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

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

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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.

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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”.

44 Comments

Anonymous

The implication is that this is wrong, but being a trainee solicitor isn’t exactly a highly skilled job, is it? And we don’t exactly hold the lives of hundreds of people in our hands daily, and nor do we ever have to witness suicides (unless perhaps working in one of the more grim city practices…).

(17)(27)

Anonymous

Being a trainee isn’t a highly skilled job? You study and train for 6 years to just qualify…

It’s highly skilled in a different way. Clearly you will never be a lawyer if that’s what you are aspiring to with comments like that

(33)(8)

Anonymous

I AM a lawyer. Being a TRAINEE involves a lot of photocopying, reading through vast quantities of documents, and drafting a few bits and pieces. There is definitely some skilled work, but the large majority of it certainly doesn’t make use of those many years you are talking about. The best firms soften it as much as possible, but the reality is that trainees are pretty much useless for quite a long time.

(11)(14)

Not Amused

Tube drivers have managed to extort higher wages by randomly hurting the people of London. It is an utterly bizarre system but apparently some people think it is a human right to extort money by holding innocent people hostage.

The match girl strike was a proper strike, with a proper principle. As toby Young commented, the only purpose of this strike is to get more people voting Tory. It will, I think, almost certainly do that.

I am grateful to the Telegraph article for setting public sector wages against each other in easily comparable charts. We should do this as standard. I now know that, in my view, police officers are paid too little. So when/if they campaign for higher wages I will know to listen. Part of the problem of the past has been this team based tribalism of “I vote red so I support extra pay for everyone” or “I vote blue so nothing for all”. I want a better and more sophisticated style of politics. I want to have the freedom to say that police pay should rise and tube driver pay plummet – because really, I think that must be the reasonable thing to happen.

(27)(17)

A. Barrister

People have a right to withdraw their labour. Not some airy fairy “human right” but a simple basic common law right – you cant force me to work I’m not a slave/serf.

Sometimes people are better at organising withdrawal of their labour than others. When they are they win bigger rewards. Sometimes their leaders don’t sell them out or strike a limited deal the minute this start going their way *cough* CBA *cough*. When this happens they don’t, unlike the rest of the workforce, whether public or private sector, see real terms decreases in their wages.

Tube drivers, unlike most employees, have stood up for themselves and won from it. Its entirely legitimate. Across every sector those who already had money have got richer, while those who work for a salary have got poorer, its economic reality.

I really hope the CBA, CLSA and LCCSA are watching.

(16)(6)

Sabrina

The pursuit of “bigger rewards” is all very nice but I would imagine that we would be kicked out the door quite quickly if we tried to “withdraw our labour” from our firms.

(0)(0)

A. Barrister

Well yes, you might be, as they might be. That’s assuming you’re replaceable, which apparently they, currently, are not.

(0)(1)

Pantman

They are striking because they do not want night working imposed upon them, they want to be compensated in additional ways, in an ongoing manner, for agreeing to do that class of work.

I don’t think there’s anything unreasonable about that. What is unreasonable is Boris Johnson deciding that we’re going to have a 24 hour tube, without building into that commitment reasonable extra compensation for the staff who will have to do that work.

(7)(2)

Anon

This is outrageous!

Yes, that does appear to a lot of money for the role but just because they are exercising their right to strike does not mean that the job can be reduced to “chanting mind the gap” or “[coming up with the] most entertaining tannoy banter”.

Lest I remind you that some in our profession are currently exercising their rights to strike and, last I checked, this action was well supported by LC.

(15)(4)

Not Amused

“does not mean that the job can be reduced to “chanting mind the gap”

The Victoria, jubilee and central lines (possibly more) are all automated. So I’m afraid that the noble profession can, and frequently is, reduced to two ‘drivers’ having a gas in the front of the train.

This is precisely why the union supported the driver who kept drinking on the job – there wasn’t any risk because he wasn’t driving.

(8)(3)

Anon

Further to the above, it is lazy and opportunistic journalism

(5)(10)

Anonymous

A comparison with trainee solicitors is unfortunate because they are as a group more or less useless in the workplace. Besides, those who are any good, and who are willing to give up their lives to a poxy law firm, have the prospect of a much higher income in the future.

A comparison with productive and useful workers like coppers or nurses is much more apt.

In general I think solicitors in corporate law are overpaid in any event. That’s why ‘commercial awareness’ has been the buzz phrase for so long: they are really just (at best) risk assessors for corporates. Not a great deal turns on anything much they do.

(6)(7)

Not Amused

Right, too many comments from delusional lefties who can’t be bothered to use Google.

