A career as a solicitor appeals to some people because it is seen as a role with a relatively high salary. However, if you are planning on becoming a solicitor purely for the money, you should remember that not all solicitors are paid equally.
The salary that you receive will often depend on how whether you have a specialism, what stage of your career you are at, and where in the country you work. Here is some further information on the pay scales associated with solicitor roles in the United Kingdom:
Whilst you are on a training contract, and not fully qualified, you should expect to be earning much less than your qualified peers. At present the only requirement is that trainees are paid at least minimum wage, however many law firms will pay their trainees more than this.
Previously, minimum salary levels were set by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).However these minimums were gradually phased out between 2011 and 2014. Up until 2011, the SRA had given a minimum salary requirement for trainees as £16, 650 per annum (with a recommended rate of £16,940) for trainees working outside London, and a rate of £18,590 per annum (with a recommended rate of £19,040) for those working in Central London. Although these requirements are no longer in force, many training contracts provided by reputable law firms will still be prepared to offer around this level of salary.
Private firms tend to be able to offer higher training contract salaries to trainees than public or third-sector firms are able to offer. Those who are able to secure training contracts at larger, international law firms are often able to get training contracts which are worth far more. For example, first year trainees working at Clifford Chance in London in 2012 were earning about £38,000, rising to £43,000 in their second year. Those who got contracts at Linklaters in London earned around £39,000 in the same year.
Places at these well-known firms are highly competitive, and those who are offered contracts should be prepared to work very hard during the period of their training contract.
Low level starting salaries for newly qualified solicitors tend to begin at around £20,000. Solicitors with a specialism or those who have been practicing for longer, can expect their salaries to raise as high as £75,000. These figures are usually higher for solicitors who are living and working in London.
In general, salaries will increase over time as newly qualified solicitors gain more experience.
The most lucrative job roles for solicitors tend to be those who have taken on a role as a partner in a firm. These people can earn over £100,000 including taking their share of the profits of that firm. However, partners can also be required to take cuts if the firm has not been profitable that financial year. Partner positions can be high risk in smaller firms.
Solicitors at larger firms are also usually offered a wide range of benefits to supplement their salaries. These may include pensions contributions, insurance, travel loans, support for funding further qualifications, generous paid holiday allowances, potential for additional unpaid leave, bonuses, health and dental support, health and wellbeing grants.
Some solicitors also work on a commission basis. Whilst they will get a basic annual salary, which covers at least the minimum wage, they will also earn additional commission based on the outcome of cases that they work on. This can be a pre-arranged fee for winning a case, or it could be a cut of the final compensation award amount. Those working on a commission basis have very mixed fortunes.
A Note on Pay
Solicitor roles tend to be salaried jobs, meaning that workers will normally get a fixed amount, regardless of how many hours they work, or whether those hours are unsociable.
Solicitors are often expected to work up to 12 hour days, and they may be forced to work in the middle of the night, if something unexpected arises. If you are working as a solicitor, you will be expected to accept this as a condition of employment, without receiving overtime pay.