Law salaries are known for being generous and could be seen as a reason to enter the profession, but the reality can be quite different.
Salaries vary hugely depending on the type of work you do, where you are based and the firm you are working for.
To help you get your head round what to expect, we’ve drawn up advice on salaries in the legal sector and what to expect in the various legal professions. It's worth doing some of your own research too - although the below is a good starter for ten.
Firms are obliged to pay the national minimum wage but this is the only restriction they have when setting salaries for Training Contracts. Many commercial firms pay trainees at a highly competitive rate. Regionally, this will be around £25,000, however some City law firms will pay a starting salary in excess of £35,000. As Training Contracts are the legal equivelant of a graduate scheme, they often come with several attractive benefits including gym membership, generous annual leave and a season ticket loan allowance.
A lot of firms publish their trainee salaries in an attempt to recruit the best and brightest graduates, so spend time doing your research on what you can expect from the firms you are applying to. If they choose not to advertise a salary, you are well within your right to ask for a ball park figure to give you a better idea of the role, and to manage your expectations.
Newly qualified solicitors in a regional firm or small, commercial practice can expect to earn somewhere within the region of £20,000 to £40,000. These salaries will be much higher in the City, in particular with Magic Circle firms like Slaughter and May who pay in excess of £60,000. Again, a wide range of benefits are on offer. For example, Hogan Lovells offers holiday trading, a bike hire scheme, retail vouchers and charitable giving.
You will notice a considerable variation in salary range depending on the sector you are working for. American law firms offer hugely competitive salaries, but don’t forget that with this comes an enormous workload and long hours.
In 2011, the minimum salary for pupil barristers was set at £12,000. For some, this may prove a particular challenge, especially when factoring in course fees which could be between £25,000 and £35,000. On the flip side of that, some barristers will pay a lot more, particularly if you look to join chambers that are in London. Do some research on the kind of chambers you are looking to join to see what you should expect in terms of remuneration.
As with all salaries in the legal sector, practising barrister salaries are very varied dependent on the type of work and level of experience. Salaries in this field can start as low as £12,000 and rise as high as £90,000. In some cases, barristers may be paid a daily rate for criminal work, but this rate will increase as level of experience develops and exposure to clients and cases increase. Employed barristers receive salaries determined by their employer which are usually based on market rates. Salaries for these barristers vary far less than for their self-employed counterparts.
While having an awareness of what sort of salary to expect, remember that it is only one factor to consider when applying to graduate jobs.
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