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Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Loyalty to small firms costs legal accountants

Loyalty to small firms costs legal accountants


Key to retaining talent is to look at a bigger, more holistic offering, says ILFM chief

Employee loyalty within small law firms is not reaping rewards for staff as one in five legal accountancy professionals miss out on a pay rise, new research suggests.

A survey commissioned by the Institute of Legal Finance and Management (ILFM) to provide an accurate salary range for the roles that make up law firm accounts teams reports that 20 per cent fewer employees of small firms are receiving pay rises than employees at medium to large legal businesses.

Perhaps to be expected, the findings expose a clear disparity in pay conditions between organisations of different sizes, with 78 per cent of employees in medium to large firms reporting receiving a pay rise, compared to just 59 per cent of those in smaller outfits.

However, the report also reveals that small firms have better staff retention rates, with 89 per cent of accounts staff remaining loyal compared to 81 per cent of their counterparts in large firms, suggesting that for some stability is more important than a higher salary.

Compared with 2015, the research also showed an overall increase in staff turnover, with 86 per cent of staff remaining with the same employer during the previous 12 months, down from 88 per cent the year before.

London again saw the greatest movement with just 79 per cent staying with the same employer, followed by Wales (86 per cent), central and northern regions (90 per cent), and the South (91 per cent).

'The most interesting finding this year is the difference in pay conditions between the large and small law firms,' said the ILFM chief executive, Tim Kidd.

'We think the disparity is perhaps partly reflective of the higher rate of staff turnover at larger firms, where employers more frequently find themselves having to attract experienced staff in a highly competitive jobs market.'

Overall, the average salary figures have shown a slight decrease for certain accounts positions in comparison to last year's survey. However, salaries continue to be on the rise.

Data shows the fourth straight year of growth in the number of respondents receiving a pay rise during the past 12 months, although rising only marginally from 66 per cent in 2015 to 67 per cent this year.

The proportion of respondents who received a financial bonus also remained similar to last year, with a marginal drop from 46 per cent down to 45 per cent.

'Despite lagging behind when it comes to financial rewards, small law firms continue to attract some of the best talent in the industry. Not all employees are driven by salary - for some job security and career progression is more important,' Kidd told Solicitors Journal.

'Our advice for small practices hoping to attract the best legal finance experts and practice managers would be to look at the bigger offering more holistically, and make sure that this is communicated as part of the job description.

'Saying a salary is £35K "plus benefits" doesn't always need to mean financial benefits. A car parking space, more flexible working hours, or fun away days can mean so much more to some people.'