Salary Myths and the Legal Profession
The legal profession is plagued by salary myths. How many times have high street solicitors been speaking to acquaintances and informed that as they are a solicitor they must be earning loads of money, at least 6 figures? How many law students still start their degree course thinking that once they qualify their salary will be at least £60k so well worth spending the £20k or so on the LPC? Do the general public really understand that once legal aid is gone they will need to pay proper hourly rates to get a lawyer to represent them in court rather than the amounts worked out prior to 1992 that are less than a car mechanic earns?
Recently the Law Society ran an advertising campaign pointing out the benefits of using a solicitor. I wonder if it is time they ran a campaign to demonstrate the realities of a legal career and the prospects a potential solicitor will have when they qualify? I remember my wife was recently in discussion with a friend who thought that a solicitor earnt at least £100k per annum because she had seen this figure in the press. The friend did not appear able to accept that wages of £40k were considered good by most high street lawyers as she was so used to hearing the claim that lawyers were money grabbing and unbelievably wealthy, which of course is the usual press line.
Highlighting the following points may help improve the image of the legal profession generally:
1. The maximum wage a conveyancing solicitor will earn in their career is likely to be £45k per annum.
2. Less than 20% of solicitors work in law firms where any member of staff earns more than £60k per annum.
3. The typical starting salary for an NQ solicitor outside the City of London is £25-28k.
4. In some law firms there are legal secretaries who earn more than the fee earners they support.
5. A good sized percentage of solicitors seek to leave the profession within 10 years of qualification.
6. More money can be earnt working as a plumber or electrician than practising as a high street solicitor.
7. Solicitors spend a good portion of their working days advising clients (briefly) without charging.
8. Whilst a couple of solicitors made millions out of coal mining claims through trade union links, and another couple seemed to do well from leads provided by insurance firms, most solicitors are not ambulance chasers and do not do Personal Injury work. Even those who do personal injury work tend to earn less than £50k unless they represent the NHS (or work in local authority departments).
Perhaps an advertising campaign like this now would help the crime solicitors fighting the legal aid cuts – so many people still think solicitors earn a fortune and ought to take a cut in pay to reflect the austere times. A bit of reality may assist…
Jonathan Fagan, MD of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment – www.ten-percent.co.uk – lots more articles on our website – look at the resources tab above. (NB: this article was featured in Legal Recruitment News – www.legal-recruitment.co.uk – August 2015).