Four-fold hike for legal salaries

Salaries in private practice have risen by an average of four times the inflation rate over the past year, according to a survey by The Lawyer and Michael Page Legal.

The survey shows a range of increases between three and 18 per cent, together with a buoyant market in which quality non-contentious lawyers are in high demand.

On average, a London lawyer took home 12 per cent more pay in 1998 than the year before.

To command the largest salary, you should head for a US firm based in London, where a newly-qualified solicitor earns on average £53,000 compared to £31,000 in a UK firm of less than 40 partners.

In the in-house sector of the profession the news is also good, with 58 per cent of the companies surveyed having increased the size of their legal team in the past year.

However, the overall size of the in-house department stays small, with only 8 per cent having more than eight lawyers. It continues to take the majority of its recruits from those in private practice, with two to five years post-qualification experience.

For those looking at moving to in-house work, but unwilling to take a salary cut, the banking and property sector are worth a look.

In the former, the average starting salary in London is £36,000, rising to £102,250 after 10 years, while the latter starts at the same level, but does not rise quite as high, to £65,000.

The survey covered the top 200 firms in the UK and a broad spread of companies, banks and financial institutions.

Peter Thompson, managing partner at recruitment consultants Michael Page, says it is still a candidate's market within the legal profession, with US firms pushing salaries upwards.

“The US firms, which are directly competing with leading London firms, are creating another pressure in the market and some of the top 10 London firms are tending to up salaries to relieve the pressure.

“There is still a skill shortage in some areas, which tends also to be in the more profitable areas such as banking, corporate finance and IT/IP.”

Thompson says in the short term the market will continue to grow, although at a slower pace, but its future depends on the global economy.