High Pay Not Everything, Say Legal Firms

High Pay Not Everything, Say Legal Firms

Are the big bucks that can be earned
working in Auckland enough to warrant the hassle of big city
problems – the annoying traffic commute, expensive parking,
housing unaffordability and the general high cost of

In the latest Legal Personnel salary
survey, remuneration expert Jarrod Moyle looks at that
question. He collected data from Auckland and Waikato/Bay of
Plenty (BOP) law firms to compare the impact of remuneration
on engagement with the legal employer. The survey included
responses from 61 firms in Auckland and 27 outside Auckland,
mostly in the Waikato and BOP and three from Gisborne,
Hawkes Bay and Taranaki.

Not surprisingly, they found
salaries for almost every role are higher in Auckland than
in the Waikato/BOP. However, the survey showed that for
solicitors, salaries in Auckland were on average just 7.2%
higher than Waikato/BOP firms. On average, legal executives
and legal secretaries in Auckland earned 10.5% more than
their Waikato/BOP counterparts.

Moyle discovered many
legal firms are very aware that it’s not just about what
you earn. The lifestyle benefits to compensate for earning
less are a lot more prevalent in the regions with cheaper
housing and much easier commuting being big selling points
for those outside of Auckland.

There are also more
opportunities for enticing alternative rewards for those who
choose to live further south. Whilst benefits in addition to
salary are common in the legal sector in New Zealand,
Waikato/BOP firms are much more likely to offer benefits
than Auckland firms.

For solicitors, the most common
benefits are free or discounted legal work, course fees,
mobile phone and parking. Solicitors will be interested to
know that almost three quarters of Waikato/BOP firm provide
solicitors with flexible work hours compared to only 41% of
Auckland firms.

Support staff in Waikato/BOP firms are
also far more likely to receive benefits than their Auckland
counterparts. Almost three quarters of firms provide free
carparks. Less than half of Auckland firms do so. And 65% of
Waikato/BOP firms pay for courses and relevant studies while
only 38% of Auckland firms Auckland do so.

It might go
some way towards explaining why staff turnover south of the
Bombays is also considerably less than in Auckland. Though
salaries are lower in the regions, the data shows they’re
much better at hanging onto their staff.

Almost a third
of Waikato/BOP firms said they had no solicitor staff
turnover and almost 70% said they had low or no general
staff turnover. Less than half of Auckland firms claimed the
same. For support staff, almost three quarters of
Waikato/BOP firms said they had no or low staff turnover,
compared to 62% in Auckland.

“There appears to be a
fairly conservative approach to growth and salaries in the
legal sector,” says Moyle.

Half the Waikato/BOP legal
firms aren’t planning to increase solicitor numbers over
the next year, and it’s the same for Auckland. However, 9%
of Waikato/BOP firms expect to decrease solicitor and
support staff numbers while no Auckland firms planned to do
the same.

Moyle says this indicates some real pressure
coming onto these Waikato/BOP firms. “It could be due to
competitive costs/pricing or work load drop-off. The fact
that the pace of the residential housing market has slowed
could have significant impact on conveyancing which forms a
key component of the business for many suburban law firms.
It may not mean they are planning to make staff redundant,
but that they are not expecting to replace people who

“This could also be a reflection of overall
business confidence. The latest ANZ Business Outlook survey
completed in December shows a seven-month low in optimism
about New Zealand’s economic outlook. This could be as a
result of the election, the new government and uncertainty
around the future.”

“Despite this, since the
Christmas break we have seen a surge in vacancies, with a
number of new opportunities in the Waikato and BOP. Perhaps
this is an indicator that business confidence is returning
for law firms.”

“What we’ve ascertained from this
survey is that pay is not everything. But it’s important
for all firms to get remuneration right to ensure job
satisfaction which ultimately impacts on the businesses
ongoing stability.”

To find out how to participate in
the 2018 Legal Personnel Salary Survey, go to the Legal Personnel website

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