Law among highest-paying grad jobs, research finds

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Beaten only by investment banking 🤑

New research shows that law is one of the most lucrative graduate careers, with new starters able to expect a salary of £46,000.

That is, however, a few grand shy from the £50,000 their investment banking-minded peers can expect to earn upon starting out.

These were some of the findings produced by High Fliers Research, which examined the country’s top grad employers (based on The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers 2020) and how much they’ll pay their new recruits this year. The figures don’t include additional benefits such as bonuses.

Law did, however, beat consulting in this year’s research: grads venturing into strategy consulting firms can expect to earn £45,000, on average.

The highest-paying employers are pretty much all in the legal sector, according to the research, and include White & Case (£50,000), Clifford Chance (£48,000), Baker McKenzie (£48,000) and Linklaters (£47,000). Beyond law, tech company TPP and retailer Aldi pay graduate starting salaries of £45,000 and £44,000, respectively.

The 2021 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

Further down the table (below) banking & finance grads can expect to earn the same as those entering the media industry (£32,500), whilst the average salary of those starting in consumer goods and tech also matches (£32,000).

Graduates entering the public sector earn the lowest in the rankings (£24,200), followed by the armed forces (£27,800) and engineering (£28,000).

The report also showed that grad salaries have been stagnant for over five years, with the average starting salary for grads (£30,000) not increasing since 2015.

Median starting salaries for grads in 2021

Industry Median starting salary
Investment banking £50,000
Law £46,000
Consulting £45,000
Oil & energy £40,000
Retailing £36,800
Banking & finance £32,500
Media £32,500
Consumer goods £32,000
Technology £32,000
Accounting & professional services £30,600
Engineering & industrial £28,000
Armed forces £27,800
Public sector £24,200

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Alter Man

It shouldn’t be about the money. The higher it is, the more hours you’ll spend in the office toiling away. 60 plus hours are the norm.

What do the public even think of lawyers and bankers?


Real World

It’s always about the money, kid


All About The Me

I really don’t care what the ordinary public think. Most of them are so basic and thick and I never have to interact with them.


Brutal honesty

To those who say a job is not all about money, go work at McDs because that’s where you f*kn belong.



Wow you’re so hard.

Back to your online lectures, little man.


Anon Not A Hun And Not A Boomer

That internet cliche, used to death on here, is right up there with “U Ok Hun?” and “OK, Boomer” in showing the poster to be basic and devoid of any real wit.



Thinking that the money is the only bad thing about menial retail work (relative to the law) is indicative of having never experienced it.

Being in law for me means I don’t spend every minute of my day with a supervisor breathing down my neck, I get to decide myself how I get my work done, and I can go for a coffee or a piss whenever I like without being judged.


Gordon Gekko

It’s not about the money. It’s about the game…the game between people



It’s not about money…it’s about sending a message.



Just apply to join the army. Or get a nursing degree, thats where the jobs are……

Getting a job in law is like trying to hit a lottery jackpot…

Legal profession job industry is messed up.



Better yet, take your law degree into the army and spend about 35% of your life sailing or skiing.

Sure, you’ll only ever be on £40-50k, but you don’t have to be in London and directing air strikes is a damn sight more fun than commercial contracts.

Hoodrat lawyer (5 year PQE, banking)

It’s not about the money, it’s about the honey that follows. Get meh fam?



I’m not in the law business. I’m not even in the money business. I’m in the empire business.


Curious Georgey

We need to do a follow up and discus the full salary. I want to see an article between Investment banking vs law salaries, during the training years and also the newly qualified year and IB equivalent.

– 1 nq vs Associate
– 5 pqe vs AVP
– senior ass vs VP

Cause IB make almost half or double their salaries in their bonus.

Also it would be good to hear more from people who worked in corporate law and then made the move to IB/AM/PE . Why and how toxic or nive the change is.



P*ss off, do your own research.


Curious Georgey

STF up Rozzer its a good idea comparing the salaries of the 2 well paid graduate professions.

