Chambers overtake law firms in pay battle for junior talent

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  • Is this article seriously comparing regional NQ salaries with the pupillage salaries at London's top sets?

    Lets get realistic. The like-for-like salary comparison is still very much in favour of the fledgling solicitor. A pupil at 20 Park Place Cardiff earns c.£15,000 p/a basic when compared to the £23.500 on offer for first year trainees at Eversheds' Cardiff office. In the City, a Cameron McKenna NQ will still earn in excess of £60,000, and Camerons are not even in the Magic Circle.

    Becoming a barrister is still a very unattractive prospect given the comparatively sub-par wage and the even longer odds on securing pupillage versus the Training Contract. Add to this the increased cost of the BVC and it's a no-brainer.

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  • Is the headline attracting pay hike just a timely move on the chess board by the Barrister Generals to distance themselves from the modernisation of legal services in order to save their wigs. My prediction is that when the wigs leave the heads of counsel the Barristers profession will be under the control of the shadowy people behind Tesco law.

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  • Pupil barrister vs NQ is not the correct comparison. A Cameron McKenna NQ (2 years' experience at a law firm) will earn substantially less than a barrister of 2 years' call at One Essex Court.

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  • Barrister v Solicitor, your post seems almost completely unfounded, you fail to compare like for like. Nor, may I add, do you take note of the specific focus of the piece.
    What we are here concerned with is the Salary cuts of the solicitors profession juxtaposed by the increases in City Pupillage salary. I fail to read in any "comparison" between these two figures. Instead, I merely read a dichotomy, perhaps owing to the differing nature of the roles concerned. Broadly, recession inspires litigation, depending on sector. Given many solicitors act on a large number of non contentious matters, they are hardly likely to deal with the regular litigators to be found at the Bar.
    In response to your "like for like" comparison, shall we actually compare "like for like", instead of Camerons, a silver circle firm, with a similar standing barristers set. I shall point you to an example - Serle Court. Pupillage - 45k, higher than a CMS trainee I do believe. Guaranteed earnings during first two years of practice? 150k. This somewhat dwarfs the fledgling CMS NQ take home of 60k a year.
    A good junior at the equivalent to a Magic Circle firm can cound himself unlucky if he takes home less than 100k during his first year - a period, I might add, in which the fledgling solicitor will still be a trainee and perhaps earning over 50% less than this figure.
    I do, however, accept your point regarding the provinical bar.

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  • What I would like to know is how much barristers at these top sets earn after the first 12 months. After two years training, solicitors in major city firm earn approximately 65K and some US firms even hike it up to 90K. Something tells me that barristers who have just completed pupillage do not earn quite so much....

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  • Re: BVCer
    I must confess that I originally skim read the article during my lunch break and originally took the £60k One Essex Court figure to be post pupillage. The CMS comparison is indeed therefore a red herring. I also meant to write 30 Park Place Cardiff as opposed to 20 Park Place.
    However, apart from these points I largely stand by my post. The headline reads "pupils overtake law firms in pay battle for junior talent" and then conflates two separate issues to support what, in effect, I perceive to be a "barristers get one over on solicitors" piece. The inclusion of the word "battle" immediately makes it a comparison as opposed to observational commentary on a dichotomy.
    Juxtaposing regional NQ wage cuts with the creme de la creme pupillage wage increase (which most sets do not offer) is misleading. If anything, a premium on pupillage wage is well overdue as a counter to the £15k+ BVC debt (given that the LPC debt is covered by many law firms). This is not an extraordinary move and does not represent chambers breaking new ground in the frontiers of law, although it is undeniably ground breaking for the Bar.
    The number of sets who can offer the figures you speak of are very small when compared to the vast array of US and City firms who can offer a variety of more easily accessible places and still provide a decent wage. You also overlook the fact that billed earnings for a given period are artificial given the lag in payment. Give me an upfront wage any day.
    Although I admire the lifestyle of a barrister and it would be nice sometimes to be one's own man instead of working in the same team as an irritating moron, the better aligned risk/reward ratio of becoming a solicitor is far more attractive.
    I must add that I do like your style, very persuasive. You should make a good barrister.

