Lawyers fear EU expansion will cut salaries

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The Independent Online

The high wages earned by thousands of City advisers could be under threat after the accession of 10 new states to the European Union this weekend.

The high wages earned by thousands of City advisers could be under threat after the accession of 10 new states to the European Union this weekend.

City law firm Lawrence Graham has claimed that highly qualified professionals, now able to seek employment across the EU, could undercut their British counterparts. Research by the firm found that City solicitors in their late 20s, with three or four years' experience, could expect a salary of around €100,000 (£67,413). By contrast, English-speaking solicitors with comparable qualifications in the Czech Republic and Hungary are paid €22,000, and just €7,200 in Poland.

Other sectors, including banking and accountancy, could be affected as demand for cross-border expertise continues to grow, the firm said.

Anthony Woolich, the head of EU and competition at Lawrence Graham, said: "There are areas that are already very international such as EU and competition law, which is now harmonised across Europe.

"Its possible long-term effect would be downward pressure on wages. But it all works out better for the client."

The greater the number of people to chose from and the more competition available, the better the standards and service that will emerge, he said.

City advisers are routinely criticised for the vast fees and bonuses they earn, even when deals fall through. According to The Lawyer, a trade magazine, equity partners at Lawrence Graham, a mid-sized City firm, earned £373,000 on average last year.

Previously, professionals from the new member states would have been able to work in the UK only if their prospective employer had demonstrated that no suitably qualified EU resident could do the job. Workers within the EU can apply for jobs in any other member state without seeking a work permit.

The build-up towards enlargement has led to concerns in some quarters, notably the right-wing press, that a flood of economic migrants are heading for the UK. But Lawrence Graham partner Yvonne Gallagher commented that professionals ten-ded to be "fluent in English, have comparable training and expertise, and yet work more flexibly for much lower salaries".

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