave, improved recognition, work-life balance or a more positive work environment”, Buchanan advised employers.

However, he also cautioned legal professionals to not push their leverage too far.

“With skills in demand you still have bargaining power, but it’s important to temper it to avoid pricing yourself out of consideration. Yes, employers are investing in salary increases, but margins remain tight. The commercial reality dictates that salary increases can only stretch so far”, Buchanan explained.

He urged legal professionals to factor in the right benefits when they enter negotiations. As per the salary guide, obtaining technical skills and flexible work arrangements are also significant priorities for professionals.

“Consider the whole package when you negotiate a new job or your next pay rise. Benefits can go a long way to bridging a possible financial expectation gap, so think about what you’d really value and what could make a difference to your life and career long-term”, Buchanan said.

The salary guide also revealed that 41% of employers are looking to bolster permanent legal headcount over the next 12 months. Meanwhile, 59% of professionals expressed intent to stay with their present employers after FY23/24.

The FY23-24 Hays Salary Guide was published on 1 June. Over 14,000 legal employers and professionals participated in the survey.


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