I think the majority of us know this already (thou shalt not steal etc Exodus 34:28, Deuteronomy 10:4)
However, it appears barrister salaries are on the up, so does crime pay? In the midst of a thriving economy barristers are actually earning more money these days than they were 12 months ago (The Times October 27th Page 3). For the period 2012-2013 average yearly income grew by £10,000 to £118,000 from £108,000 in the previous year. So what was all the protesting about earlier this year? I’ll tell you, its because in reality a lot of barristers are caught at the legal aid end of things and as such some of them will not even earn £30,000, much less in some instances. The commercial end of the spectrum bears no resemblance to the legal aid end.
I have been in legal recruitment for 13 or so years now. I remember when I first started out and if a duty qualified criminal solicitor registered on your books, it was case of “So, which firm do you want to join?”. We would have a list of at least 5 or more firms in one City emailing you back biting your hand off for the CV. Compare that to now and unfortunately you would do well to find 5 firms across the whole of the UK that would even open the e-mail.
I spoke to a bright and ambitious London based 26 year old criminal solicitor last week who despite actually enjoying what she does, has no real option but to ditch the law in favour of a career that will pay her more than £25,000 a year for the foreseeable future. Given the high property prices in London £25,000 won’t buy you anything and combine that with on-call hours and 3am visits to the police station and you’ll understand why she wants out.
There is a widening gulf and huge disparity in earnings across different areas of law, not just within crime. My advice to any would be solicitor or barrister approaching qualification is to look at what area of law pays what. Whilst following your heart and a moral obligation is the moral high ground, modern day lawyers need to take a more balanced commercial view on what area to practice in.