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Local Firms In Singapore Hike Salaries To Compete With The Large International Firms

by on March 15, 2010

Singapore’s biggest local firms are reportedly raising their compensation to levels closer to those of international firms in the city.  The increases are primarily motivated by a need for local firms to prepare to compete for legal talent as Singapore’s legal industry becomes more liberal.   Foreign firms will now be allowed to hire Singapore lawyers, as well share up to 49% of their profits with their Singapore partner firm.  Further, a few firms, if granted once of a five licenses that will be available, can hire local attorneys without forming a Joint Law Venture.

These moves to open the legal market have actually been supported by some local firms, but nevertheless, it has forced many to make preemptive moves to brace themselves for the entry of new competitors in Singapore.  The Business Times has published a recent report, which says, in part:

“BT understands that Allen & Gledhill (A&G), Drew & Napier and WongPartnership have all raised monthly pay by 20-25 per cent, within the last week or so – such that their starting salaries are now in the region of $5,200.

This takes them closer to the pay scale of the foreign firms, which BT understands typically pay between $8,000 and $10,000 for first-year associates.

What this also means is that the fight for talent has just become that much tougher for the medium and smaller-sized firms.

‘The liberalisation of the market means our local talent pool is now available to all – firms from all over the world,’ WongPartnership managing partner Dilhan Pillay explained to BT. ‘So, our firm has had to respond to such market changes.”

One way in which they are trying to adapt, is by changing their pay structure, which currently is based on large year end bonuses, which will now be spread out more evenly over 12 months.  This may aid in the recruitment of younger lawyers, who may not be in the position defer compensation given the state of the economy over the last few quarters.

Will it work?  Well, here are some arguments pro and con.

Either way, it seems like it will be mostly upside for candidates looking for engagements in Singapore in the coming year.  You can see a few of the positions available at the Law Alliance home page.

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