The Cooper Fitch Salary Guide for Legal represents the predicted market-rate salary ranges for new recruits across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for 2020.
Saudi Arabia’s efforts to diversify its economy and grow the private sector under the Vision 2030 roadmap are bearing fruit, with a positive impact on hiring trends in the legal industry.
Private law firms on average are expecting a 3% increase on market-rate salary ranges in 2020, and a higher 8-10% rise for Saudi nationals, both in public sector and large local and international private sector organisations for 2020.
Sign-on (‘golden handshake’) bonuses are becoming increasingly common as firms jostle for talent in a competitive market, organisations report. The most in-demand roles are senior in-house Saudi national lawyers with a mix of private and public sector experience. For private firms, Saudi national associate-level lawyers with experience in banking or commercial law are most in-demand.
Vision 2030 has impacted the employment market across all sectors, creating new jobs through the privatisation of government companies from across 10 sectors ranging from health, housing, education, labour, social affairs and energy, most notably the initial public offering of state oil giant Saudi Aramco and widespread legislative reforms to make it easier to set up businesses and attract foreign capital to the kingdom.
As a result, Saudi Arabia has seen an increase in merger and acquisition (M&A) and investment activity, the commencement of super-size, or ‘giga’, projects and a rise in large local family and holding companies overhauling their corporate governance policies to comply with international standards.
The bulk of legal hiring activity continues to take place in the capital Riyadh, due to it being the hub of public sector employment with government departments and other agencies based there and the focal point of Vision 2030 initiatives.
However, the UAE and other GCC markets are increasingly becoming target markets for recruitment, while public-private-partnership (PPP) legal entities often seek lawyers from the UK, Europe and Australia.
The pace of regulatory change, through a swathe of government decrees and general transformation of all industries in the kingdom at present, are constant challenges for recruiters, but they are expected to bring new opportunities in 2020. In the legal sector, in-house teams are expected to expand further following a raft of C-suite-level appointments in 2019, with an additional increase in junior-to-midlevel hires.
Drivers for candidates seeking to change jobs include the need for continual learning and development with a fresh and diversified client pool, higher salaries and, for mid-senior lawyers, in particular, the quest for longer-term opportunities in well-known organisations. Many other candidates have reported exposure to challenge clients as a reason for changing jobs.
Expected skills shortages in 2020 include Saudi national lawyers with specific experience in M&A and investments, as well as bilingual corporate and transaction lawyers with 4-6 years PQE (postqualification experience) in private practice.
To retain talent, firms should offer career progression, mentorship, and – given the increasingly young workforce in the kingdom, constant feedback in the form of one-on-one personal interaction and engagement.
Download the full Legal Salary Guide 2020 here
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