City paralegals with under 12 months’ experience and some juniors are the only employed categories to have enjoyed pay rises higher than the current rate of inflation this year, new research shows. The average earnings of a recently employed paralegal in financial services have climbed 3.7% to £19,500, while non-London solicitors with four years’ PQE have seen an increase of 3.1% to £45,875. Inflation currently stands at 3%. The average rise across all employed lawyers and paralegals this year is 1.7%.

The new research, disclosed to the Gazette, is an annual project completed by recruiter Hays. The generally sub-inflation increases contrast with a measure of business confidence among employers surveyed, of whom 54% expect an increase in business activity in the coming 12 months and two-thirds plan to recruit.

Employing new talent could prove a struggle for many, however, with 67% of employers reporting ‘moderate to extreme skills shortages’. Almost a quarter of employees surveyed plan to leave their job due to ‘a lack of future opportunities’. Six out of 10 are dissatisfied with their salary, compared to an average of 41% in other sectors identified in comparable research by Hays.

Yvonne Smyth, director of Hays Legal, said: ‘Employees are feeling the pressure, salary dissatisfaction is fuelling the discontent and careers are being stifled.’ She added that some growth plans were accounted for by the need for Brexit advice.

Outside financial services, paralegal salaries saw smaller increases – 0.8% for those with three years-plus experience working in commerce and industry, for example. The highest salary average identified was for private practice lawyers in London with six years’ PQE. They earn £131,000, up from £129,556 last year.

Just over one in 10 respondents said stress had led to an increase in absenteeism.