How much can I earn in law?
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There are many careers available in the field of law. This article explores the salaries you could earn as you begin your career in different law jobs and how they could grow as you progress.
Salaries for solicitors can vary greatly. A firm’s location and the types of clients it works with make the biggest difference, with London offices paying the most. Salaries tend to be lower at small, local firms found in towns and cities across the UK.
According to a 2019 survey of graduate recruiters carried out by our graduate careers website targetjobs.co.uk, most big London firms undertaking commercial work offer salaries between £40,000 and £45,000 to first-year trainee solicitors. Salaries on qualification as a solicitor with these firms are between £70,000 and £115,000. Trainee salaries with large firms outside of London typically range from around £20,000 and can reach the £35,000 mark – rising to around £30,000–50,000 for newly qualified solicitors. If you progress to the role of partner, your salary could easily exceed £100,000 – with anything up to £2m being possible at large, international law firms. Again, there is a lot of variation in partner salaries, which will depend on factors such as locations and firm.
The Law Society advises that the minimum salary for trainees should be £22,121 in London and £19,619 outside of London. This is a recommendation made by a professional body and is not a requirement. Many firms, however, will follow these recommendations.
What benefits do law firms offer?
Large commercial law firms offer several benefits and bonuses, including pension schemes and life assurance, but some provide more unusual perks. Many of the big firms offer gym membership and private healthcare, while Ashurst LLP offer a £500 ‘language bursary’, Howard Kennedy offer yoga classes, Weil Gotshal & Manges and Shoosmiths offer a free day off on your birthday and according to TARGETjobs' Insider Reviews, Kirkland & Ellis International LLP give trainees a fleece jacket.
All future barristers need to complete a year of practical, on-the-job training at a barristers’ set of chambers, known as pupillage. The Bar Standards Board has stipulated that all 12-month pupillages must carry a minimum pupillage award of £15,728 for pupillages outside of London and £18,436 for pupillages in London.
The most generous pupillage awards are available from commercial chambers, where barristers advise big companies rather than individuals – these are typically in the region of £40,000 to £70,000 for 12 months. Awards are lower at chambers carrying out publicly funded work such as family or criminal law. This is partly due to government cuts to legal aid affecting chambers’ fees. For example, Queen Elizabeth Building awards £35,000 for a 12-month pupillage; many family and criminal sets offer less.
It is difficult to predict how your salary could increase as your career progresses because barristers are self-employed. Barristers’ salaries depend on the type of work they are doing and the clients they work for. If you gain the status of Queen’s Counsel you are likely to earn between £100,000 and £1,000,000 – although some QCs earn less and others more.
A chartered legal executiveis a qualified lawyer who specialises in a particular area of law. The Chartered Institute for Legal Executives states that salaries vary according to location and area of law. Starting salaries usually range from £15,000 to £28,000. In general, chartered legal executives’ salaries range from £35,000 to £55,000 and can be much higher.
In-house lawyers are qualified solicitors and barristers employed by big organisations and companies such as the BBC and BT. These roles can offer shorter hours and better conditions than other jobs in law, but people are not normally able to join an in-house team until they have been in the profession for a couple of years.
A 2018 survey by the legal recruitment agency BCL Legal found that the average salary for newly-qualified in-house lawyers was £60,000 in London and between £45,000–£55,000 outside of London.
A paralegal is trained in legal matters and performs tasks requiring some knowledge of the law and legal procedures. There is no national pay scale for paralegals but you do not need a degree to become one.
Salaries vary widely depending on the area of law (eg family or property law), where in the country you work, level of responsibility and your experience. According to the Institute of Paralegals, salaries range from £14,000–£22,000 at entry level or £18,000–£25,000 as a graduate. This usually rises to £30,000–£40,000 for more experienced paralegals and bigger firms can pay up to £55,000.
More firms are starting to offer law-based apprenticeships as time goes on. There are now many routes of apprentices to become a paralegal or a solicitor. Salaries for these roles vary. For example, Womble Bond Dickinson offer a paralegal apprenticeship on a starting salary of £16,830, and Osborne Clarke LLP offer a six-year solicitor apprenticeship on a starting salary of £16,000, which increases over the course of the apprenticeship to £38,000 in the final year.
- Find out more about what's involved in a solicitor apprenticeship by reading this apprentice profile.
Legal secretaries perform administrative duties for law offices such as transcribing reports, filing, customer service and assisting lawyers and paralegals when needed. You do not need a degree to get a job as a legal secretary, and salaries can vary dramatically depending on your responsibilities, the type of firm you work for and the area of the country you are working in.
Salaries in London start at around £20,000 and experienced legal secretaries can earn up to £45,000, according to the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs.
The selection process for becoming a judge is tough, and you will need extensive legal experience as a barrister or solicitor before becoming a judge. According to the Ministry of Justice in 2019, judges tend to earn more than £100,000 even at the lower end of the scale, and this figure increases to more than £260,000 for the highest position of Lord Chief Justice.