Law’s gender pay gap is worse than any other degree’s

By on

Recent graduates’ salaries far more equal in architecture, engineering and computer science

The gender pay gap hits young lawyers just six months after they leave university, data suggests, leading the chair of the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) to urge firms to use this as an opportunity to evaluate their pay structures.

Eighty percent of female law graduates from the country’s top ten higher education institutes earn less than £30,000 six months out of university, compared to just 60% of male law graduates.

Image via CIPD

These shocking stats, collected by the Higher Education Statistics Authority and recently reproduced by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), mean law is at the bottom of the pile in the equal pay stakes, even among stereotypically ‘macho’ courses like architecture, engineering and computer science. In fact, discrepancies between gender pay are narrowest of all in maths and engineering graduates.

The latest comments from across Legal Cheek

Legal Cheek wishes to make clear the limits of this data. It focuses solely on graduates six months’ out of university, and therefore provides little indication of what male and female law degree-holders earn across a lifetime.

However, Harini Iyengar, an equality law barrister at 11KBW, does think this research has implications beyond its six-month cut-off point. She believes an important reason that law fails to retain female lawyers is the lack of equal financial reward to men. Iyengar, who was recently a parliamentary candidate for the Women’s Equality Party, continued:

“I think we will only see gender equality in the profession in our lifetimes if firms and chambers invest serious time and money in tackling structural inequalities — or if the Women’s Equality Party succeeds in bringing in quotas. Now parliament has voted that Brexit will release us from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, Britain can legislate for quotas without any delays caused by pesky EU human rights arguments!”

Adele Edwin-Lamerton, the chair of the JLD, agrees something needs to be done to address this indefensible pay gap. She told us:

“It’s unfortunate and sadly quite ironic that the profession responsible for arguing cases under the Equal Pay and Equality Acts should have the largest gender pay gap of any profession. I would hope that firms take this opportunity to evaluate their pay structures to ensure that law graduates are paid equally, irrespective of gender.”

Elsewhere in the CIPD report is a consideration of graduate pay across the country, rather than from the top ten universities.

Raw data shared by the CIPD with Legal Cheek shows that when you move away from the highest echelons of higher education the gender pay gap picture brightens — slightly — but the salaries unexpectedly get worse. Across the board, 86% of recent female law graduates earn less than £30,000, compared to 72% of their male peers.

A difference of 14 percentage points means law is one of the worst for unequal pay, but not the worst. Veterinary sciences has a percentage point difference of 15, while combined degrees’ figure is 25. There’s not a single degree discipline whose female graduates earn more than male graduates (using the CIPD’s metrics), though computer science is the most equal with a two percentage-point difference.

For all the latest commercial awareness info, and advance notification of Legal Cheek's careers events:

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Hub



Stop focusing on gender, Katie. There are far more important victim groups, like transexuals and Muslims.



How do they explain the gap? Unless I’m missing something most firms advertise their trainee salaries and they do not try and cheekily pay women less.



Not everyone who does law works as a trainee.



Why count those who don’t make it?



This sort of mindless macho bullshit is so tiresome.


OH NO. We have upset a SNOWFLAKE.

Let me guess, you didn’t get a training contract? Maybe you should have WORKED harder, or maybe you simply are NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

I am tired of hearing stuff like this from ENTITLED and spoiled kids from their self-titled “Generation [insert whingey term here]”. The fact is, kids have no work ethic these days and expect everything on a plate. They spend £15 on avocado on toast and then have the cheek to complain about how they cannot afford to get on the housing ladder or get a job.

This is not what the VETERANS fought for.


Poe’s Law in action.


Have you started your TC? Where is your TC? I think TCs are often dependent on the uni you went to… so I assume you went to a good one?


It’s quite interesting to see that the salary bands between different races are almost equal across the board for recent graduates.



‘Eighty percent of female law graduates from the country’s top ten higher education institutes earn less than £30,000 six months out of university, compared to just 60% of male law graduates’

1) What are the country’s top ten higher education institutions?

2) Do these figures take account of those not in employment, undertaking voluntary work or in further study?

3) Could this not mean that more female law graduates have training contracts as they would be undertaking the LPC six months after graduation?

‘Raw data shared by the CIPD with Legal Cheek shows that when you move away from the highest echelons of higher education the gender pay gap picture brightens — slightly — but the salaries unexpectedly get worse’

Really? Less qualified people earn less money? Shocker.


Not Amused

So women make up the majority of undergraduates. They make up the majority of law undergraduates. They make up the majority of trainees and the majority of trainees at the best paying firms.

This report is worthless.



I thought the Spice Girls solved this problem?



I went to a discotheque this weekend just gone and the Spice Girls featured heavily. Took me back a few years.



Say You’ll Be There is timeless.

Women over 30 lose their mind when Wannabe comes on.

Hope you enjoyed your night in Reflex.



I shamefully admit that it was Infernos.



Fancy dress in Clapham. Lovely.


A lot of ladies there wearing not a lot of dress. Delicious.


Yum. let’s take this to private chat!


Is this anything to do with the fact that women are more inclined to go into areas of law that pay less? I.e. social care, family. Whereas men may be more attracted to the lucrative commercial/corporate areas?



Yeah this makes sense. The men go into more serious, technical and demanding areas whereas women tend to veer towards domestic disciplines. I think the figures merely account for the inherent differences in men and women.



E.g. Withers, a private client firm with 62% and 45% of its associates and partners respectively female.

Salary is good – trainee pay begins at £37,000 – but earnings is not near the Magic Circle’s.



Shhhh don’t add any substance to this stupid claim. LC is not in the business of actually shedding light on these big proclamations they make.


Lady Godiva

Usual LC pifffle


Just Anonymous

The gender pay gap (“GDP”) does not prove discrimination or “structural inequality.” There may be such inequality/discrimination, and where it exists we must be ruthless in fighting it. But the GDP on its own proves nothing.

The GDP is explicable by men and women, on average, making different life choices: women, on average, prefer jobs with fewer working hours so they can retain healthy family and social lives; men, by contrast, are on average more prepared to sacrifice such things.

Accordingly, I am unpersuaded of any need for quotas to ‘fix’ the GDP.


Just Anonymous

Whoops, bad acronym. That should really be GPG…



I was expecting more comments about the incorrect use of an apostrophe in the headline. Instead I found a rather spirited debate on the merits of the article itself. It’s like reading the Law Gazette all of a sudden.



That’s cos it is in the right place …



I could either write a lot about this or very little, so I’ll go for the latter.

In itself this statistic is useless.


Fee Earner

Law grads 6 months out of University hmmm…wouldn’t most who want to be trainees or pupils still be doing the LPC or BVC at that point? Or some other training if a career in law is not for them?
Ask the same people a decade from now and we’ll see how the differences really stack up.
PS I worked as a paralegal for peanuts before my TC and I’m sure many will agree your initial earnings as a grad count for diddly squat – it’s a period of putting up with sh!t pay for the opportunity to qualify and receive ‘decent’ salaries afterwards.


Jones Day Partner

I help close the gap by regularly giving my female trainees extra cash when they go over and above.


Comments are closed.

Related Stories