Partners in the small law firms remain severely hit by falling incomes, with salaries and drawings plummeting by an average of £25,250 since 1992.
The figures come from annual research by recruitment consultants Garfield Robbins. Partner Nick Robbins said: “There are small firms, relatively general practices, who are in severe difficulties.”
Mergers would continue to be sought by hard-hit small firms, Robbins said.
Salaries in small firms (those with less than 25 partners) fell by 3 per cent over the last 12 months, averaging £1,214. But this was in addition to a fall of 8 per cent (£3,000) in September 1994.
The majority of this reduction has been with junior partners who suffered a 12 per cent drop (£7,157) since September 1994.
Meanwhile the salary gap between small firms and the medium to large practices is increasing, according to Garfield Robbins' figures.
In medium firms (25-70 partners), salaries increased by 12 per cent (averaging £4,058) since September 1994, compensating for the fall of £3,200 the previous year.
In large firms (70-plus partners), salaries increased by 8 per cent, an average rise of £3,145 since September 1994, and an 11 per cent (£4,186) rise since September 1993.
For younger lawyers, salaries in large firms rose by 10, 15 and 11 per cent for four and five years qualified and junior partner level respectively.