Im not proposing it for my benefit, i think it is something that could interest and benefit others. Especially the possible prospect from one to another (lawyer turn IBanker)



Still prefer to make a few grand less working for a SC firm with decent colleagues and having time to socialise with friends/family (at least on evenings and weekends). The salary is still good, and you get to retain your personality.


Kirkland NQ

Who needs a personality when you’ve got a Lambo?


LC Plod

Uh-huh. Try reloading the online learning portal fresher, it often doesn’t work the first time.



This is false impression, it all depends on practice area. I know folks in SC firms working in transactional departments that work just as many hours as their better paid US firm peers on the other side of the deal.



Don’t think that just because the NQ salaries are half you’ll be doing half the hours. SC is by no means life in the slow lane and depending on your department you can still expect to sacrifice some social life.

SC associates don’t stay there for the sociable hours..



Of course it depends on the department and on the other side of the deal are often MC or US firms, so the expectations are pretty much the same.

But based on my experience, the working cultures are quite different. If in MC/US you’re expected to grind 10-9 on a normal day and 10-2 in busy periods, the normal day in SC is generally 10-7, but when it comes to busy periods the management appreciates you staying late, as opposed to treating it as a routine practice like in MC/US.

Some will see it as a pretentious pat on the back, but in practice it does create better working environment (we’re in this together vs that’s why you get paid a shit tone of money).

Not necessarily one better than another – it’s just different types of people who will enjoy working in different environments.



My MC colleagues are a pretty decent bunch. And I get paid more than you.



Baker’s pay of 48k seems high. Would this be a good firm for a TC for future career prospects or would you be better of at somewhere like Hogan Lovells or HSF?



Loooool nice try, f*ck off fresher



Clearly someone’s a little sensitive about their own lack of career prospects


Spam Spam McGann

All of the firms you mention seem fairly interchangeable.



If you’re after a TC you don’t cherry pick. Take whatever offer you get and build your career from there.


Ropes n Graynit

Definitely better off at somewhere like Hogan lovells than Bakers tbh



So…somebody added together the first year trainee salaries at all the firms in the Times Top 100 and divided for an average salary? Truly groundbreaking research.


Oh boy

It’s “median”, not “mean” mate.



Having just read the report, it is rather misleading. I’d also argue that a legal journalism site targeted at students should be more responsible. Google ‘cravath bimodal’ for an insight into the reality of legal salaries. While the results you get will be US-focused, they largely reflect the UK position, too:

Law is not, generally, a well-paid career. 80% of jobs are poorly-paid, low status and lacking in security. City law jobs are a minority which create a very false image. It is very difficult, if not impossible, for the vast majority of applicants to secure decent legal jobs. Law schools are churning out thousands of people every year who have been misled into believing that a lucrative career lies ahead of them. In fact, the profession is creaking at the seams with desperate LPC and BPTC graduates who are squandering years of their lives as paralegals, with no realistic prospect of any return on investment of what they spent on legal education, let alone the years of their lives they will never get back. Such people could have been very happy in other, non-legal careers, but are now in thrall to the sunk costs fallacy: their arm is in the mangle, and they will spent much of their 20’s in low-pay, low-status jobs with no prospect of advancement.

Nowadays, only the truly exceptional (academically and otherwise) have a good chance of making it in law. The new qualification process with the SQE is poorly planned and likely to be a disaster. Qualification per se will be worthless, all that will matter is where people spend the early years of their career. The consequence will be to make those who train under SQE less employable in the long term, unless they win the jackpot at the start of their career by qualifying into a high end law firm. Effectively, the new system will cement a ‘two-tier’ structure for lawyers, with the majority of those who qualified superglued to the bottom of the ladder.

What you can do without cost or risk is apply to law firms for sponsorship through training . If you’re successful, congratulations, you’re 80% of the way there (noting that you still need to secure a job on qualification). If you can’t, for the love of God don’t self-fund yourself through law school: listen to what the market is telling you – they don’t want you.