This is what drivers do:

“Driving duties vary. On some lines, the continued use of older trains means that drivers themselves use a lever known as the “dead man’s handle” to move them between stations.
More modern trains, making up the majority of stock, drive and stop themselves, relying on automatic signalling. On these, it’s the driver’s job to decide when to close the doors and leave stations. He or she can also override the system in case of an emergency, such as a customer falling on the track. All trains are set to move to the modern system by 2020, TfL says.
Drivers also monitor on-board equipment and use the train’s public announcement system to inform passengers of delays and the reasons for them.”

The source is the BBC.

(8)(4)

Anon

I bet that they did a lot more than that 10 years ago.

(4)(0)

A. Barrister

You conflate two things. If the drivers are not required, then fine get rid of them. If they are required, then you have to negotiate with them.

If they are legitimately redundant thats a totally different issue – we should not employ people in jobs which are not required thats just exploiting everyone else to keep them in a job. But this is not what the argument is.

(5)(1)

Not Amused

Yes it is. They are completely redundant but they are in a position to nevertheless extort both their survival and absurd rates of pay.

The absurd support from them from delusional lefties at the criminal bar is not unrelated to the fact that the criminal bar has been so totally incompetent at managing its own affairs. People who believe in magic money trees and who refuse to engage with detail are very bad at running things. The extortion of the tube drivers only persists because of fools like these.

That the implications of these socialist policies *always* hurts the poor is simply never acknowledged. The disproportionate impact of high tube costs (the price of the drivers’ salaries) is past on to consumers and naturally the poor suffer. The disproportionate victims of Greece’s insane left wing policies have similarly been the poor.

The life of a Tory is to watch middle class or wealthy people tell the poor how much they care for them. To be called evil (or worse) from such people. To then watch them lie their way in to power, hurt the poor, break the economy, protect their friends and then bugger off leaving you to pick up the pieces. During which time they will try to stop you fixing everything, call you evil (or worse) and steadfastly refuse to admit they ever did anything.

Anyone rational would be damning the Tube drivers. In a rational world police officers and nurses would be marching to cut Tube Driver pay. This whole absurd protectionism of the left refusing to self criticise is disgusting, unhealthy and hypocritical. At least if the Tories do something stupid I can tell them.

(10)(9)

A. Barrister

You’re argument is inherently inconsistent: If they are “completely redundant” then they would not be able to “hold us to ransom”…

I’m no protectionist, just a realist rather than an entitled ideolog. I say don’t protect them, but if you cant do without them, then you have to negotiate – basic real politik. I also encourage the criminal bar and sols to realise and use the same power. The state cant run a justice system without them, and it currently abuses its position as having almost complete control of the supply side, in such circumstances the normal rules of supply and demand dont work – its an inverse of a normal monopoly problem, as such other, non-economic actions have to be taken.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

“I’m no protectionist, just a realist”

Actually you’re a man who is happy to use circular logic when it suits him. Let’s see how your logic works with your own situation shall we:

If Tube drivers can extort higher pay it is because they are needed. If criminal barristers are losing pay hand over fist it is because they are not needed.

Hmmm… I like your argument. Of course it misses some of the subtleties of a little thing that I like to call ‘reality’ but it did make me feel superficially clever – so I see why you like it. (seriously, I should be nice to you, with you around there’s really no danger of me being called smug)

The tube drivers are leveraging a power that they should never have been given. Strong leadership would do something about this and they would be gone. Similarly criminal barristers are (sadly) needed and strong leadership would have made that clear. Unfortunately instead of strong leadership or any attempt or willingness to engage with budgets, figures or logical arguments, we have a bunch of self satisfied smug lefties who irrationally (and using poor logic) support tube drivers committing extortion and irrationally (without using logic at all) fail to present any cogent opposition to 15 years of cuts or argument for their own survival.

Just because one group of people get lucky by being obnoxious, dysfunctional tribalistic weirdoes, didn’t mean that was a plan you should adopt.

(2)(1)

Not Amused

3:58pm is me.

(1)(0)

A. Barrister

Ummm… no. I did not say they do it because they are needed. I said they /can/ because they are. I also said the Bar /could/ because it /is/… it does not follow that because you /can/ do something you do do it – but it might take a degree of subtlety to realise that 😉

P.s. I do commercial IP & public law and I voted tory at the last election. And, I used to work in business consultancy and I could imagine nothing worse than being a member of say Matrix – none of that is actually relevant to your arguments but its amusing given your ad hominum diatribe

(2)(0)

Not Amused

What you said was “You’re argument is inherently inconsistent: If they are “completely redundant” then they would not be able to “hold us to ransom”

That was in response to “They are completely redundant but they are in a position to nevertheless extort both their survival and absurd rates of pay”

I don’t think it is unfair for me to expect you to understand the words I used. I don’t think it is particularly unfair of me to expect you not to say stupid things.

