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

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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.

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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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41 Comments

Dave

Question Time audience member wrong? Shock.

(76)(0)

Jez

Brothers! Sisters!

The median wage of £62,000 for solicitors is a scandal!!

Jeremy Corbyn will tax this greed to increase free access to legal aid!!

A windfall tax on oil companies! Down with metropolitan elites!!! FREEDOM FOR PALESTINE AND THE MUSLIM WORLD!!!!

We will nationalise the internet and regulate free speech to stop hate crimes!!

VOTE LABOUR

FOR THE MANY, NOT THE FEW!!!

(14)(66)

JoHo

You’re funny.

(2)(0)

Common Sense

Clearly a Tory brown noser wanting to appear to be Labour

(0)(0)

.

Kirkland Associate (paralegal from Romford) in 3… 2… 1…..

(63)(1)

Anonymous

Why has this come as a surprise? Everyone who is not a lawyer or otherwise has no significant connection to the profession assumed that all lawyers are fat cats, and chucks them into the same cesspool as bankers and politicians.

(29)(1)

Anonymous

I agree with the sentiment, but I’m pretty sure a median salary of £62,000 doesn’t mean that exactly half of solicitors earn more and exactly half earn less… what about the people who earn exactly £62,000?

(10)(39)

Geek

No that is what the median means. To calculate the median you arrange all the scores in order from lowest to highest and the median is the one in the middle. If you sample is 100 then the median is the score ranked number 50 (technicaly score 50.5). By definition the median is the number where there are exactly the same scores in the sample higher than it and exactly the same number above. The median doesn’t tell you how much above or below they are though. In a sample of 3: £100, £1,000 and £10,000 the median would be £1,000.

(33)(2)

Hurr durr

Anon 11.56 am – were you bottom set gcse maths?

(24)(5)

Anon

“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.”

This is bollocks – the writer both notes it’s the middle amount after just saying it’s an average.

(0)(11)

Anonymous

Median is an average AND the middle amount.

There are three averages: mean, mode and median.

Median is the middle when arranged in order
Mode is the most
Mean is the sum divided by how many there are.

That’s £50 – private tutor fee. Ta.

(26)(4)

Anon

It ain’t though mate.

That’s £160 please.

Anon

Wrong, the person at 11.56 is right. If one number in the set is the same as the median then you can’t have half lower and half higher.

(3)(7)

Anon

Yes but you wouldn’t apply statistics to such a small sample size of 5 so any mean or median you calaculate is meanless anyway. In a sample size of 160,000 odd solicitors with PCs true if one person earns bang on the median then you will have 79,999 above and 79,999 below. That is still half above and half below albiet it is 49.999% above and 49.999% above.

(9)(1)

Anon

But that’s not half above and half below – 50% is half, not 49.999% that you can round to three significant figures.

Dan

11.56 you are correct! For the values 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 – the median is 4. Does that mean that half the numbers are above and half are below the median? No, only 40% are above and 40% are below.
It is Hurr durr who was bottom set!

(6)(3)

Anon

These are the issues

(4)(1)

Archibald Pomp O'City

What about your whataboutery, you numerically illiterate knobend.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

I have been paid nothing for the 10,000 clients I have helped at Jaflas.

(14)(1)

Anonymous

What a winker.

I have been paid nothing for the 10,000 clients I have helped at Jaflas.

(4)(2)

Diogenes

What’s a Jaflas?

(1)(0)

Anon

The last Jaffa cake

(1)(0)

Anon

This is supposed to be legal news?

(2)(0)

Diane Abbott

Lol why is he so certain that that he’s NOT in the top 5%? It’s a bare assertion – it seems he’s more out of touch than the MP.

(18)(1)

ANONYMOUS

When I first qualified in 2018 I earned £15,000 per year which was less than what I would have got for the same hours in a supermarket.

(14)(0)

Bob

So why bother with the law?

(0)(2)

Pedant

Probably should’ve quickly googled the difference between median and average before saying they’re the same thing …

(4)(6)

Geek

To be even more pedantic the mean, median and mode are all averages. They are different ways of expressing the average though. The median is the middle score arranged lowest to highest. The mean is the total of all the scores divided by the number of scores in the sample. They may be the same or different depending on the sample size and how much variation there is. If the scores in sample of three are 100, 1000, 10,000 the median is £1,000 but the mean is 3,700. Neither tell you very much without knowing the standard variation. If the average (whichever one you take) is £62,000 with a variation of 10% then most people earn between £55,800 and £68,200. If the variation in a sample size is low then any of the three averages give you a representative number as there will only be a small number who earn way more or way less. If the variation is high then it doesn’t really tell you anything usefull as there will be such a large range above and below the average.

(17)(3)

Your Mum

Over 80 bags and he cant get himsen a Wilkinsons Sword?

Bums on fire.

(7)(1)

Anonymous

To be fair to him, a lot of tech entrepreneurs, even the successful ones, look like tramps.

(7)(2)

A A

To be fair, the difference between £62,000 and £80,000 is about £10,000 after tax. Obviously nice to have, but it’s not going to make much of a difference when it comes to buying your next yacht.

(7)(0)

Anon

If PAYE then £3700 v £4600 pcm.

(3)(0)

Realistic

I watched this live last night and cringed. It was really embarrassing. To emphasise a point made above, he seemed so certain that lawyers, bankers and doctors earned so much, and his assertion drew applause. That there is the root of Brexit, the rise of Corbyn and general left/right extremism. No facts, just feelings that drive decision making based on envy of others and disappointing with their position in life. It’s also strange how living in a country and knowing the average salary is like £25k, one can believe that they aren’t in the top 5% of earners or near that when earning £55k more than the average. With the exception of the comments section on Legal Cheek, most people don’t earn six figure salaries.

(42)(1)

Anon 1000

My husband told me a year or too ago that most adult males with any sort of decent enough job in our area (south east) earn over £80k. I have a lot more real workplace experience than him, albeit out-of-date, but I asserted that this was a load of rubbish. He was completely convinced.

That being said I know of a friend who is a partner and earns £125k salary. Sounds weird to write it down but it’s not that much in real terms with a £2k a month mortgage and 2 kids. No one is going to private school!

(12)(0)

Thirdfuse

Nothing better than a bunch of solicitors arguing about maths and all getting it wrong

(19)(1)

Anonymous

I do love when a litigator says “I don’t do numbers” when their job is risk and value assessment. And don’t ask them to do an interest calculation

(1)(0)

Someonewhoknows

Hmmm so speaks someone who hasn’t got a clue. I have been a solicitor for over 20 years and never earned as much as 40k never mind 80k!

(2)(2)

Tom

150,349 practising solicitors at the end October 2019 according to SRA website, up a quarter in a decade. There are far too many solicitors, probably why the uneducated appearing bloke on Q Time earns more than half of all solicitors. Over supply…

(6)(0)

Anonymous

£80,000 is not a lot of money if you are talented.

(2)(6)

Random passer-by

Talent has nothing to do with it muppet. It has more to do with industry sector and location. A projects lawyer in Leeds will earn less than £80k for most of his/her career until partnership. I know a Cambridge educated real estate lawyer in Manchester, who moved from London, and saw a significant decrease in his salary. In contrast a banking lawyer in London at a mediocre firm will earn more than £80k from 2 years pqe onwards. I earn more than my peers from Uni because I work in London, even though some of them were more brilliant than me. Why do some of you kids struggle with this? What about a head teacher in Newcastle who earns less than a English teacher and head of pastoral care at a private school in Surrey? Is the head teacher less talented? What about academics with firsts and phds who earn less than 24 year old IB analysts?

(13)(0)

Ex Barrister

What nonsense. Everyone knows that City lawyers are the most talented lawyers.

(0)(7)

Comments are closed.

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