For much of the last 12 months, inflation has been above 10%, putting pressure on pockets and motivating lawyers to make sure that they are paid what they’re worth.
We recently released our Summer 2023 practice area salary guides to help you understand where you sit compared to your peers. While you may now understand what you should be earning, you might be wondering about the kinds of things that can impact your salary.
Here we explore the main things that can affect how much you earn as a legal professional.
Your practice area and the nature of work you deal with
Because of the nature (and value) of the work involved, commercial practice areas like real estate, litigation or corporate tend to pay better than private practice areas like residential conveyancing, and family law.
The type and complexity of work you handle day-to-day will also impact your market worth. In personal injury and clinical negligence, for instance, lawyers that routinely deal with high-value and complex claims can command a higher salary.
Unsurprisingly, a lawyer’s salary is directly linked to the level of experience you have; as you develop and gain more experience, the amount you earn should increase too.
Where you work in the country will also play a part in how much you can earn. As is the case in most industries, salaries in London are higher than in the North and elsewhere. Traditionally, pay in the North West and Midlands tended to be higher than in Yorkshire, but nowadays there’s less of a difference between the regions, particularly in practice areas where there is a shortage of lawyers looking to move.
The type of firm you’re at
The type of firm you decide to join will also determine how much you earn. National or international firms tend to pay the most. However, it is worth bearing in mind that while these firms offer the highest salaries, they tend to expect higher billing and more chargeable hours.
In comparison, smaller regional or boutique practices may pay slightly less but often offer their lawyers more manageable caseloads and greater flexibility about how, when and where they work.
If you’re looking for the best of both worlds, there are opportunities to accelerate your earnings even more by joining a fee-share model firm. As a consultant or self-employed lawyer at a fee-share firm, individuals can take home up to 80% of what they bill, while working the same hours (or even less) than they would at a traditional law firm. At Realm, we work with several law firms that operate in this way; if you would like to learn more, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our specialist recruitment consultants.
Unfortunately, one of the main factors that will influence how much you are paid is something that is out of your control – the state of the market. The economic climate and how many lawyers are active on the jobs market all impact how much firms are willing to pay for talent.
Market conditions within specific practice areas can also play a part. For instance, following the COVID pandemic, there was high demand within private client law but only a small percentage of lawyers looking to move. This drove up salaries for private client lawyers, as law firms were prepared to pay more for the talent they needed to meet their commercial aims and drive profitability.
What else you can bring to the table
Have you completed a professional qualification such as STEP? Are you an excellent biller? Or are you an exceptional networker with lots of useful contacts (or even a following)? If you can bring something extra to the table in addition to your experience and legal expertise, this will boost your earning potential (and make you very attractive to firms).
Looking for more advice on your salary?
At Realm, we’re not just recruiters – we’re legal career advisors. We’re here for you even when you don’t want to move. If you would like to receive more tailored in-depth information about your salary or earning potential) or are looking for help preparing for a conversation with your employer about your pay, we’re here to help.