Entry-level lawyers earning slightly less amid glut: Morgan McKinley

Lawyers outside the State Courts.
Lawyers outside the State Courts. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Some legal firms in Singapore have lowered their entry-level salaries amid a glut of younger lawyers and a gloomier business environment, recruitment firm Morgan McKinley has found.

Last year, entry-level lawyers working at any of the "Big Four" - Drew & Napier, Allen & Gledhill, Wong Partnership and Rajah & Tann - drew a basic salary of $5,500 to $6,000 a month.

The same lawyers could have earned $6,000 a month or more in 2014, said Morgan McKinley.

Entry-level lawyers at medium- sized firms earned a basic salary of $4,000 to $5,000 a month last year, down from a range of $4,500 to $5,500 in 2014.

"Due to a larger supply of trainee and newly qualified lawyers currently on the market, we have found that some local law firms have lowered the salaries at entry level," said Ms Lucy Allcard, who is manager of audit, legal and compliance, at Morgan McKinley Singapore.

"They do, however, say that it's just the fixed component, or base salary that has been reduced and that bonuses could make up for this, if a firm has had a profitable year," she added.

She also noted that business has fallen in some areas, such as capital markets work, although demand for employment law services may have risen.

Nevertheless, some international law firms will still pay a basic salary of $7,000 for entry-level lawyers, to attract the best talent, said Ms Allcard, who was speaking on the release of her firm's annual salary survey yesterday.

The survey also found that demand for compliance specialists is rising, and that the focus has shifted from senior-level recruitment towards junior and mid-level hires.

Even so, salaries within compliance have not shown much of a rise, Morgan McKinley said.

"At the director level, it is pretty flat compared to the the last few years as there is not a huge amount of movement or new jobs created at this level," Ms Allcard said.

"The hottest area of compliance this year will be trade surveillance with regard to newly created roles as banks build out teams in Singapore.

"As a result, salaries in this sphere are expected to rise; however, this will mainly be at the junior to mid-level."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2016, with the headline 'Entry-level lawyers earning slightly less amid glut: Morgan McKinley'. Print Edition | Subscribe