Average senior in-house lawyer now takes home over £165,000

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By Katie King on

5% pay-packet increase for City law firm shunners


Senior lawyers working in-house will take home an average of £165,190 this year in salaries and bonuses, new research has revealed.

While law students continue to be fascinated with City law firms they are in danger of missing out on the fact that the earnings of lawyers working in companies’ legal teams are also significantly on the up, with the average senior in-house lawyer receiving a £8,130 (5%) pay rise since last year.

Research conducted by recruitment company Laurence Simons shows there has been a £13,180 (12%) increase in basic salaries which more than compensates for average bonuses shrinking by an average of £5,040 (11%). In short, in-house talent have been asking for money in the bank rather than risking it on their firm’s performance.

These overall earnings completely overshadow the average UK salary of £27,531 and the average City salary of £48,023. They also topple UK accountants’ average total earnings, which stand at £78,010.

It’s certainly not bad going considering what work in-house lawyers actually do.

Compared to City law firm life, which is stereotypically characterised by long hours and stressful, big money deals, life in-house is seen as much more gentle. This is because in-house lawyers tend to do lower level work themselves and then send anything more complicated over to City firms.

This — according to Laurence Simons’ global managing director Clare Butler — is what’s driving up their wages:

High spending on the salaries of top in-house lawyers is not merely corporates splashing the cash, but represents a structural shift in their approach to the provision of legal services. While legal is mission critical, most corporates don’t have huge budgets to spend on elite firms. The result of this is a greater focus on building stronger and broader in-house teams, which means recruiting lawyers from private practice at a premium.

She continued:

As a result of this competition, salaries for senior in-house lawyers are increasing. While a big salary for an experienced lawyer is a significant outlay, it is an important investment that can save a company huge amounts of money in fees and costs.

Though an eye-watering £165,190 pay cheque is not to be sniffed at, the new research shows that money is not necessarily in-housers’ “primary motivation in the workplace”. 29% of the 1,000+ respondents revealed they had left their previous job for better career development prospects, compared to 22% moving on to seek out a better salary.

But what do these increasing salaries mean for aspiring lawyers? Is it time to kick the conventional law firm route to qualification?

Not quite, but Nicola Walker — a senior consultant at Laurence Simons — has noted that in-house training is becoming more common. Speaking to Legal Cheek, she explained:

Typically top talent still comes from a top tier commercial firm background although we are beginning to see training in-house become a less unconventional route.