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ASSISTANT solicitors in the City are enjoying average pay increases of four times the rate of inflation, according to a survey conducted by recruiters Michael Page Legal, in conjunction with The Lawyer.
The survey, of the top 200 firms in the UK, shows that solicitors are taking advantage of a seller's market to receive average pay rises of between 10 and 15 per cent.
In the most profitable City firms they are getting rises of as much as 20 per cent.
Peter Thompson, manager of Michael Page Legal's consultancy division, said the large increases were a result of "a candidate-led market".
He pointed to a shortage of suitably qualified assistants with one-to-five years' experience in key areas such as corporate finance, property and banking, and the tremendous competition between City firms, banks and US practices for the best lawyers.
Thompson said firms were prepared to pay for the increases because their profits were high and "they want to keep their best people".
The biggest increases went to assistants who stepped up a band of experience at the same time as the pay for that band was increased.
Despite the increases, however, the gap between City and US firms is still wide.
A typical salary for a four-year qualified assistant with a City firm with 40 partners is £50,000 compared with £75,000 at a US practice.