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Law ties with investment banking in graduate salary rankings

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Some new starters can expect to earn £50k

Graduates entering law or investment banking are the highest paid in the country, new research has shown, and can expect to start on salaries of £50,000.

High Fliers Research last month examined the country’s top grad employers (based on The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers 2022) and forecast how much they’ll pay their new recruits this year. The figures don’t include additional benefits such as bonuses.

Trainee solicitor salaries at the country’s top law firms have shot up to a new median of £50,000, matching the average salaries of their peers starting at investment banks.

Law was beaten by investment banking in last year’s findings with trainee solicitors earning an average salary of £46,000 and junior bankers taking home £50,000.

The findings show loads of the highest grad starting salaries are from law firms — £52,000 at White & Case, and £50,000 at Allen & Overy, Baker McKenzie, Clifford Chance, Freshfields, Herbert Smith Freehills, Latham Watkins, Linklaters and Slaughter and May.

But our Firms Most List shows a number of US outfits pay their UK newcomers even more, with Weil Gotshal and Akin Gump topping the table with sums of £60,000 and £57,500 respectively.

The 2022 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

Further down the table (below) grads venturing into consulting can expect to earn £47,500, on average, while those bound for the oil and energy industry can expect earnings of £40,000.

Graduates entering the public sector earn the lowest in the rankings (£23,100), followed by engineering (£28,500) and media (£31,500).

The report also showed that grad salaries at the top employers are set to increase in 2022 for the first time in eight years from £30,000 to £32,000.

Median starting salaries for grads in 2022

Industry Median starting salary
Law £50,000
Investment banking £50,000
Consulting £47,500
Oil & energy £40,000
Banking & finance £38,000
Retailing £36,800
Armed forces £33,000
Consumer goods £32,000
Technology £32,000
Accounting & professional services £32,000
Media £31,500
Engineering & industrial £28,500
Public sector £23,100

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29 Comments

Anon

Well the fact the rankings don’t include bonuses is pretty misleading. Most legal trainees don’t get any bonus but first year IB analysts at top banks get enough to push them into six figures.

(55)(1)

Anon

This.

My flatmate in investment banking bought a Submariner with his first bonus. I could just about manage a Subway with mine.

(67)(3)

🚨Fresher Alert 🚨

*beep beep*

no first year analyst buys fancy watches … they have other financial worries … let’s hope you come up with a better story next time!

*beep beep*

(5)(11)

Anon

Not really, many analysts are already incredibly rich sponsored by mum and dad and spend everything they earn on luxury goods.

(15)(0)

Anon

Haha, I’m in-house and qualified back in 2015. I wish I were a fresher.

It was 2014, we were paying 600 quid each a month for a dump in Clapham. He had no financial commitments beyond the rent and a weekly session at Infernos. You didn’t have to pay crazy money on the afters market for a Sub then either, he bought it MSRP from a dealer after a couple of months on a waiting list.

The joy of being straight out of uni on good money is you don’t have anything else to spend it on besides holidays, clothes, nights out etc.

To be honest we probably had more spare cash for stuff like watches then than we do now we’ve got mortgages, nursery fees, hefty commutes and wives on mat leave to pay for.

(7)(0)

Sceptical

Meaningless without considering IB bonuses. A better comparison would be NQ salaries plus bonuses to banker salaries plus bonuses, after accounting for later lawyer qualifications due to training/LPC time.

(40)(0)

Anon

I suppose also worth considering that trainees will have done a year’s extra study in the LPC, whereas first year IBs will have gone straight through after graduating.

(21)(1)

Anon

Doesn’t account for bonuses, which push IB a bit higher.

However, having witnessed a handful of friends start IB careers I don’t envy them. It is worse than law. Yes, law can be bad, but IB is a different beast entirely.

Even physically you can see the toll it takes on them. They look physically exhausted, huge bags under eyes, pale, lost weight.

In comparison, my friends at US/MC grumble about workloads etc but they’re not actually dying slowly.

(57)(37)

analyst

This comment should not be getting downvoted. IBers in particular routinely work 80-100 hour weeks and see taking half of Sunday off as some kind of privilege. No trainee at any firm, MC or US, will be working that hard throughout their training contract.

The problem with comparing law to IB is that, while IBD is slightly more lucrative further on, the first few years are plagued with horrific hours and high attrition rates (leaving after 2 years is the norm in many divisions). Meanwhile, law pays much less up front given the LPC and two-year training contract but is a viable long-term career if you can tolerate the work because the working hours are so much better.

Also, US firms in London pretty much match IBD salaries up to VP level – a senior associate at a Cravath scale firm is making, on average, the same salary as a third year VP at a BB in London. US firms are pretty close to matching IB in terms of hours at that point so there isn’t *that* much to distinguish between the two. Keep in mind also that law firms pay far less of their salaries in bonuses.

Obviously New York is a different story – IB pays more there, and there’s no need to incur $200k in student debt on a JD. MBAs generally pay for themselves if they’re from a top institution.