Yes, the social justice warriors have really screwed it up with the SQE. Completely counterproductive. Of course, the SJWs response will be to try to make the exam easier and either reduce costs or make other people pay for them, that is exactly what the infamous “more needs to be done” Jarrod was saying the other day. But this will just cause even more of the same problems Realist identifies.



Spot on , it’s what makes the comparison between law and investment banking ridiculous. Investment banks on the whole are few and far between and will always pay well whereas most law firms outside of the elite few in London will pay very average salaries.



I genuinely regret doing a law degree. I’m a recent RG graduate and I’ve been applying to both TCs and other industry grad schemes in the hope of casting the net wider. I remember being told in college that a law degree is so transferrable, that even if I don’t want to be a lawyer I’ll bag another job no sweat… Absolute Bull****!!!

Also realising how pathetic my life has become to be so elated that I’ve managed to secure a paralegal job at a mid-sized national firm working on a huge project where they are churning through assistants like chickens in a battery farm, all for <£20k per annum.

Kill me.


Kirkland NQ, also known as the PE Powerhouse Deal Lambo Monster

What’s it like to be a betaboi?



Don’t be nasty. ‘Kirkland NQ’ comments are funny when they’re either (a) punching up; or (b) ironically self-aware. This was neither.



It’s fine, really… It’s actually my dream fetish to be laughed at and insulted by Kirkland NQ, while hosing down his sparkling new LP700.

It’s yet another indication of how shit my life has become.


It’s not too late, get out while you still can. The degree itself is fairly transferable, less so once you waste years on a TC to find you can’t get an NQ job (woo worst job market since 2009!), and then applying for any non solicitor role is perceived by others as basically signing up to shovel shit.



You’re possibly correct, but remember that many of the people to whom your advice applies haven’t yet began the process. For example, someone about to graduate in 2021 with a non-law degree and then do the GDL, LPC and a 2-year training contract won’t be entering the NQ market for four years. Much will happen during that period.

Further, Covid has hit society in a deeply unequal manner, the most obvious example of which is the well-performing stock market. Law firm results however have also been remarkably robust, which bodes well for future growth.

My three suggestions, for what they’re worth are:

1. **ONLY EMBARK ON LEGAL TRAINING IF YOU HAVE A TRAINING CONTRACT/THE NEW EQUIVALENT**. This is crucial. On the LPC, the stark contrast in quality between those who had training contracts, and those who were self-funding was painful. The latter were, almost without exception, doomed.

2. Only pursue a legal career if you can train somewhere *decent*. You can move down the ladder easily, but you’ll struggle to move up. I’m biased (I’m in a US firm in London), but with hindsight I wouldn’t recommend law unless you at least get into a decent City firm. I found the qualification process terrifying enough, and I was starting from a strong position.

3. If you get as far as a training contract, be ruthless about seat choices and what to focus on. Restructuring and insolvency are the obvious winners for the next decade, thanks to the carnage wrought by Covid and associated lock-downs. Environmental law, social justice warblings, etc. less so. If the idea of making rich corporations even richer doesn’t float your boat, this isn’t the career for you.

Good luck. You’ll need it.


Old Guy

The one saving grace of this useless advice is that you appear sincere and are at least polite. Some, but not all, you wrote is not accurate.

1) Accepted, good point.
2) Not everyone wants to be a City solicitor. Also it is very possible to move from west end, regional and even high street firms into a city firm in certain practice areas, e.g. property and general corporate, and from there you can move to bigger firms. I’ve seen it happen so many times. If you don’t qualify in a city firm you will not be working on the biggest PE deals or leveraged finance deals in your career, but if you qualify into real estate i’ve seen people who are 2-3 years pqe move from firm in St Albans to small city boutique to Ashurst/Herbies/CMS/Pinsents.
3) Anyone who qualifies into an area because it is hot for the next few years is in for a crap 30-35 years after that. Go where the opportunities are but also combine with what you enjoy. There is always going to be a need for general corporate lawyers. Also if don’t believe in this climate change/human rights world that ESG will not be important from now until eternity then you clearly don’t know anything outside of the US law firm office where you spend 18 hours a day.


