By Mathew Martins 29 Jul 2022 8 min read

Are Lawyers Underpaid?

Many people may be drawn to the legal profession in the hope of getting big salaries, but the reality may be considerably different. The type of job you do, the type of firm or organisation you work for, your experience, skills and your employer's location all significantly impact the earnings of a lawyer.

To receive the most accurate information on potential lawyer salary and ensure that your expectations are reasonable, you should conduct as much research as possible in the areas in which you are most interested.

Be aware that as the law changes, there is a chance that some parts of it may lose their general applicability or become less profitable, which would result in decreased wages. The legal profession is not exempt from external influences and was just as negatively impacted by the recession as any other service sector.

Numerous law firms were compelled to streamline their operations and, in many cases, make layoffs.

According to the HR experts in the world of Law, "Don't expect an easy ride; although people often focus on the large wages, this isn't always the case, especially as you move up the ladder. It's just not true what people imagine when they watch Ally McBeal, Silk, LA Law, or Suits.

Legislation is continually changing. Therefore sections of the Law that could have been lucrative in the past might not be now as you progress through the legal system. You never know what modifications the legislation may bring about.

For instance, the Jackson Review on civil litigation costs, which impacted how lawsuits were funded, particularly "no win, no fee" agreements, was published in December 2009.


Salary for Trainee Solicitors

The Law Society determined a minimum wage for trainees up until September 2011. This was £18,590 for trainees working in London and £16,650 for those working outside of London. However, the Solicitors Regulation Authority declared in May 2012 that no minimum wage would be required for trainees starting in August 2014 due to a consultation on the minimum salary system.

Employers would only be required to pay the federal minimum wage. However, many commercial organisations currently offer competitive remuneration to their trainees; some (both inside and outside of London) pay around £25,000, while some of the bigger City corporations pay more than £40,000.

Do your research once again. Several businesses post their trainee salaries on their websites to attract the best candidates. It is appropriate to ask a company what the predicted or present income ranges are if it is difficult to determine how much you will likely be paid.

Even though you might not feel comfortable bringing up pay during an interview, you should have the chance to speak with human resources (HR) or another representative before submitting your application. This can be done when making initial inquiries or possibly after receiving an application.

Making a phone contact and asking for a "ballpark" income estimate may be more successful if a company is reluctant to provide you with an indication of salary in writing (including by email), with the understanding that this is only to assist you in getting a sense of what to expect.


Are You Getting Paid to Take a Year Off?

When trainees at some major organisations were offered sums of around £10,000 only to put off their training contracts for a year, there was a lot of press coverage. It would be wise to view this as an unexpected benefit of the recession.

Since then, businesses have taken more dramatic steps to lower the number of trainees they hire. In certain circumstances, trainee hiring has been completely halted until economic stabilisation. This has significantly impacted the number of training positions available.

It appears that the compensated deferral situation was an anomaly. Therefore if you are offered a training contract, take it. Don't aim to receive compensation for taking a year off.


How Much Do Lawyers Make?

In a regional business or smaller commercial practice, a newly qualified solicitor can anticipate earning between £25,000 and £40,000. The largest commercial firms and those in the City will give freshly trained solicitors starting salaries ranging from £58,000 to £65,000, with the larger City firms paying £80,000 or more.

The pay at American companies with UK offices is even higher. Some trainees are paid £40,000 or more, and their beginning wages are rumoured to reach £100,000.

The earning of a lawyer varies significantly. Depending on their experience level and the type of work they do, highest paid lawyers in commercial firms who are not yet partners may make between £60,000 and £90,000 or even more.

In the largest City and American firms, partners can expect to make incomes of £80,000 to £100,000 or more, with anything up to seven figures being possible.


Underpaid and Overworked? Here's a Strategy to Address It

Nearly all lawyers are aware of a small industry-wide secret, although they seldom ever talk about it.

The secret is that most lawyers feel overworked and underpaid regardless of their income.

People often comprehend the sentiments of government lawyers and public defenders. Their astronomically high caseloads and subpar remuneration are frequently reported in the media. However, it may be a surprise to learn that prominent legal associates also make six-figures feel this way.

Despite the disparities in earnings of a lawyer, these two groups have something in common that makes one feel overworked and underappreciated.

Those circumstances are:

• Not being able to manage one's time

• Feeling unsupported or as though there is no one to turn to for assistance

• Sensing the need to be constantly available to superiors and clients at all times;

• The ongoing practice of companies paying men, women, and people of colour less for doing the same amount of work.


Here is a solution in case your workplace is experiencing something similar.


Follow Your Calendar

Although highest paid lawyers seldom track how much of their day they spend working outside of billable time, they are accustomed to billing clients in hourly increments. The total amount of time worked might be fairly shocking when you include both billed and unbilled time.

The first step in resolving the feeling of being undervalued at work is tracking your time. The exercise will either confirm your feelings or make you aware of other work-related factors.


Take Back Your Time

It's time to reclaim some time for yourself now that you have a clear calendar view.

Everyone knows that the culture of law firms makes it impossible for you to carve out a niche for yourself. Certain coworkers, partners, and others manage to fit in daily workouts, golf outings, and other activities. You can do it too if they can.

Claim that time without feeling guilty or judged. By designating a non-negotiable stop time for work a few days per week, you can gradually begin to recover your calendar. If you block apart time on your calendar for activities you enjoy outside of work, you'll be astonished at how much more you can get done in less time.


Request a Raise

Asking for a raise to a wage that is in line with the value you offer to your company might help you overcome emotions of undervaluation. Asking for money is frequently feared, but resources are available to support you.


Ask for Assistance

There's a good probability that some of your coworkers share your feeling of being overworked. This gives you the chance to request assistance. Discuss with your coworkers. Discuss your worries with people you can trust, and start forming a coalition to change the culture of overwork at your job.

Mathew Martins is a Law Firm Specialist with Simply Law. Mathew feels strongly about income inqualities in the legal sector, the overwork culture and strives to make the industry more equal and inclusive.