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The in-house Swiss legal market in 2015

Posted by: Laurence Simons 25/03/15

Similar to the Swiss economy, the outlook for Switzerland’s in-house legal sector is certainly one that divides opinion. Some lawyers report positive feelings about the economy whilst others are expressing concern according to our 2015 global legal and compliance salary survey. Our research also reported that 43% of legal and compliance professionals in Switzerland are indifferent when questioned about the economic outlook. So, what exactly does this mean?

2014 saw Switzerland vote, by a slim margin, to impose quotas on immigrants to the country. This will potentially result in a cap on immigration in a country where interestingly almost one in four of the population are immigrants. It still remains to be seen what the practical impact will be and how this will affect the legal market in Switzerland, if at all.

In the meantime, relative to the rest of Europe, Swiss legal professionals are remunerated very favourably. Given the continued strength of the Swiss Franc, salary levels are currently at very high levels when viewed against counterparts in the Eurozone. We have also seen salaries increasing over the last two years in the Swiss in-house legal market. However, this is not enough for some lawyers as a quarter of respondents to our salary survey stated that an increase in salary of 11-15% would be a strong motivation for them to move. Businesses who employ legal counsel, particularly in sectors where there is a lack of high calibre candidates, need to keep their best talent incentivised to stay.  Salary levels for senior lawyers, in particular at General Counsel, have increased in Switzerland whilst remuneration levels for the more junior and midlevel lawyers have been fairly constant.

In 2014 we saw a number of businesses pay bonuses and our survey reflected that – 81% of respondents received a bonus and 84% of those were satisfied with their remuneration. Depending on the sector, lawyers can generally expect to receive an average bonus of 10-60% of their base salary.

In contrast to some European countries, the time it takes to find a role in Switzerland can sometimes be up to 12 weeks. On the rare occasion we have known for senior candidates to be part of a six month interview processes! This is mainly due to the high level of competition for the most sought after roles with stringent and comprehensive interview processes in place, particularly for leadership roles.

As a general preference, companies prefer to hire locally and avoid relocation costs if at all possible. There are restrictions in obtaining works permits  for non-European residents in Switzerland  which can make it more challenging to hire people without European residency  unless companies can fulfil local requirements and demonstrate good reason for hiring someone who is not from the local market.