Keep your chin up. Paralegal experience isn’t the worst thing by any means.





Old City codger

This should be copy-pasted as wise words of warning in the careers department at every Law School in the UK, outside of Oxbridge and a select few Russell Group stalwarts (e.g. UCL, LSE, etc).

Otherwise the result is that a bright-eyed University of Bolton or Bradford (yes, both have a law faculty) LLB graduate with a 2.1 might think it is worth to throw wads of cash at one of the private law schools (won’t name them, otherwise Alex from LC will delete this comment) to get into BigLaw. For 99.9% that won’t happen, and they will be left holding the bag with tens of thousands in student debt.

Think before you embark on this journey kids, it’s a lot harder than IG and TikTok might make you believe.


Burger King

At least everyone can pass the dumbed down SQE now, qualify and then go to flip burgers and McDonalds.



Sad but true.



Really insightful comment. Shame legalcheek (or any legal publication?? Even ROF?) doesn’t provide more real commentary on the industry. Thousands of young people waste so many years in pursuit of qualification that is nowhere near as valuable as it was in their parents day.



What unis would you say if you had to give a list?



What is clear from this table is that we pay the armed forces too much.



It refers exclusively to officer entry – again, something which is unclear on the face of the report.



What is clear from this table is that we pay entry level officers in the armed forces too much.



Aw, diddums, don’t be sad.

It actually doubles after 2 years, we live in free houses, and we spend most of our time drinking and skiing.

Are we a waste of money, probably, do we have fun, definitely.

We’re open to all – come on in.



The number of your salary is not as important as the actual number of hours you’ll be working. Since overtime pay is not a thing at most firms, a £50,000 starting salary is not that impressive if you’re working a lot of extra hours + weekends like in most MC/US firms.


Yohan Mohan

Don’t bother advise LC readers you’re talking to a wall. They will just respond with “the hours at US firms aren’t really that bad”. They have sipped the grad rec marketing kool aid


An actual US associate

The hours are very bad. The hours are the same as the busier transactional teams of the MC (where I used to work).

That’s basically it, never understood why LC readers who have never worked at either try to dispute it.



I’m fortunate enough to (relatively) enjoy what I do but if I break for lunch or dinner it is 8-midnight on a bog standard “this isn’t urgent” day. That said, it’s not much more than my previous firm except I’d start at 9. Transactional work is transactional work no matter where you are.



Law applicants however (unlike consultancy and finance) waste so much of they life going through YEARS of application cycles all because someone on a forum or linkedin future trainee told them to persevere.

Okay so you persevere and nab a training contract 2-4 years post graduation, you then need to wait 2 years for your TC start date. By the time you start your TC you are now in your late twenties. You then need to train for another two years. Remember this is all for a career which has the worse attrition rates in the city with most people leaving after 4 years post qualification. So yay you have wasted years of your life for a job you are likely to leave.

You could have instead applied to a range of other professions instead of putting all your hopes into corporate law. If its money and a high profile career you’re after, you could pursue; consultancy, wealth management, asset management, trading, advertising (WPP), FMCGs, Fintech, Financial Analyst etc. And instead spend your life working up these sectors so by the time you are in your late twenties you will instead be established in a well paid career. Opposed to being on a trainee salary and years behind your peers.

I guess its all rather easy for me to say this as someone who has a tc. However I would not have squandered away my life in achieving one . I think a lot of this is down to the way law firms have marketed themselves to undergrads, it’s been sold to them as a dream job that nothing else competes with. This is a lie, don’t fall for it.



I really think universities need to clamp down on marketing by firms. Its a real dereliction of duty to allow these big shiny firms to come in and sell 18 year olds on this big dream of a TC that in all likelihood won’t materialise and if it does, really won’t be worth the investment of time and money. Especially now firms aren’t even waiting to target final year students, they’re putting on the pressure from first year.

The problem with the TC is most other jobs – you can start straight out of college. By your late twenties you are *relatively* senior and have a fairly good grasp on your field. Solicitors on the other hand, an NQ is barely allowed to write their own name. Unless you start your tc straight out of college, you are still very junior by the time you’re 27/28 and that’s really not a great position to be in.



