Legal Recruitment from Ten-Percent Legal

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Solicitors' salaries - them and us

We had a call yesterday from a newly qualified employment solicitor. We had sent her a job that had come in a few days ago for an employment lawyer. These days we try to avoid giving age discrimination for discrimination and specify a specific range. As a result, I had sent this post out to a newly qualified but phoned up to check that there hadn’t been a printing mistake in the email. The salary range given was about £30,000 to £35,000 but the candidate wanted to know why that was so when the recommended salary levels for an newly qualified solicitor in a central London practice were £40,000 upwards. I explained to her that the salary given was actually for somebody two to four years qualified, if not higher and was also on a part time basis so would be pro-rata down even further. The solicitor thought that this was ridiculous and questioned whether anyone would actually apply for such a post. I explained that I had had over 20 responses to the vacancy email and that the reason for her surprise was because she lived in a different world. I realised afterwards that this might have been a little rude, but it is very true.

In the legal profession there are two separate worlds. World number one is the legal profession that exists on the high street and in commercial practices either recently established or away from the big corporate clients dealt with by the City firms.

World number two is the corporate firms of the City of London and the larger regional practices.

Both worlds co-exist at the same time but occasionally vacancies such as employment cross over between the two and these anomalies come into play.

A salary review she had probably seen for newly qualifieds in London was probably very accurate if she was going to work for a big London firm.

It would be wholly inaccurate if it was for a newly qualified working on the high street.

I explained this to the candidate who I am not sure believed me.

She could not understand how a three year qualified solicitor could earn £35,000 and be happy with it.

I explained that I did not condone the salaries that were paid by some firms as some work truly shocking, but it really depends on the billing levels of a particular firm and department. If a newly qualified employment solicitor was going to generate £300,000 in bills, then clearly their salary would be closer to the £100,000 mark.

However, if a newly qualified was going to only bill £100,000 per year, then their salary would definitely be around the £30,000 if not lower.

It is a harsh reality that often phases such candidates who perhaps are unable to find a post with one of the firms paying particularly well and find out that the drop is very dramatic between that and the rest of the world. That it is just not feasible for them to consider.

This candidate in fact would be earning more as a trainee solicitor than she would if she took this particular post.

I should add that even if she had gone for this post that I’m almost certain the firm would have rejected her for lack of experience and this is quite an interesting situation to be in.

She would have been competing against two to four year qualified solicitors who would not have made an issue of the salary as they were keen on the area and the type of law being dealt with.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of www.ten-percent.co.uk (Legal Recruitment Consultants in the UK and internationally including off-shore). You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk .

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