Accessibility Links

Can a legal specialism influence your salary?

Posted by: Laurence Simons 16/02/16

The legal sector has enjoyed a long-standing history as a bastion of the global economy, with professionals being rewarded – often handsomely – for important and intensive work. However, Emolument, a crowdsourced pay data platform, recently threw a spanner in the works by releasing research which suggested that certain legal specialisms can significantly impact the earning potential of young lawyers.

The results revealed that associate lawyers in the UK can expect to earn an average of £55,000 more per year if they work in leveraged and acquisition finance (£90,000) than if they work for private clients (£45,000). Associates specialising in investment funds (£82,000), derivatives and structured finance (£72,000) and compliance and regulation (£70,000) are greatly out-performing peers in taxation and trusts, employment and pension and commercial law, all of which average on or below £55,000 per year.

This is interesting data, but perhaps what has also caught many people’s eyes is the revelation that base salaries for UK lawyers have actually fallen overall by around 40% in the last few years. According to Emolument, none more so than in-house, where professionals can expect to earn roughly £8,000 less than their peers working in private practices. And this disparity seems to continue throughout many lawyers’ careers as those with more than 15 years’ experience can expect to earn an average of £70,000 per year in-house, or £97,000 per year in a private practice.

However, there is an exception to this rule and in-house lawyers within banking and financial services often earn more than colleagues in private practices, with an average annual salary of £50,000.

But what does this mean for you? Well, aside from being interesting for junior lawyers to consider, it also broaches the subject of remuneration across the board – a topic which has been in the public eye for a long time, especially as increasing numbers of people campaign for equal pay between genders. So maybe this survey is the start of a new culture of salary transparency – or at least a step in the right direction.