Universities being run like businesses, that’s what you get.



This is a bit absurd. I’m starting my TC next year and will be in my mid 20s, I’ve spent a lot of time gathering legal experience, as well as enjoying the freedom a 9-5 gives, and don’t feel like it’s been a wasted couple of years. If anything I feel the experience will help me with a smooth transition into my TC. You’ll find in a lot of countries lawyers qualify in their late 20s as standard practise, so to say that people that don’t start their TC at 23 years old have “squandered away” their lives is off the mark.



Get back to me when you’ve finished your TC. The issue isn’t really with whether individuals wasted their time gaining legal experience before embarking on a TC – its how the system is designed once you get in and then when you qualify.

Most paralegal experience is not massively relevant to the things you actually need from a trainee or an NQ and is experience that anyone doing any office admin job could do. This is particularly true if your paralegal experience is not in the same practise area as your TC seat. Once you get into a TC, you are jumping teams every six months and never building up any knowledge or expertise. Its only once you qualify you start to actually build that up. That’s absolutely fine if you are retained as an NQ by your firm because they understand that NQs are useless and will help you. If you are not – you are asking another firm or company to take you on as essentially a very expensive paralegal.

Compare that to someone who does accounting for example. You can start straight out of college, stay in the same area (tax, audit etc) and by the end of your training, you have a pretty good grasp of your chosen area. You were not asked to change team every six months, and you didn’t have to spend 2 years before you started your TC doing admin jobs as a paralegal waiting for your contract to start or whatever. You are now 26/27, you have maybe 3/4 years behind you in one particular field and fairly capable of working on your own to an extent. That is a much better situation to be in than an NQ in a similar position at 27/28. A company who hires you is getting someone with actual expertise, not just a ‘qualified solicitor’ who has a random collection of stints in seats which may be largely unrelated to each other and during which you probably spent a significant amount of time doing semi-legal admin work (completion checklists, sorting through emails, putting comments into documents, proof-reading)


you're a child mate

Dude, accountants get paid peanuts. The gimp doing gimpwork at White Shoe Firm #15 for 16 hours a day will get paid more than muh uber specialised accountant despite being as old as them. They’ll also have spent less time working in some soul-crushing Big 4 chicken factory firm and more of their time studying (which is easier). Also the gimp will make more in-house if they decide to make that move in the future. I don’t know why you’re fetishing specialisation and specialisation and specialisation like it’s the most important thing ever. Who cares about what you do day to day – if you’re get paid, you’re getting paid. End of.

Salaries in most of consulting and advertising are abysmal compared to law. Truly abysmal. You’ll be lucky if you’re paid six figures before your mid 30s. Even MBB don’t pay that well (esp. compared to the work & travel they expect of you). They pay like 70% of IB for similar levels of stress and (if we include travel & pointless meetings) hours.

Law is sadly one of the few careers that will take a child with no special/STEM skills and pay them a high salary up front.


Someone’s triggered :)

Cool so you’ll be on a junior law salary in your late twenties/30. There’s nothing wrong with that but law applicants shouldn’t feel this is the only option they have when there’s so many other careers out there.


Old Guy

The grass is always greener mate. Consultancy for one is a rubbish career. Spending 4 nights a week at the client site, eating in a hotel and not spending time with anyone but colleagues. Sure this sounds like fun, but when you actually start doing it you will realise how even careers at McKinsey and Bain that sound interesting are very challenging, and not just because of the work. High paying finance roles are not stable. If you fancy being unemployed at age 28 with no real professional qualifications useful for industry and having to start again then fine. Law is generally stable, even if the big City firms are not.


Stop with the doom-mongering please!

@Jenny @Cynic

There aren’t that many other opportunities to law/humanities graduates. Many other grad schemes have insanely competitive app ratios (like 100:1) and don’t pay as well. Prestige is higher in law. Obviously no one should waste their 20s getting into a law career but it’s not exactly like young people are swimming in offers out there.

Also, when people leave MC etc. firms, they do not necessarily leave the sector – a lot of them just go to other firms. The remainder pick in-house, legal tech, policy advisory, lobbying, research, etc. roles. None of these roles (perhaps with the exception of in-house work, but in-house TCs are as much a grind to get as any other TC) are open to a fresh graduate who doesn’t have a TC and isn’t a qualified solicitor. TCs in that sense are required to start one’s career and get them in a position where they can be considered for a law or law-adjacent job somewhere else.

Obviously a lot of the advice here makes sense – don’t waste your years as a lawyer if you want to e.g. become a management consultant – do that from the get go and become senior in it! But I don’t think that those who quit private practice a few years PQE have wasted anything. Having to retrain is a sign of wasted time; moving horizontally to another well-paid job with better hours or other perks is not.



Would King & Spalding be a good place to apply for a training contract? The global platform and rates of pay excite me.



Lmao p*ss off mate 😀 😀 😀



Legal cheek do a real research and bring out the truth about career in law. Don’t mislead young people into something not true.

Out of 100 % law graduates only around 50% can secure training contract….

Out of the 50% who secure TC only 20 % manage to find a job.

Out of 20% who manage to find a job, only around 2% manage to get into big city firms. The 18% end in minimum wage exploitation, or end up receiving no salary working on fee sharing basis…a few may start their own practice.

Your article has highlighted the 2% …now do research and write an article on remaining 98% …before sending misleading information to the youth.


Curious Bystander

Two things that really need to be pointed out:

1) These figures are only for the law firms that feature in the Times Top 100 – all of which are large commercial law firms with very large intakes. It’s also why the US firms that pay their trainees even higher (e.g. SullCrom) are not on the list. The headline is extraordinarily misleading! The mean salary for law grads 5 years down the line is acknowledged to be much lower at £30,000.

2) UK trainees/lawyers really are privileged when it comes to their starting age. You can theoretically start training at 22-23 and qualify by the time you’re 24-25, and many people do this. Contrast this to Germany and the US, both of which have 7 years of compulsory education before you’re allowed to practice and even then people often take years out before law school or to take the bar exam or to do an LLM.

Re: the silly ‘haha you’re too old why bother training’ comments above…

* Just by training at a City firm, you’re given the opportunity to qualify quicker and earlier in your life than most other major jurisdictions.

* Given that most people do not stick around in private practice, I really question why there’s so much of a rush. Working at FF between 22 and 27 is not much different from working at FF between 30 and 35. You’re going to be looking for a quieter job on the other side (unless you’re a psycho who wants to join a US firm or a fund), and you’ll still have a solid 30-40 years of working left. Who cares if you worked for a full 50 years instead of 40 or 45? Who cares if you were the oldest in your cohort instead of the youngest?

*Any working adult can appreciate that people change jobs and firms frequently and that someone who was high-flying earlier in their career can burn out or take a step back while someone who started later can stay on in the law firm and make the riches of partnership. And that is not factoring in significant life developments (marriage, kids, international moves, caring commitments, etc.) that result in people putting their career second.

TL;DR Relax. I get that Suits made you want to make partner by 30 but this isn’t a healthy mindset and will probably result in you losing the experiences that make life varied and worth living along the way.


calm down kids

too many ppl think that this is a race lmao. someone who slowly works their way up in one of the lesser paying jobs and actually becomes senior and liked and established will earn more over their lifetime and have less debt than someone who burnt out and left their high-paying city firm after a year or two. most goldman sachs w*nkers burn out before they ever make VP money/bonuses let alone MD. same goes for the US firm kids.

also people need to shut up about their peers being ‘left behind’. paralegalling for a year or doing the GDL or taking a gap year after sixth form or doing a master’s that you technically didn’t need but still enjoyed is hardly being ‘left behind’. lol. most intakes at City firms have ppl who come from a variety of backgrounds and have a variety of ages anyway. it’s not like being slightly older is going to make people mock you or not give you work.


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