Top regional law firms that pay newly qualified lawyers less than Tube drivers

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By Jonathan Ames on

As London’s Underground strike takes hold, Legal Cheek asks junior lawyers: fancy shouting mind the gap?


London Underground drivers adopt a French approach to the summer months — they get a whiff of the long warm days and they go on strike.

Drivers are currently causing misery to the capital’s 8.6 million inhabitants as they engage in a dispute over the proposed running of 24-hour weekend timetables. The £2,000 bonus offered for the added shifts doesn’t cut the mustard, as far as union bosses are concerned.

If nothing else, the London Tube strike is a perfect opportunity for wannabe and junior lawyers to assess whether they have made the right career choices. For regardless of the outcome of the current action, London drivers are already earning more than newly qualified solicitors at many top law firms around the country.

According to press reports this morning, Tube drivers currently start on annual salaries of … wait for it … £49,673. And there are suggestions that with bonuses — presumably for the most entertaining tannoy banter — pay packets can rise to as much as £61,000.

The average salary in the UK is about £26,500, with Londoners generally earning an additional £10,000.

So while Underground drivers are already earning well above the capital’s average annual whack, what’s surprising is how much more they are earning than some junior lawyers.

Indeed, many wannabe solicitors in the regions might consider whether the qualification process — involving years of study and incurring up to £50,000 of debt — is remotely worth it. Not least when all that is required for a Tube driver qualification is a set of “good” GCSEs and an ability not to fall asleep during a shift — or at least while the train is moving.

An initial glance at publicly available league tables of regional law firm pay for qualifying solicitors produces this roll call of those that Tube drivers wouldn’t even consider.


Of course, the big name City of London firms are still just about managing to outpace Tube drivers with their NQ pay packets. Nonetheless, hard-pressed, belittled and bullied first-year trainees might think that the Underground offers a less stressful option.

On the cash side, according to the Legal Cheek “Firms Most List”, only two US practices in the City — Davis Polk and Sullivan & Cromwell — offer more cash to trainees than Transport for London coughs up to Tube drivers. And their £50,000 salaries only beat the Underground’s starting pay by a fraction.

But arguably more enticing to trainee and junior lawyes slogging away at 60 to 70-hour weeks, will be the Underground’s shift schedules. According to today’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, Tube drivers on average do a 36-hour week — which is about one round trip on the Central Line.

The newspaper went on to report that in addition to relatively short working weeks, Tube drivers are entitled to bucket loads of annual leave — 43 days on average. For the avoidance of doubt, that’s more than two months of not having to get the Tube. And TfL throws in a free Oyster Card to boot.

So sod legal practice and start chanting “mind the gap”.