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Friday, April 15, 2016

Lawyers identified as high earners by the BBC - surely some mistake?

Recently the BBC did a study on salaries to be expected by graduates entering the different professions ( - this was in the context of analysing how much junior doctors were paid. Lawyers came out top and the BBC gave an average starting salary of £37k.

This week the Law Society Gazette have given exposure to a pretty obvious press release from an investment company, Bower Cotton, who had done a far reaching study of c.100 lawyers to determine that over 40% were going to rely on property to fund their retirement. I suspect that the press release has been copied word for word into the Gazette! The article also refers to it being possible for lawyers to be 'amongst the top earners' and having a good amount to invest.

Both of these are strong evidence of either a high level of ignorance or a total lack of interest in checking facts before producing articles. Quite how the BBC got to the average they did in their article is not clear. Working with hundreds of smaller sized and fairly normal/average solicitors firms gives us the awareness that the majority of lawyers will not have seen salaries similar to those quoted in the article in the first 5 years of their career.

Furthermore, the vast majority of private practice solicitors are not going to be amongst the top earners. Most are more likely to be extremely average - £30-40k is the expected level of salary for most solicitors working on the high street in law firms throughout their careers. It is unclear whether many lawyers have undertaken any retirement planning at all. What do you do to gain an income on retirement if your monthly income is too low to do much more than pay the mortgage and keep the family fed and in clothes?

I am not sure who has a vested interest in promoting the high salary figures, which in my experience only apply to large national law firms or London City law firms. Providers of the Legal Practice Course and the LLB? The profession generally? After all it benefits us all to have the pool of applicants as large as possible in order to keep salaries low.

I look forward to the day when I read an article that starts "Revealed - most lawyers earn less than teachers and police officers - contrary to popular opinion".
Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment and a non-practising Solicitor. Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment provides online Legal Recruitment for Solicitors, Legal Executives, Fee Earners, Support Staff, Managers and Paralegals. Visit our Website to search our Vacancy Database. 

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