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Legal-sector buoyancy sees salaries trending upwards
Morgan McKinley FDI director Trayc Keevans

12 Jan 2022 / employment Print

Legal-sector buoyancy sees salaries trending upwards

Legal-sector buoyancy is expected to continue throughout 2022 after a particularly strong year in 2021, a just-published Morgan McKinley survey shows.

Corporate lawyers are in demand for mergers and acquisitions, with an emerging upward trend in financial services, data privacy and regulatory work, and a corresponding shortage of talent.

Recruitment consultancy Morgan McKinley’s 2022 Irish Salary Guide anticipates salary increases of 5-10% in certain sectors, rising to 15-20% for certain niche skills.

In addition to corporate lawyers, roles in particular demand include commercial, regulatory, financial and investment lawyers.

Upward pressure on salaries has been driven by the reduction in mobility of international talent – and the corresponding demand for individuals already in location. 

‘Most demanding markets of our time’

“We’re currently seeing the most demanding employment markets of our time,” said global FDI director Trayc Keevans.

“The Great Resignation of the past year appears to be still in full swing.

“The experience of the sustained public-health emergency has prompted countless workers to re-evaluate their work options, fine-tuning a better work-life balance and making deliberate choices as to where their careers are heading next.”

She pointed to “constant misalignment” between the supply and demand for employees, with the consequent return of counter-offers. 

‘Unparalleled threat’

“For some organisations, the Great Resignation is an unparalleled threat, creating organisational challenges around skillsets and resources, and affecting everything from quality of work and time to completion, to bottom-line revenue,” she added

But firms can also perceive this as a golden opportunity to secure accomplished talent that will add value for years to come.

“Consequently, organisations are under incredible pressure to adapt their leadership, management, and work practices. As a means of attracting talent, many employers are either adjusting their working models to hybrid or fully remote, or offering higher wages in response,” Keevans said.

Incentives such as paid relocation assistance, transparent career paths, strong learning and development plans, and location flexibility are all on the table.

Irish lawyer exodus

An exodus of Irish-qualified solicitors and barristers to cities such as London and Sydney has led to difficulties in filling legal roles in Ireland.

However, normal inflationary figures of 2-5% are expected to come back into play in a post-pandemic world, as the flow of external candidates into Ireland takes pressure out of an overheated employment market.

The pandemic has also opened the opportunities for firms to source workers from a wider geographical net.

Remote working has meant that some lawyers can be hired from other cities, benefitting Dublin firms which can now access cheaper talent. 

Financial services growth

The rise of Irish management companies shows few signs of abating, with assets under management continuing to grow, and Brexit acting as a catalyst.

This, coupled with an expected increase in surveillance of these companies’ adherence to the Central Bank CP86 supervisory framework, is resulting in a very high demand for ‘designated person’ roles and other ‘pre-approval control function’ talent, particularly in risk and compliance.

In the broader financial services sector, the strongest performing sectors for 2022 are:

  • Financial planning,
  • Mortgage underwriting,
  • Digital banking and payments.

Emerging digital roles

Emerging digital roles in banking are also resulting from regulatory demand and digitisation, with requirements, also, for underwriting governance roles in insurance and reinsurance, and digital customer journey managers.

The environmental, social and governance (ESG) sphere is growing in significance, with brand new roles being created in global banks and Government bodies for analysts, consultants, portfolio managers, and leads. Consulting firms are also building specialist ESG teams.

HR departments, meanwhile, are facing challenges to retain talent in one of the busiest employment markets in recent years.

Remote-working requests

2022 will see the introduction of the statutory right of employees to request remote working, and the Morgan McKinley 2022 Irish Salary Guide shows that 75% of workers would consider leaving their current organisation if their preferred flexible-work options weren’t on offer.

Talent-acquisition specialists have also seen their salaries grow by up to one-fifth.

Hiring processes that go on for longer that two to four weeks will also drive 53% of job-seekers to take up another offer, the survey shows, with 47% admitting they had declined a job offer because the hiring process was too long.

A total of 68% of respondents said that their organisations offered flexible working, with 27% having two or three mandatory office days, and 23% of employers insisting on one or two mandatory office days.

Working from home

Full-time work from home is the preferred option of 29%, with 22% opting for two-to-three office days, and 33% for one-to-two office days, while 16% would prefer another arrangement.

In all, 40% of firms are offering more flexible and remote-work options in order to retain talent.

Notwithstanding such employer efforts, a massive 82% of respondents are considering a job change in the next six-to-12 months.

Salaries are therefore expected to increase by 5-10% as a result.

Morgan McKinley surveyed key hiring decision makers from 62 companies and 4,134 professionals across a range of industries.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland