This Question Time audience member thinks all solicitors earn over £80,000 a year

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By CJ McKinney on

Not if you’re an employment lawyer in Leeds

Audience member and Labour’s Richard Burgon MP (Credit: BBC)

A shouty bloke on BBC Question Time has gone a bit viral with his baffling claim that all solicitors earn over 80 grand a year.

Social media users responded with bemusement at the demonstrably false idea that every member of the profession is on that kind of wonga — although obviously it’s true in parts of the City.

The lawyer-baiting claim emerged in an argument over the Labour Party’s tax policy, which would see people earning over £80,000 a year pay more in income tax. Labour says this would only affect the top 5% of earners, which checks out: in fact boffins at the Institute for Fiscal Studies calculate that only 3% of the population earn more than £80,000.

But one Question Time audience member, who admitted to earning this much, refused to accept this, saying that he couldn’t possibly have a top-tier salary. “Every doctor, every accountant, every solicitor earns more than”, he claimed. “That’s not 5%”.

This is what statisticians call “bollocks”. The median salary of a solicitor in England and Wales is £62,000, according to Law Society data.

The 2020 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

That doesn’t sound far off £80,000, but remember that it’s an average rather than a minimum. The median means that exactly half of all solicitors earn more than £62,000 — and exactly half earn less.

There are also big variations depending on what kind of work you do and where you do it. On the programme, Labour’s Richard Burgon hit back by saying that he used to earn about £40,000 as an employment lawyer in Leeds before entering politics. That seems plausible — the average solicitor salary across the North of England is £43,000.

In London, by contrast, the average is £88,000. And there are some City firms where every single qualified lawyer is on more than 80 grand a year. The Legal Cheek Firms Most List 2020 shows that 34 solicitors’ firms pay more than £80,000 as a starting salary.

Nationwide, the average salary for an accountant is £38,800, for a doctor £72,000 and for legal professionals £74,700. Again, though, that’s the median average — meaning that half of all lawyers earn below that amount.

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