How much do lawyers earn?

Jemma Smith, Editor
July, 2023

Did you know that lawyers' salaries are some of the highest in the country? What you take home largely depends on your practice area, firm and location but on the whole starting salaries are impressive. Discover how much solicitors and barristers make

At a glance

  • Trainees in London earn more than those working outside the capital.
  • You'll earn less in smaller firms but will likely rise up the ladder quicker.
  • USA based firms pay the highest trainee and newly-qualified salaries, followed by Magic Circle then City firms.
  • Newly-qualified salaries rise year-on-year as you gain experience.
  • You'll find the highest salaries in areas such as commercial and corporate law, while family and personal injury law are less likely to draw big-figure salaries.

How much are trainee lawyers paid?

Technically there is no official minimum salary for trainee lawyers, however The Law Society recommends a minimum of £23,703 for those training in London and £21,024 for trainees elsewhere in the country.

In reality, trainee lawyer salaries vary across the UK and your location is one of the biggest factors affecting what you'll earn.

Firms in London often pay trainees above and beyond the recommended minimum. For example, the Magic Circle - comprised of Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfield Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters and Slaughter and May - London's five most prestigious law firms currently offer first year trainees salaries of £50,000. Once trainees reach their second-year salaries rise to £55,000.

However, it's the USA-based firms (usually found in London) that pay the most impressive wages. For example, White & Case pay first-year trainee solicitors £52,000. This figure rises to £57,000 in the second year. Kirkland and Ellis pay their first year trainees £60,000, rising to £65,000 in the second year and Shearman and Sterling pay £55,000 and £60,000 respectively.

While firms outside the capital tend to pay less, their pay packets are not to be dismissed. First-year trainee salaries in regional law firms range from £20,000 to £40,000. High street firms typically offer training salaries of £20,000 to £30,000.

Trainee salaries in Scotland are typically lower than the rest of the UK - the Law Society of Scotland's recommended rate is £22,550 for first-year trainees and £26,125 in the second year. To find out more, see solicitor, Scotland.

Trainee solicitors are expected to work long and tiring hours and, at the start of your training contract, client contact will be minimal and the majority of your tasks will be administrative. Qualifying as a solicitor is a long process and the training contract is often the final hurdle. As such, many trainees, especially those at City or Magic Circle firms, are rewarded with high salaries. Read more about the reality of working in law.

Search for law training contracts.

According to the Bar Standards Board (BSB) the current stipulated minimum award for pupil barristers (those completing a one-year pupillage) is £20,703 for pupillages in London and £18,884 for those outside the capital. However, chambers may pay more than this. For example, Blackstone Chambers will offer pupillage awards in 2024 of £75,000, while One Essex Court will offer £80,000 to pupils commencing in 2024/25.

How much are lawyers salaries after qualifying?

As a newly qualified (NQ) lawyer it's likely you'll see a considerable jump in your earnings.

Unsurprisingly newly qualified Magic Circle solicitors take home some of the highest salaries. Slaughter and May's NQs earn £115,000 per annum. Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields and Linklaters top this at £125,000.

USA-based firms also offer high remuneration packages to their newly qualified lawyers:

  • White & Case pay recently qualified lawyers £140,000.
  • Kirkland & Ellis and Latham & Watkins pay their newly qualified solicitors £172,00.

As well as higher rates of pay, working for an international firm opens you up to opportunities for travel and work abroad.

Working at a City firm your work/life balance may be compromised but your salary is sure to reflect your hard work. For example:

  • Ashurst - £105,000
  • CMS - £100,000 (London), £65,000 (Bristol)
  • Dentons - £92,000, (London)
  • Hogan Lovells - £107,500 (London), £46,000 (Birmingham)
  • Norton Rose Fulbright - £105,000
  • RPC - £56,000 to £80,000.

You can expect these figures to rise year-on-year as you gain post-qualified experience (PQE). If you become the partner of a firm your salary could potentially reach in excess of £150,000.

To find out more about Magic Circle, USA-based and City firms, see top UK law firms.

You'll earn less elsewhere in the country and at smaller firms but will likely progress up the ladder quicker and be given more responsibility earlier on in your career. Salaries for newly qualified lawyers across the rest of the UK are in the region of £28,000 to £61,000.

As a newly qualified solicitor in Scotland, you can expect to be paid around £30,000 rising to £38,000, depending on your area of private practice or whether you're working in house. This can increase to between £36,000 and £62,000 after three years' experience depending on your area of expertise.

Barristers earnings vary widely. Qualified barristers can take home anything between £50,000 and £200,000.

Which areas of law pay the most?

Along with your geographical location, the area of law you choose to specialise in can have a big impact on your earnings.

You'll find the highest salaries in practise areas that deal with high-profile companies on national and international scales, such as commercial, corporate and EU law.

At the other end of the scale, more personal areas of law are less likely to draw big-figure salaries, as are lawyers working on more local cases in high street firms. Personal injury and family lawyers are two types of law that fall into this group.

However, no matter which specialism you choose, employees in the law sector enjoy some of the highest salaries in the country, with many firms offering bonuses and generous pay rises, as well as benefits such as health insurance, gym memberships and travel subsidies.

And remember, while it's tempting to let salary information dictate your career choices, don't let the figures deter you from pursuing an area of law that you're really passionate about.

Money isn't everything and there are plenty of other things to take into consideration when mapping out your law career. For example, weighing up which qualification route is right for you, which areas of law hold your interest, what type of firm is the best fit and what kind of working culture you’d like to be a part of (working hours, work/life balance etc).

Find out more

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