2023 Wrap Up – Australian Legal Salary Trends and Recruitment Outlook

Tuesday December 5, 2023

At JLegal, we have our finger on the pulse of legal recruitment trends in Australia and globally. As a leading industry specialist filling roles across law firms, in-house legal teams, and corporate governance, we closely track data on salaries, hiring demand, talent supply, and more. 

Our 2023 Salary Guide revealed a legal job market riding a wave of high demand, intense competition for talent, and rising remuneration. Lawyers and company secretaries were being presented unprecedented opportunities to advance their careers and compensation. 

As a recruitment leader catering to legal and governance professionals for over 16 years, we have witnessed first-hand the ‘great movement’ rather than resignation. Lawyers of all levels of experience are leveraged the red-hot hiring landscape to switch roles and firms at record volumes in search of higher salaries, better work-life balance, and leadership growth.

At the same time, law firms and legal departments pulled out all stops to attract and retain talent. Salaries increased sharply to keep up with demand – our guide found double-digit percentile rises across private practice, in-house, and company secretary roles. 

As stewards of the legal recruitment space, we break down the exact salary trends and market forces in this year’s edition of our popular annual guide.

Private Practice Salaries

Our latest salary survey discovered strong remuneration growth at both elite global and mid-size national firms in Australia. Lawyers with 1-2 years PQE can now command up to $130,000 at top-tier firms, a 4% rise, and up to $120,000 at mid-tier firms, up 7%. More experienced lawyers saw similar gains – Special Counsel salaries now range up to $320,000 at market-leading firms for top talent.

The escalating battle for legal talent and intense competition was evidenced by rising base salaries and bonuses needed to attract and retain professionals in the face of a tight candidate pool. Our data indicates even reputed firms struggled to hold on to rising legal stars being poached by rival firms and in-house legal teams dangling higher remuneration packages.

In-House Salaries

The hottest growth area we identified was within ASX-listed and large multinational companies competing aggressively for legal expertise across commercial transactions, compliance, governance and litigation. 

Salaries for General Counsel roles at tier-1 companies now average a minimum of $350,000+ base compensation, nearly 10% higher than 2022. Surprisingly, even lawyers with 8-9 years experience can now negotiate total pay above $220,000, our survey highlights.

Double-digit salary growth was recorded right down from legal heads to managers and lawyers within legal departments as organisations strive for operational excellence and risk mitigation via top-quality in-house advisory. 

Total pay for Company Secretaries at ASX-listed enterprises is now $350,000+ on average, up from the previous year, our data shows.

Key Growth Areas

Alongside rapidly expanding in-house legal and company governance teams, especially in Australia’s largest listed organisations, two key practice areas displayed standout salary progression in 2023 – cybersecurity and sustainability transactions. 

Law firms specialising in data privacy, climate risk frameworks and ESG were and still are competing fiercely for marquee talent in these domains with highly competitive compensation offers given specificity of experience required.

The common thread we’ve noticed is surging client demand for sharp legal advisors with targeted expertise as boardrooms tackle digital transformation, privacy, carbon neutrality targets and risk mitigation around deals. 

Our specialised legal recruitment capability allows clients to nimbly plug urgent skill gaps with the best talent through our extensive network and deep sectoral grasp.

Market Trends

Legal recruitment activity in Sydney and across Australia continues to be defined by a steady competition for talent, evidenced by the ‘great movement’ of legal professionals switching firms or departing private practice for in-house roles as tracked in our salary guide legal 2023.

Rather than a ‘great resignation’, ambitious lawyers at all career stages are still seeking out a steady recruitment climate to land higher salaries, better work-life balance, and leadership growth opportunities.

Overall, the legal industry in most of 2023, rode a wave of bullish hiring momentum, rising pay scales and expanding team sizes. However, talent attraction and retention emerged as the #1 challenge for law firm and legal department leadership according to the latest Law Partnership Survey highlighted in our study. 

To retain promising legal staff and navigate an employee-favoured market, employers are prioritising workplace culture, purpose-driven mission statements, automation to remove drudgery as well as top-quartile compensation benchmarks personalized to individual skill sets – our specialised recruitment agency provides strategic consulting for designing such initiatives.

Rapidly evolving client requirements around technology adoption, data security, ESG commitments and mitigating transformative business risks are also driving in-demand skills and talent scarcity in areas like cybersecurity, privacy law, climate frameworks and complex compliance -domains where our corporate lawyers and company secretaries command very senior salaries. 

For instance, Head of Legal roles at marquee companies now pay over $350,000. Similarly, specialised company secretaries with approximately 6-10 years experience at ASX-listed firms can now net between $180,000 to $230,000 in senior governance positions. 

As leaders of the legal and secretarial talent landscape, we leverage our networks and market insights to help clients secure such coveted candidates.


As key findings from our 2023 Salary Guide indicate, Australia’s legal and governance job market continues riding a wave of robust hiring demand, hyper-competition for talent securing senior leadership roles, and salary growth across public and private sector legal teams.  

Law firms struggle to retain rising stars in the face of talent poaching from rival law firms and in-house legal departments wishing to attract top expertise. In turn, ambitious legal professionals leverage the current recruitment climate to switch jobs and jostle for higher compensation. 

Across private practice and in-house, cybersecurity, technology transactions, ESG advisory and targeted future-proof skills command the highest premiums amidst talent scarcity. As long-time specialists in legal and secretary staffing solutions, JLegal helps clients navigate the complex recruitment terrain through our data-backed market insights and extensive professional network.

Get in touch with our experts to plan your hiring, retention and workforce strategy as per business priorities. By leveraging our specialist perspective and customized consulting aligned to your needs, we empower legal industry players to ride the current wave while future-proofing for long-term success.

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Our 2023 Salary Guide revealed intense competition between law firms and companies to secure top lawyers and governors. Talent retention emerges as the #1 concern with rising demand for niche skills in hot areas like cybersecurity and ESG advisory. Read more here: