Now into its tenth year, our latest Business Services Salary Benchmarking Survey has been the most comprehensive yet, covering a wider breadth of firms than ever and detailing even more about the on-going development of business services functions in the legal profession. We are delighted here to detail just a few of our findings.

Our survey of over 100 law firms, ranging from those with a turnover of over £1 billion to smaller firms with less than £10 million turnover, reveals a positive outlook for the development of all business services functions.

The majority of firms predict salary increases of 2% or more in 2016 and bonuses are on the up too. But the findings also suggest that firms will have to think hard about the different ways in which they are meeting employee needs amid rising competition for the best talent.


Highlights of this year’s survey

  • Nearly all (99%) of firms have increased business support salaries this year with 82% predicting salary increases of 2% or more in 2016.
  • The number of firms offering bonus schemes has also increased to 90% and nearly two thirds of firms anticipate awarding the same bonuses or higher to employees this year.
  • Directors are receiving the greatest percentage bonus awards, increasing from 4%-6% last year to 7%-9% in 2015/16. The maximum bonus awarded to directors was 30% in marketing and business development (BD). In HR, finance and IT the maximum was 20-23%.
  • Junior roles, meanwhile, received bonuses of 3-4%, with marketing and BD once again leading the way enjoying maximum bonuses of 14-15%. 
  • Finance continues to pay the most, particularly at director level (£183,350 on average) with HR and marketing directors paid similarly at £141,391 and £148,834 respectively, and IT falling behind at £110,368.
  • High salaries in finance may be due to it having the largest number of equity (8%) and salaried partners (12%) of all functions – although other business services functions are now not far behind in reaching these highest levels of status.
  • New data covering roles across areas such as project management, business intelligence and process improvement showed a very wide range of salaries compared to roles in more established business services functions. We expect market norms to develop in the next 12 months as more and more firms invest in this area. 

Key findings on other benefits

  • Salary sacrifice (87%) and flexible benefits (44%) continue to be widely offered to employees – in isolation and in combination.  The percentage of firms offering only flexible benefits has increased from 38% to 44% and a further 20% are planning to introduce them in the future. 
  • The number of firms offering stress management, including yoga and massage, has doubled from last year to 34%. Most also offer private healthcare (83%) and permanent health insurance, which has increased by 5 percentage points to 70%.
  • There has been a marked increase in executive coaching from 3% in 2013/14 to 22% this year.  This coincides with other data from the report, which shows that directors and executives are being rewarded with both financial and non-financial incentives.
  • Payment for overtime has dropped by 20 percentage points to 48%, the lowest in three years. Instead there is a marked rise in after hours travel allowance (43% up from 25%). Organisations are, perhaps, trying to manage resources and productivity whilst keeping costs down. 
  • Flexible working is highly popular with 57% of staff taking it up this year, compared to 34% in 2013/14. But that’s only among the firms that offer it – according to our survey, most firms (75%) still don’t.

Looking ahead

There is a mood of optimism among law firms as well as new developments. There are more equity and salaried partners leading business services functions as well as increased investment in emerging and specialist roles.

But cost-cutting on overtime and prevailing reticence over implementing formal flexible working arrangements suggests that firms need to be careful. Competitive salaries have always enabled law firms to attract and retain employees – it is positive, therefore, to see them on the rise. But firms will need to think hard about how they continue to compete for the best business talent, not just against other firms but other industries too, some of which have long put employee wellbeing and engagement first.

Those law firms that prove their willingness to listen to, and address, the changing needs of employees – across both financial and non-financial rewards – may well find themselves ahead of the pack in attracting talent that can deliver sustained business success.

To find out more about Totum’s Salary Benchmarking Survey 2016, please contact [email protected]


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