Law firms beat banks on graduate pay

Law firms beat banks on graduate payTrainee solicitors are the highest paid graduates in the UK, according to a new survey published today (8 July).

The median starting salaries for trainee solicitors in 2008 is £36,500, putting law ahead of investment banking for the first time, according to the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) summer survey.

The median graduate salaries paid by investment banks and fund managers is £35,000. The average graduate salary across all sectors has increased by a modest 1.8 per cent from £24,063 in 2007 to £24,500 this year.

Simon Pilcher, graduate recruitment partner at CMS Cameron McKenna, said he was not surprised by the survey’s findings.

“I’m not sure that this will be sustained in the long-term. Investment banking salaries track prevailing market conditions more closely than law firms’,” added Pilcher.

Many of the larger employers in the legal sector, however, pay their first year trainee solicitors above the AGR average despite a number of large City firms announcing below inflation pay rises for their junior lawyers.

As highlighted in the salary index magic circle firms Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Linklaters pay their new joiners £37,000, £37,400, £39,000 and £37,400 respectively.

US firms, including Bingham McCutchen, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and Debevosie & Plimpton pay their first year trainees £40,000, while trainees joining Weil Gotshal & Manges and White & Case will receive starting salaries of £41,000.

Baker & McKenzie graduate recruitment partner Vincent Keaveny said: “The big jumps in trainee pay during the last decade have often been triggered by external factors such as the dotcom boom. There are currently no such pressures to boost salaries. That said, firms still have to be mindful of what their competitors are paying.”

He added: “Investment banking is a career with real peaks and troughs. During the peak periods the pay is very good but bankers do have to work really hard for it but when things go down it can get very bad.”

The credit crunch has not impacted on the number of graduate positions available, according to the survey, which revealed vacancies for university leavers will rise by 11.7 per cent on 2007. Though growth in vacancies has slowed slightly, almost three-fifths of employers surveyed by the AGR expected to report an increase in vacancies in 2008.

The top recruiting sectors continue to be accountancy and banking, which between them offer more than a third of all vacancies. The legal sector, meanwhile, makes up 7.4 per cent of the vacancies at AGR members.

To compare graduate salaries at top firms, see our salary index