Lawyers and a reality cheque

One of the most depressing comments I heard recently was by an otherwise highly intelligent and engaging magic circle corporate partner. “Us lawyers are at the bottom of the pile now,” he said, referring to his remuneration.

He earns, dear reader, more than £1m a year.



One of the most depressing comments I heard recently was by an otherwise highly intelligent and engaging magic circle corporate partner. “Us lawyers are at the bottom of the pile now,” he said, referring to his remuneration.

He earns, dear reader, more than £1m a year.

It’s times like these when we ought to launch a campaign targeted at certain senior City lawyers called ‘Go Home And Get Some Perspective’. This might involve a couple of hours waiting in an NHS hospital and a tour of a state secondary school, but other suggestions are welcome.

According to a recent report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, only 47,000 UK taxpayers earn more than £350,000 compared with the average across all taxpayers of £25,000. The report stated that nine out of 10 of that 47,000 are male, disproportionately likely to live in the South East and likely to have a job in finance, property or law.

This politics of envy we constantly hear about seems to to afflict lawyers at the richer end of the profession the worst. Too many worry constantly that their banker mates are earning more, have bigger houses than them and sleeker cars.

If and when City institutions start laying people off this year it will coincide with the top law firms announcing spectacular profits (for yes, every magic circle firm is on course to break last year’s profit per equity partner records). So sit back and wait for certain sections of the national media to give them a kicking, and with hobnailed boots.

Luckily, there’s a trend developing that may mitigate any tabloid onslaught: the corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. For example, Freshfields has just launched its second CSR report (see page 6), in which it lays itself open to scrutiny on ethical grounds. Plenty of firms have community programmes that are exceptionally well executed. They deserve recognition. At The Lawyer we’ll be turning our attention to some of these schemes in the coming months.

As for that corporate lawyer bemoaning his remuneration? He should stop hanging out with investment bankers and go to the pub with some teachers. He’ll feel like Bill Gates.