The tube drivers are, because of the support of other workers (the station staff and all underground controllers + other train drivers) in a position where they can leverage influence. That does not mean that they are not redundant. It means that they are powerful.

Conversely the argument that they are redundant had already been made clear by the time you decided to say something silly. At 2:45pm I posted a detailed description of what tube drivers do. On any definition of the word ‘driver’ they are redundant. I don’t think it was unreasonable of me to have expected you to read that post in the intervening hour. I similarly don’t think it is unreasonable to expect you to know that the Paris Metro is automated (but that is a side point).

You go on to now say ” said they /can/ because they are”. Yes. That is what I understood you to be saying. So currently, all you have done is restate your initial argument and also add a smiley face. A smiley face which some might consider, not unreasonably, to be smug.

(3)(0)

A. Barrister

Oh no, I think the smug smiley face is this one: :>

(2)(0)

Anonymous

That’s still more important than what a trainee commercial solicitor does.

(3)(1)

A. Barrister

I should add my apologies regarding thr grammar above. I’m on my phone.

(2)(2)

Anonymous

Um, tube drivers get the London weighting…

Should have compared cross country train driver wages with regional solicitor salaries.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

Breathtaking arrogance. Being a Tube driver is a much more important job than being a trainee solicitor. Of course Tube drivers should be paid more.

(4)(9)

Anonymous

You’ve got to lol at a bunch of solicitors and bazzas complaining about tube strikes.

Really fvcking lol.

If being a tube driver is such a great job, go and do it, you absolute spengs.

(8)(3)

Anon

It won’t be so great in about a decade’s time when TfL moves over to automated trains.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Not Amused, again, you’re an idiot.

You posted a BBC extract as proof of how redundant tube drivers are, but the extract clearly states they can override the automation in emergencies.

State of the profession mates…

(0)(0)

Anon

I think the point is that, given the skills required for their job, you’d expect them to be paid about 50-60% of what they are. The current strikes make Tube drivers look out of touch. Their current pay would be generous even after the proposed change to their shifts.

The only reason they can command such rates is the power they wield to collectively bring London to a halt. It is not because others are unwilling to do the work for less.

(9)(1)

Anonymous

Do we honestly not think the pay of a city sol is generous? We are absolutely kidding ourselves if we think that running around blozzing docs and partners is worth £40k to start and £60-£100k after two years.

Pretty much any semi-literate grad from any university is capable of being a decent city solicitor. It isn’t hard unless you’re impaired enough to think that strikes are a terrible evil.

Also, there would pretty much always be someone willing to do any job for less. Doesn’t stop people getting paid more than you might think they deserve. Also, it is kind of the point of unionisation, to prevent things like wages being driven down to some unworkable level, or, say, randomly imposing nights on an entire workforce.

(6)(1)

Not Amused

This is not RoF.

Several of you, I count three ducks a swing and a generic ill mannered leftie, appear to have forgotten that today.

(0)(4)

6-Dux

Megaheh

(5)(0)

Anonymous

“A generic ill mannered leftie”

You khunt

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Knew you’d be a ROF lurking loser.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

Although talking about ROF, is that Clergham still as ‘unique’ and ‘interesting’ as ever?

(3)(1)

Anonymous

I have a theory that NA is Jayerz role playing a Tory, but he can’t bring himself to be a total khunt which is why NA has nice opinions about poor people.

(1)(3)

Anonymous

Why has Legal Cheek used a picture of the Manchester skyline for a story on London’s Underground strike? That is the Beetham Tower in the top left corner!

(1)(1)

Legal Recruiter

Those salaries aren’t exactly accurate…

DLA – £40,000
Pinsent Masons – £40,000
Eversheds – £38,500
Gateley – £38,000
Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co – £40,000
Hogan Lovells – £40,000
Squire Patton Boggs – £40,000
Shoosmiths – £38,000
Trowers & Hamlins – £40,000

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Tube drivers on good pay as organised with a Union.
If set up like lawyers would be on half that.
This is why Government gets away with so much and is happily destroying both sides of the profession – in the face of disorganisation and split.
Take a leaf out of the tube drivers book = right down tools lads.

(0)(5)

Anonymous

There’s more to life than money.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

That’s what I keep telling my bank manager!!!

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Well done to the tube drivers. V responsible job. Solicitors and barristers could learn a thing or two about collective bargaining from them!

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Yes but tube drivers earn LOADS …
Just strike until they get it –
Take a leaf out lads
Down tools

(0)(0)

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