Latest news – Modest salary rises; E-billing systems in demand; LPP protocol inked

[Uncategorized] July 31, 2019

Salaries set to rise, but not by much

According to the FY2019-20 Hays Salary Guide, more legal professionals will receive a pay rise this year than last, but it will be a less significant increase than they hoped for. The survey reports that 90 per cent of employers will increase their salaries in their next review, up from 87 per cent who did so in their last review. However, the value of these increases will fall.

Almost two-thirds (65 per cent) intend to raise salaries at the lower level of 3 per cent or less, up from 57 per cent who did so in their last review. At the other end of the scale, just 4 per cent of employers, down from 9 per cent, intend to grant pay increases of more than 6 per cent.

In the in-house legal job market, recruitment activity will be focused on strong and experienced lawyers as organisations respond to the intensifying regulatory and compliance regime following the recommendations of the Banking Royal Commission. This is creating strong job opportunities for experienced candidates across every area of law. Financial services advisory lawyers and litigation and dispute resolution lawyers are being sought by banks, professional services organisations and regulatory bodies following the royal commission, too.

In private practice, demand remains high across all tiers, particularly for candidates with five years’ PAE. Boutique practices continue to hire and grow. Demand exists for commercial property lawyers and conveyancing staff in response to infrastructure projects. Construction and property lawyers with at least three years’ PAE are needed in the flourishing infrastructure and commercial markets.

E-billing systems top tech wish list

A new report has uncovered the most commonly used technology within corporate legal teams, finding that advanced e-billing systems are especially in demand.

According to the second annual 2019 State of the Industry survey, released by the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) in the United States, most companies rely on third-party technology solutions for their legal department needs, with the adoption of legal tech increasing across companies of all sizes and industries. On average, 37 per cent of companies participating in the survey spent more than US$750,000 on legal technology in 2018, the report found. In terms of the most popular technology, 78 per cent said they used some kind of e-billing system. Five e-billing vendors accounted for 60 per cent of the market share among respondents: LexisNexis CounselLink, Mitratech Collaborati/TeamConnect, SimpleLegal, Thomson Reuters Legal Tracker and TyMetrix 360.

About two-thirds of respondents stated they used a contract management system, while the take-up of artificial intelligence among corporate legal teams was strong. The  survey included respondents from more than 200 companies of different sizes representing over 30 industries and 18 countries.  According to the survey, corporate legal departments experienced growth in demand for legal services and continued to focus on various means to control costs.  Many grew their legal operations teams and continued to invest in technology. The sum of all external expenditure submitted by respondents totalled more than US$$6.3 billion, with more than half of respondents reporting that their external expenditure on law firms either decreased or stayed the same from 2017 to 2018.

New protocol for Legal Professional Privilege claims
A new protocol dealing with legal professional privilege (LPP) being developed by the Law Council of Australia and the Australian Tax Office will help avoid unnecessary and protracted disputes over claims of LPP. The work follows a meeting between Law Council president Arthur Moses SC and representatives of the Law Council’s Business Law Section with the commissioner of the Australian Taxation Office to discuss concerns of both the legal profession and the ATO about LPP. Moses has raised concerns with the ATO about recent comments attributed to it, which had been interpreted as an attempt to undermine LPP in investigations, audit and assurance processes.

“The ATO has assured the Law Council it was not its intention to undermine the sanctity of LPP or to impugn the motives of lawyers seeking to raise legitimate claims in good faith to protect the rights and interests of their clients. I have accepted those assurances,” he says. “LPP is a fundamental protection and pillar of the Australian legal system, with the chief purpose of facilitating the administration of justice. This means clients must be able to communicate freely and frankly with their lawyer so that they can receive full and proper advice. LPP also promotes compliance with the law. Since lawyers owe a duty to the court and serve the administration of justice, they are required to encourage clients to obey the law.”

The ATO has informed the Law Council that it fully supports taxpayers getting high-quality independent legal advice and, as part of that, fully supports LPP. The protocol will provide a set of guidelines for managing claims to LPP in response to information requests from the commissioner, including what information should be provided to the ATO concerning the claim and context in which it has been made.