Senior in-house counsel becoming ‘disengaged’

Times are tough for senior in-house lawyers, but opportunities remain plentiful for others

Senior in-house counsel becoming ‘disengaged’
Companies seeking to slash their legal expenditure have created a challenging climate for senior in-house lawyers.  Salary levels have shrunk or remained static and companies are reducing the size of their legal departments, downgrading positions or resorting to hiring lawyers on a temporary basis.  
 
Budgets for in-house roles are reportedly particularly tight. “It has to do with cost-cutting.  The legal requirements of a big firm are obviously very expensive,” explained Lisa Delehanty from recruiting firm Hudson. “The general trend is that despite more companies wanting to utilise their in-house legal teams, they are still struggling to find additional funding, particularly for senior lawyers.”
 
According to the findings of Hudson’s 2014 salary report, an increasing number of senior in-house counsel are becoming disengaged from work as a result of increased pressure on billable targets set by overseas head offices combined with reduced remuneration.  As a result, many are looking to make moves laterally or move overseas.  
 
Despite the bleak situation for senior in-house counsel, opportunities for junior and mid-level lawyers still exist. Companies are becoming more likely to downgrade positions, choosing to hire at around the three- to eight-year experience level. 
 
Australian Corporate Lawyers Association CEO Trish Hyde said that overall there are currently more opportunities for lawyers wanting in-house counsel roles then there were five or ten years ago.
 
“Organisations are becoming more aware of the value in-house counsel deliver by being entwined in the business,” Hyde said.  “Some lawyers are very attracted to the ability to be a part of an organisation, to understand it, influence its performance – to be inside the tent rather than just a transactional relationship.”
 
There has been a particular increase in demand for in-house counsel in areas including corporate & commercial, industrial relations and employment, investment and financial services, property and construction.
 
It is estimated that there are currently 14,000 lawyers working in in-house positions – making up approximately 30% of the entire legal profession in Australia.

In–house salaries for NSW in $1000s
 
Experience 2013 2014
0-1 yrs 67-80 70-85
1-2 yrs 77-92 80-100
2-3 yrs 88-115 95-115
3-4 yrs 93-129 100-130
4-5 yrs 108-149 115-155
5-6 yrs 118-115 120-175
6+ 134-228 135-220
Deputy GC 155-278 150-280
GC 180-300+ 180-300+

While salaries have generally increased in the lower levels of experience, salaries in the higher levels have remained stagnant or have decreased.

Source: Hudson Legal Salary and Employment Insights

Read more: Leading in-house counsel: their biggest law firm frustrations revealed

 

Free newsletter

Subscribe to our FREE newsletter service and we’ll keep you up-to-date with the latest breaking news, cutting edge opinion, and expert analysis affecting both your business and the industry as whole.

Please enter your email address below and click on Sign Up for daily newsletters from Australasian Lawyer.

Recent articles & video

Insolvency and restructuring expert joins Hall & Wilcox as specialist partner

Allens supports long-term client on $1.225bn debt refinancing

Paralegal files suit against US litigation firm and former partner for alleged sexual assault

NRF helps telco company achieve landmark ASX listing with $16.63bn IPO

G+T beefs up corporate advisory practice with lateral partner hires

Ince boosts APAC team with new HK partner

Most Read Articles

Cooper Grace Ward partner looks forward to more flexible work arrangements in the long term

KHQ Lawyers lures 4-man team from HWL Ebsworth

Logie-Smith Lanyon bolsters team with new senior appointments

Simmons & Simmons boosts Singapore investment funds group with new team