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  • Mary J - your query how much barristers at top sets are earning after the first 12 months ... suggesting it is unlikely to be more than 65k. New juniors at top sets are likely to just about double this following pupillage. They will often be taken on as juniors to experienced leads in big cases, which will take a great deal of time in preparation, case management, research, reading in and a like.
    As an example, shall we say that a junior at a top set charges a rate of £100 per hour (A figure perhaps a little on the low side for a top chambers, but it makes the maths easier). Supposing he or she works a 36 hour chargable week ... not a very long one by anybody's standards, especially not a barristers. The sum for the week is £3600. 3600 x 4 = £14,400pm. Multiply this by 12 and we arrive at £172,800. From this figure, one must deduct clerk's fees etc that will probably amount to somewhere in the region of 40%. So, 40% of £172,800 amounts to £103,680, take home pay. A little higher than most NQs I imagine. What this figures fails to take account of is the large reading in fees pre trial and the court fees, all of which will bump the figure up considerably.
    Barrister v Solicitor - I take your points, although I do stress that I feel the title of the piece is a little misleading. The arguement that the "top talent" battle should occur between regional solicitors firms and the creme de la creme of the bar is far fetched at best, I must agree.
    However, the £15k+ debt of the BVC is offset by those who gain pupillage prior to the BVC,as they will be awarded a certain amount of money by chambers for this year. You also fail to take account of those winning scholarships from the Inns of Court, which will often cover the majority of the course fees.
    Whilst the numbers in question are small, it represents the differing nature of the Bar and the Solicitors profession. By comparison, pupillage places a Chambers will be limited to perhaps 2 or 5 at some of the bigger sets. Top firms will offer up to 100 places. I suppose anything that is worth doing is competitive.
    Lagged earnings tend to be a fact of live, I guess one has to like it or lump it!

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  • "However, the £15k+ debt of the BVC is offset by those who gain pupillage prior to the BVC,as they will be awarded a certain amount of money by chambers for this year. "
    That's not in fact the case. Barrister v Solicitor was correct. Those who gain pupillage prior to the BVC are not awarded a separate amount of money for the year (as GDL/LPC students who gain training contracts are). Some sets, where the money allows, will allow such BVC students to draw down a part of their pupillage award in advance to cover the fees (or other costs), but they do not award more money. For e.g. a commercial set awarding say £40,000 might allow £15,000 to be drawn down early to cover fees, but then during pupillage year the award will be reduced to £25,000.
    As for Inn scholarships - there are quite a lot of these, and some of them are very generous and will cover BVC fees to a degree. However, by no means a majority of BVC students have scholarships, and of those that do, few will have large scholarships amounting to more than "the majority of the course fees".

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  • I am yet to start my conversion course to law and so offer an input from an undoubtedly limited view point. However, the argument, as above, seems to be missing the point that one who chooses to commence a life at the bar, does so with the view to perhaps starting low but raising in not only terms of salary but in quality of practice and recognition as a successful individual rather than ‘working in the same team as an irritating moron’ (re: Barristers v Solicitors).
    Pay may traditionally be lower initially as a pupil in Chambers (on a relevant like-for-like basis) but the rewards in autonomy, quality of life through one’s own time management and a later hike in pay upon success in one’s chosen field, are surely not arguments missed by those wanting to make a life for themselves at the bar. I do not accept, without evidence, that pupils rather than NQs misjudge their calculations when summing up costs for training .v. future remuneration in relation to the costs of a trainee solicitor, but offer the more realistic argument that one would do so with a view to future financial success surpassing their solicitor counterparts not dislike the view to holding off spending in light of then having the finances for a future rainy day.
    Following a career in law is surely arduous and time consuming enough to offer the privilege of being ‘one’s own man’?

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  • "That's not in fact the case. Barrister v Solicitor was correct" - Perhaps in your opinion, however I would suggest you do not make such assertions lightly, especially as a lawyer.

    I feel you misread the post of BVCer. The fact that the money is a draw down does not impact upon the fact that he helps to offset the fees of the Bar. In fact, barristers chambers often base their awards for pupillage on the amount they deem fit to be taken as draw down - say they award £45,000 for pupillage, they will see it fit to give the pupil £15,000 of this for their BVC. There was no suggetsion that this is a seperate amount of money - I suggest you read more precisely, after all that is the art of being a lawyer.

    Further, just as their are a lot of scholarships, it is true that not everybody will get these. However, the same is true of training contracts - there are a lot but not everybody will get one and secure finanical aid. Perhaps it is worth remembering this? I thus tend to agree more readily with BVCer.

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