Solicitors’ Incomes UK: How Much Do Solicitors Earn UK?
If you have ever been represented by a solicitor or you are thinking of joining the profession, you may be wondering about salary levels. We take a look at the steps to becoming a solicitor and answer the question, ‘How much do solicitors earn UK?’
What Is A Solicitor’s Income Based Upon?
The amount solicitors earn varies widely, depending on several factors. These include:
- The level of experience they have
- The area of law that they specialist in
- What type of law firm or whether a solicitor is working in-house
- The size of law firm or business
- Position held, such as newly qualified solicitor, solicitor, associate, partner or equity partner
Level Of Experience
The most common route to becoming a solicitor involves obtaining a law degree and then doing a Legal Practice Course. After this, a trainee solicitor will join a law firm on a two-year training contract. During this time, a trainee will usually have four six-month ‘seats’ in different departments to give them the widest possible experience.
This will give them a chance to try out several areas of law to see which is the best fit and also gives the law firm the chance to assess them in different positions.
The amount paid to a trainee solicitor during these two years will depend on the size and type of the business, whether it is a law firm, public sector employer or other business. Salaries will also tend to be higher in London.
The solicitors’ governing body, The Law Society, recommends that those providing training contracts should pay a minimum of £23,703 per annum for trainees in London and £21,024 outside of London. Major law firms in London often pay more than six figure starting salaries!
Once a solicitor has qualified, their chosen practice area can make a big difference to the salary they will receive. Corporate and commercial lawyers often make over £100,000 per year.
The lowest-paid areas include personal injury, immigration and family law. Estimates vary, but a personal injury solicitor could be paid £38,000 – £43,000 per annum, an immigration solicitor £34,000 – £52,000 and a family lawyer £40,000 – £50,000.
Criminal solicitors earn around £52,500 in London and £32,000-£42,000 elsewhere.
These are only averages, so some solicitors will earn a lot less than these amounts and some a lot more.
Location can make a big difference, not just because of larger fees in wealthier areas of the country, but also because there will be more work available in busy places. A city firm that attracts a large amount of work could provide a large number of working hours for each of its solicitors, while a rural practice could have a much slower pace and consequently lower salaries.
Law Firm Or In-House?
In-house lawyers who work for businesses rather than for law firms can earn excellent salaries. The Office for National Statistics said that in 2016, in-house lawyers were the six-highest earning profession in the UK. The average salary was just over £80,000 per year. The bottom tenth percentile were on just over £36,600 while the top 75th percentile were on nearly £94,500.
Senior in-house lawyers were earning around £165,000 at this time and it is often seen as a slightly gentler pace than being a partner in a major law firm where pressure can be substantial.
The size of the law firm or business can make a substantial difference to the level of work a solicitor takes on as well as the salary they are paid.
A small law firm will tend to take on smaller jobs for smaller clients and not have access to the large sums paid by big corporations. Similarly, smaller businesses will not necessarily need the level of expertise of large companies and so in-house counsel will be paid a lower amount.
The largest London law firms have the power to pay huge salaries of several hundred thousand pounds upwards.
How Much Do Solicitors Earn UK Depending On Position Held?
After a trainee solicitor qualifies and becomes a newly qualified solicitor, they can work to advance their position over the coming years. The next step is generally to become an associate solicitor, then a partner, then an equity partner.
Newly qualified solicitors earn around £28,000 – £61,000 outside of London, with those in London earning more, depending on the size of the firm. So-called Magic Circle firms, the largest five law firms, pay newly qualified solicitors between £107,000 and £125,000.
The Law Society figures for average solicitor salaries in 2018 are:
- Greater London £88,000
- South £56,000
- Midlands and Wales £46,000
- North £43,000
Around half received a bonus of between £5,000 and £10,000.
The next stage for an associate solicitor is becoming a salaried partner. The average countrywide salary according to Law Society figures is £75,000, although this varies widely depending on the firm and location.
Finally, buying into a law firm and becoming an equity partner is likely to increase income substantially. While the Law Society’s average countrywide figure is £130,000, those at large City firms are earning between £1m and £2m each year.
In London, it is estimated that 75% of partners earn over £250,000. Average total pay is around £600,000. The top 17% earned over £1m and the top 2% took home over £2m.
Equity partners’ income is based on a share of their law firm’s profits and can also be based on a lockstep agreement giving a larger share to partners who have worked there the longest.
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