The Telegraph today published a relatively sensationalist article headlined ‘Revealed: How much lawyer’s are REALLY paid’. The article suggests that lawyers earn double the national average wage (£27,000) when they start work and that salaries rise sharply, especially for those with top degrees. The study, which included 400 UK Lawyers, suggests that the average job pays £54,000, rising to £76,000 for those with five to 10 years of experience. It goes on to add that, lawyers with 10 and 15 years experience can expect to earn £100,000, while those with more than 15 years can command £181,000 a year. For those with Oxbridge education then salaries can be as much as 25pc higher again.
As a dedicated legal recruitment company, with specialist consultants focussed on in-house and private practice legal recruitment across the UK, it is our opinion that his article is flawed. For the average starting salary to be £54,000 the survey group of 400 cannot be representative of the whole legal profession, across the UK and across law firms and companies of every size and type. Commercial NQ starting salaries in the majority of the UK are somewhere between £30-40,000 and only in London, at the most prestigious national and international law firms are starting salaries at or above the stated level in the article. When we then consider that London’s population of 8.3 million is only 12% of the total UK population of the UK, and thus the legal sector somewhere between this figure and 20%, it would seem to suggest that the survey group was drawn from a predominantly top-tier London background.
The premise that lawyer’s salaries start high and rise sharply with experience is only true for a select minority of the profession. For those working in civil disciplines such as family law, mental health law, will & probate, residential conveyancing and personal injury the findings of this article and report could not be further from the truth. Starting salaries in those disciplines can often be as low as £24,000 and many solicitors find their earnings rise little higher than £50,000 after many years of practice. However, for those lucky enough to be working in London with top law firms or blue-chip companies, then the figures stated are about right. Of course, like in other professions, salary progression is not always guaranteed, and unless you make partnership or become general counsel you are likely to see your salary plateau at some stage. The point at which this happens will be determined by your billings, employer type, location, other benefits and other responsibilities.