No money for pay rises and staff leaving in search of a better deal. Is this the typical law firm in Australia today? The results of the latest ALPMA survey provides strong evidence for this.

Findings from research commissioned by ALPMA reveal that the number one HR challenge facing law firms is employee retention, displacing ‘finding good people’ for the first time since the survey was introduced.

The survey found that salaries grew only 1% in the past 12 months. This is less than the current rate of inflation and could explain why people are walking out the door.

In this “typical” law firm, the staff turnover rate is 23% according to the survey’s findings. This means that in 4.34 years the entire staff of the firm will have “turned over”.

As a side-note, high staff turnover is one more reason to have well documented systems and procedures. In fact, when it comes to administration staff, the survey found that staff turnover was 30%. For fee earners it was 21%

Twenty four percent of respondent firms are planning a limited or total wage freeze.

Some good news: “Forty six percent of respondent Australian law firms expect pay rises to be above the rate of CPI this year, with a further 27 percent planning on increases in line with CPI,” said Ms Emma Elliott, ALPMA Board member and Business Manager at Steinepreis Paganin, a Perth-based corporate and commercial law firm.

The 2017 ALPMA Australian Legal Industry Salary & HR Issues Survey Report is the most comprehensive, independent report on salaries for all roles at Australian firms. This is the ninth year the research has been conducted.

285 respondent law firms, employing 9,623 staff, from across Australia provided comprehensive information about salaries, benefits and bonuses paid for lawyers, management and administrative staff, and insight into the critical HR issues and challenges facing firms.

The report shows salaries paid for 70+ roles at law firms. Salaries for each role are analysed by size of firm and by State, with legal salaries further broken down by practice area, allowing companies to benchmark their remuneration strategy for each role with similar firms.

Other information provided in the report includes anticipated salary movements, recruitment plans, employment benefits, bonuses, staff employment arrangements, legal industry turnover and diversity and inclusion programs.

The ALPMA Australian Legal Industry Salary & HR Issues Survey Report is provided free of charge to all participating firms. Non-participating firms can purchase a copy online for $A550 (ALPMA members) or $A2,200 (non-members). Data was collected online in March and April, 2017.

The research was conducted for ALPMA by Survey Matters, an independent research consultancy, to the highest standards.


The Australasian Legal Practice Management Association, (ALPMA), is the peak body representing law firm and legal department leaders and managers. ALPMA provides an authoritative voice on issues relevant to legal practice management. Members of ALPMA provide professional management services to legal practices in areas of financial management, strategic management, technology, human resources, facilities and operational management, marketing and information services and technology.

For more information about ALPMA, visit