Back to London: unlike law, IB offers a stepping stone between senior associate-eque roles and partner roles but we really are talking about a few dozen people here in their mid-late 30s here.

(35)(34)

Not true

Your description sounds like every city lawyer I’ve met and the naivety in your comment makes me think you haven’t even started practice yet. Lawyers often have it worse. When the IB guys log off for the evening, the law guys get told to turn the docs overnight so they can review first thing in the morning.

(56)(21)

analyst

So my post (1:06pm) and the post I was replying to (10:23am) got exactly 11 downvotes in less than an hour on a Monday afternoon. Meanwhile your post got exactly 11 upvotes in the same time.

If you’re going to be so petty about spamming the updoot, at least try to hide it?

By the way, your reply is wrong: the people logging off at 7 and asking for documents to review by the morning tend to be Finance or Ops, not the analysts pulling 100-hour weeks. There’s generally very little interaction with the front office.

It is curious that someone who has the time to spam-downvote and who clearly doesn’t know the first thing about how lawyers interact with investment bankers is so quick to allege that someone else is ‘naive’… clearly you’re neither a banker nor a lawyer.

(20)(26)

Anon again

Absolute saddo counting votes and trying to be Sherlock Holmes, this is the first time I’ve checked the comments since I posted! Didn’t vote either way.

(30)(14)

analyst

Ah yes, 7 upvotes just magically appear next to your post in half an hour at 5 pm on a Monday, while another 7 downvotes appear next to mine. I’m sure it’s all a coincidence!

anon

No, IB work longer hours on average. Emphasis on average.

It is funny that whenever this discussion comes up, those that point out how hard IB work are downvoted heavily. If you’re here, you’re interested in a career in law. Yet, by your behaviour, you seem to think a legal career is not really worth it. It’s oddly masochistic.

Why not do banking if that’s how you feel?

(34)(5)

LOL

my dude are you honestly trying to convince us that IB works less hard than law

(21)(8)

Not not true

Not true, do you seriously think that investment bankers spend time checking details in contracts they don’t understand? It’s done by legal for a reason.

(2)(1)

🚨Fresher Alert 🚨

*beep beep*

(1)(4)

Anon

Figures for IB are outdated – virtually all of the leading firms in London have raised their base pay to £60-70k for a first year analyst. In addition bonuses are disregarded which, if included, would raise total compensation for IB to £80-100k.

(18)(0)

Anon

Was 130k total comp this year at Goldman and JPM for first years

(22)(2)

analyst

This is true – Piper Sandler first year analysts are on £75k base. From the people I know, the last time an IB analyst was paid £50k base was in 2019 (at MS).

(8)(0)

Coiny

Bit ludicrous to suggest they are similar given the bonus rates and much higher salaries especially down the ladder..

(6)(0)

analyst

This is only if you compare top tier IB firms with MC law firms and below. Obviously IB blows most English law firms out of the water.

IB pay is very close to the Cravath scale in London. However, this is difficult to generalise given that so much of IB pay depends on the bank/division/team and everything is hotly negotiated. I know of people at DB who had stellar years and people at MS/BAML who didn’t.

Final point: we should always remember that most US law firm associates and IB analysts/associates burn out within a few years and will never taste these enormous salaries. The jobs also become more sales-y the further you progress so there’s no point in acting like these salaries are guaranteed or that promotion is a given. If there’s no business need for someone of x level of seniority, they’re either not getting promoted or they’re out.

(13)(0)

Observer of the UK

What a depressing country; where the highest salaries come from managing the transactions produced by productive enterprises, instead of producing new products or services for people to use (like in America where the highest salaries by far come from technology, which produces services that we all use like Uber, Instagram, Data Analytics, etc).

No wonder that the UK’s GDP per capita is falling fast in the rankings – it’s now only 67% of America’s – all the energy in this country goes towards finding increasingly sophisticated ways for corporations to avoid Tax and liability. i can count on my fingers the last time I heard someone who wanted to do something ambitious outside of the established lanes of Big 4, law, or investment banking.

(34)(10)

Anon

You do realise most of those American tech companies employ thousands of brits for their UK/European operations? Lots of people work in tech, you just wouldn’t hear about it if youre a lawyer or banker

(19)(2)

Observer of the UK

your comment fails to engage with the data in front of you – starting salaries in software engineering or product jobs (technology jobs) in the US regularly top $100k – here the starting salaries for these jobs are …. £32k.

(8)(8)

Anon

Ah yes and what are the student debt levels in the US remind me? And you ignore the fact you are quoting in two different currencies to make figures seem higher. Where are you pulling those salaries from too? Software engineer roles at top tech firms and banks in London are way higher than what you claim

(9)(1)

Mmmhm

Yes, this indeed does hit heavy.

*passes the blunt*

(4)(2)

Barrister

For hundreds of years, UK’s main focus has been on a service based economy heavily reliant on finance. Even when we were mining coal, finance has always been overrepresented. This is nothing new.

(4)(0)

sad

@Not True

prove that you’re not a sol without saying that you’re not a sol…

(1)(2)

Comments are closed.

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