The very best lawyers can earn a salary easily in excess of £200,000 a year. However, as with any job, you can only expect a lucrative return from a career in law by proving your dedication and showing the enthusiasm to work long, unsociable hours.

During 2012 and at the start of 2013 salaries have remained fairly static in the law jobs market. Some firms have used bonus repayments as a means of retaining and attracting key players.

Average Salaries:

Legal Executive

Starting Salary -£18,000-£30,000

Average Salary -£30,000 – £55,000

Paralegal

Starting Salary -£20,000

Average Salary -£23,000-£35,000

Senior Salary -£45,000+

Solicitor

Starting Salary -£25,000 – £39,000

Average Salary -£40,000 – £70,000

Senior Salary – £100,000 – £500,000+

Barrister’s Clerk

Starting Salary – £15,000

Average Salary – £30,000-£60,0000

Senior Salary -£70,000-£100,000

Barrister

Starting Salary -£10,000-£30,000

Average Salary -£50,000-£90,000

Senior Salary – £100,000-£500,000 +

(Source: Industry estimates and data from Simply Law Jobs 2012)

Overview of job prospects for lawyers

The recession forced many firms to freeze their recruitment programmes and lawyer hires were down during 2011. However throughout 2012 more vacancies have been coming onto the market although employers are increasingly demanding niche sector specific experience. “As ever, candidates with the most effective interpersonal skills alongside technical prowess are the most sought-after,” says Yvonne Smyth, managing director of Hays Legal.

“Areas in demand include corporate, banking, litigation. More niche areas such as tax and pensions typically suffer from a shortage of candidates. Personal injury and insurance remains busy although firms have an eye on the Jackson reforms, and defendant insurance fraud solicitors remain in high demand. Employment law remains steady but has been quieter than at the height of the recession.”

As a rule of thumb, lawyers with 2-5 years post qualification experience (PQE) solicitors are most highly sought-after.

Lawyer salaries edge up in 2012

Overall legal salaries were up 2.4% year-on-year in London, according to the Robert Walters 2012 Salary Survey. There were also modest increases in legal salaries across the regions, but for many British lawyers, salaries stayed the same.

This survey showed that within London, in-house salaries grew faster than in private practice in 2012. “Permanent pay rose for both in-house commerce & industry (4.1%) and financial services (2.5%) year-on-year, while private practice salaries increased by 1.6%. Contract rates followed similar trends – contractor pay for in-house lawyers rose 2.8% in commerce and industry and 2.2% in financial services, while private practice contract rates fell by 0.2%,” says the survey.

Colin Loth, Director of Legal Recruitment at Robert Walters, says: “Despite uncertain market conditions, the legal jobs market has been steadily improving over the past year and this is reflected in the fact that salaries are continuing to rise.

“Within private practice, we are seeing consistent demand for junior level associates at the 2 – 4 years’ PQE level in finance-related roles. At this level, the best professionals are receiving notable salary increases when moving roles. Contract rates are also on the rise in some key areas. For example, documentation review specialists can now expect £35-40 an hour compared to £25-30 an hour a year ago.”

“Consistent demand from IT and technology, energy, telecommunications and pharmaceutical businesses for lawyers has prompted the increases evident in commerce & industry. As always, these companies are seeking strong commercial lawyers with excellent business facilitation skills – it is these professionals who are receiving the largest increases when moving roles.”

Trainee solicitor salary

The Law Society of England and Wales recommends that trainee solicitors earn a minimum salary of £18,590 in central London and £16,650 outside London.

However in May 2012 the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) made a decision to scrap the trainee solicitor minimum wage for trainee solicitors.
From 2014 firms will no longer be obliged to pay trainees a minimum salary above the national minimum wage, currently set at £6.19 an hour.

Legal Salaries in the Public Sector

The overall public sector recruitment spend in the UK is being reduced from its previous £10 billion per year to around £8 billion per year in 2011-12, in order to reduce the public sector deficit. This is having an impact on public sector legal pay and law job prospects although the impact of cost saving exercises will vary in each of the main public bodies, and from region to region.

According to the Hays 2012 Legal Market Overview and Salary Guide almost half (46 per cent) of employers imposed universal pay freezes during the recession. While these are now slowly being lifted austerity measures will need to continue for the next few years, with for instance, NHS trusts possibly needing to collaborate by merging their HR, IT, legal, payroll or property function, and many government-funded building and development projects falling by the wayside.

Lawyer salary guide – Public Sector

Legal Assistant (Paralegal or ILEX) -£18-28,000 (London)£14-22,000 (Regions)

Assistant Solicitor (0-3 PQE) -£28-38,000 (London) £23-33,000 (Regions)

Solicitor (3-5 PQE) -£38-44,000 (London)£33-39,000 (Regions)

Principal Solicitor (5+PQE) -£44-55,000 (London)£38-42,000 (Regions)

Head of Department (5+PQE) -£50-65,000 (London)£40-55,000 (Regions)

Head of Legal (8+ PQE) -£55-85,000 (London)£45-75,000 (Regions)

Director of Legal (10+ PQE) -£65-100,000+ (London) £60-100,000+ (Regions)

(Source: Hays 2012 Legal Market Overview and Salary Guide)

If reading these lawyer salary statistics has furthered your interest in a career in this area, view legal vacancies on Simply Law Jobs.

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