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How much can lawyers make in the UK?

No matter how much you love what you do, there’s no denying your salary is one of the most important factors when it comes to employment. Salaries can vary greatly when it comes to law, and understanding what influences and informs these changes can help influence your career path. Below, we look at the potential earnings of lawyers and the numerous factors which can impact incomes.

By Grant Longstaff. Published 20 March 2024.

Understanding lawyer salaries

When it comes to understanding legal salaries, you first need to recognise the many factors which can influence earnings. First and foremost, the position you hold will inform earnings, so it’s essential to research your chosen career. For instance, solicitors will generally earn more than paralegals, and barristers’ earnings can fluctuate because they’re self-employed. There are however several other factors which influence legal profession earnings.

Factors affecting lawyers earnings

Firstly, your experience is a key element in determining salary. If you’re newly qualified, you’ll typically earn less than those with years of experience under their belt. The size and location of a firm can also have a strong bearing on pay. For example, you’ll often find a large international firm based in London will pay more than a boutique firm outside of the capital.

Your chosen legal practice area will also influence pay. The less professionals in a practice area, the greater the demand for their skills, and this will drive up salaries. Right now, for example, those practicing in commercial and corporate law or intellectual property law will likely earn more than those practicing family law.

Average lawyer income in the UK

Determining an average salary for any area of work is hard, and with law it becomes even more difficult because of the many variables involved. That said, there is some data which indicates the average salaries in the UK. Job site Indeed reports the average salary for a solicitor is just under £50,000 a year, based on almost 11,000 reported salaries. Of course, this figure can vary significantly based on the factors mentioned earlier, with some London based, Magic Circle firms paying experienced professionals well over £100,000 a year.

Trainee lawyer salaries

The Law Society recommends “a minimum salary of £26,068 in London and £23,122 outside London” for trainee solicitors. Of course, this again will vary.

Solicitor vs Barrister: Comparing pay scales

To understand the difference between the earnings of solicitors and barristers you need to recognise the difference in the roles. Because most solicitors generally work for a firm or practice you’ll find they will have a steadier income, possibly with a higher salary to begin with. Barristers are often self-employed and so their careers – particularly at the outset - can be more unpredictable. That said, there is the opportunity for huge earnings as their experience develops, and earnings could greatly exceed that of a solicitor.

What areas of the UK pay the most for lawyers?

We’ve already highlighted London is where you’ll likely find the highest rates of pay in the legal world. Still, whilst the capital may draw the largest firms, other major cities across the UK will have bases for many well-known, established firms and can also offer competitive salaries.

Trends and projections for lawyer salaries

The legal profession is constantly evolving. We’re currently seeing a rise in the use of legal technology – we’ve even created an MSc in Legal Technology in response to the rapid growth - and certain areas of law involving cyber security and data protection are likely to see an increase in demand. International trade is also a significant part of our world today and will likely lead to even more opportunities within corporate and commercial law.

Other considerations

Whilst we’ve talked a lot about earnings, there are other considerations you need to make when contemplating your legal career.

First of all, many firms will offer benefits beyond the offered salary, and it’s important to weigh up these too. They’ll have pensions schemes, and many will have rewards packages and discounts. Some might also offer gym memberships, private health and dental care and travel discounts.

Finally, it’s important to remember money isn’t everything. The legal world can be challenging, and for many a good work-life balance is essential. Often the highest paying firms may expect more, requiring long hours and weekend work from their employees. In recent years there has been a shift away from such positions, however challenging working conditions do still exist. It’s important you consider your salary and benefits carefully so you can get the best out of your career and make it work for you.

 

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