Kelly-Anne  Willis
Kelly-Anne Willis
Senior Associate

Articles From the Team

Bristol private practice legal salary review – 2022

From Kelly-Anne Willis

As an agency, it is no secret that we are receiving a record number of new vacancies each week. The competition to attract the best talent has becoming increasingly fierce in what remains a candidate-short market.

As a direct result of this, firms across the UK have aggressively increased their salary offerings, both to retain and attract the most talented lawyers, and Bristol-based firms are no exception.

NQ salaries

International firms and Bristolian natives Burges Salmon and Osborne Clarke initially paved the way, increasing their NQ salaries to £65,000. London-centric firms such as Simmons and Simmons also hiked up their NQ rate to £69,000 (it was previously £56,000, so that is a 23 per cent increase) to become the highest payer in the South West.

The likes of CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang and Irwin Mitchell have now also boosted their salaries to compete. In many cases we have seen hikes of up to 22 per cent!

National firms have also followed suit. The likes of Freeths and Foot Anstey have also seen significant increases being made to their NQ offering – leaping from £48,000 to £55,000, even in their regional offices.

These really are record breaking salary increases across the board, and the trend shows no signs of letting up. Firms are regularly reviewing their salary levels and amending them if necessary to stay competitive.

Senior service

These salary increases are not just happening at NQ level, but also for more senior lawyers as well. Given the movement at the junior end, it is only right that the more senior salaries are re-aligned to ensure everyone is on an equal keel.

Having said this, the junior lawyers have without a doubt seen more significant percentage increases, so something else may need to be done for leading firms to keep hold of their more senior talent – only time will tell!

These massive salary hikes have obviously encouraged people to consider a move – and also resulted in firms fighting even harder to retain their staff. This only means one thing: counter offers and retention bonuses.

We have seen a significant increase in both regional and boutique firms unwilling to lose their best lawyers to those aforementioned international and national firms. As a result, some staggeringly high counters have been made by smaller firms that are clearly trying their very best to bridge the gap between themselves and the leading firms where they can.

Culture and flexibility

With this happening more often, and salaries therefore becoming less of a factor, a lot of lawyers are now considering what is most important to them. Nine times of out ten this turns out to be firm culture and flexibility.

Post-pandemic it is fair to say that priorities have changed, and salary is no longer the only factor to consider when making a move. While Bristol-based firms will never be able to compete with City salaries, the culture and quality of life on offer in Bristol really is one of its main selling points.

We have seen a real shift post-covid and there is most definitely a new normal when it comes to firms’ expectations. Almost every firm in Bristol now offers a hybrid working policy (regardless of PQE level) with the most common split being two days in the office and three days from home per week.

Obviously the leading firms are always going to have a long hours culture but firms are taking every step possible to ensure that their lawyers are achieving that previously elusive work/life balance by operating as truly national teams and bringing in additional resource from other offices when needed.

Team socials are becoming more regular (as staff spend more time at home now), and lawyers being encouraged to do what works for them is a common theme.

If you are considering a move, there really is no better time to explore your options. If you would like to arrange a confidential call to discuss current opportunities or simply to get an overview of the market in general, please do get in touch.

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