Experienced legal talent is in short supply and driving up compensation, but firms willing to hire and train recent grads and entry-level support staff are best placed to fulfill their hiring needs, according to a Robert Half Talent Solutions survey released Tuesday.
Robert Half’s 2023 Canadian Salary Guide also notes that demand is high for legal professionals who can handle technology-related issues such as cybersecurity and who can use tech tools to reduce costs.
In the red-hot talent market for corporate commercial associates in 2020, the largest Canadian law firms upped their associates’ salaries by up to 20%, with first years now commanding C$130,000. While salaries are still on the way up, Robert Half’s regional director for Toronto, Michelle Dunnill, said increases across all levels of the profession are likely to be more in the 2% range for 2023.
According to the report, first-year associate salaries for 2023 in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver will average C$76,400 up to C$97,000. Salaries of senior associates with four to nine years of experience salaries will be in the C$123,000 to C$154,000 range in those cities but some could see their pay as low as $100,000 depending on experience and firm size.
Robert Half, which places lawyers and staff in firms of all sizes, said its data is “based on actual compensation for professionals we’ve matched with employers across the country. Our projections take into account the current and expected demand for each position, the supply of talent, and other market conditions.”
Dunnill said as Canadian firms are still competing with their U.S. counterparts, one of the most frequent perks their clients have seen in this “candidate-driven market” over the last year are signing bonuses.
“We know that compensation is trending higher, especially in the legal field, with regards to organizations having to be even more competitive than ever and understand what kind of perks they have to come to the table with,” she said.
That’s true for other staff and professionals at law firms as well, according to the report, which said flexible and hybrid working arrangements are being offered to lure staff for some of the hardest-to-fill positions like data entry and clerk and administrator positions.
“That’s not something we anticipated, but that is something that we are seeing in the market,” said Dunnill.
Law firms are noting that perks are integral to keeping staff and lawyers. Dentons Canada, for instance, introduced a generous firm-wide parental leave policy last December. Diversity and inclusion programs have also become a much more prominent part of law firm recruitment. Peter Feldberg, managing partner of Global 200 firm Fasken Martineau DuMoulin, said recently that “the war for talent will be won by firms who provide their lawyers and business professionals with rewarding and purposeful work and with a shared inclusive and equitable workplace.”
A report in May by Canadian legal recruiter the Counsel Network showed the average male in-house counsel’s base salary in 2022 was C$193,000, compared with the average of C$169,000 for a woman in the same position.
The Robert Half guide also reported that there has been an increase in demand for family law lawyers since the pandemic. Other in-demand practice areas are civil litigation, commercial law, compliance, IP and trademark law, as well as contract management.