Law ranks second for graduate earning power

By on

Beaten by investment banking

Graduates entering City law are among the highest paid in the country, new research has shown, with only their counterparts in investment banking earning more.

High Fliers Research report 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.

The City’s top law firms offer a median salary of £50,000, according to the report. A figure unchanged from last year. However, with a median starting salary of £55,000, their peers starting at investment banks take top spot on this year’s earnings table.

The findings show that many 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 2023 shows a number of US outfits pay their UK newcomers even more, with Davis Polk & Wardwell, Kirkland & Ellis, Morrison Foerster, Sullivan & Cromwell, Vinson & Elkins and Weil Gotshal & Manges all offering top rates of £60,000.

In 2023, the median graduate starting salary is £33,500, a £1,500 increase from the previous year. Researchers noted that the average starting salary from a decade ago (£29,000) would have been around £39,000 today if it had kept pace with inflation.

The 2023 Legal Cheek Firms Most List




Think outside the box

Biggest earnings come from either jobs involving maths/programming/something involving making/executing algorithms. Or, if you aren’t that way inclined taking a small bit of risk and starting your own venture; small % of start-up equity as a co founder/early person is way more, quicker than these jobs; albeit risker, yes.

IB always weeds people out – those in PE/VC/hedge funds are always the top of their cohorts and not average exit opportunities.

IB/Law/Consulting etc make drones out of people and suck your individualism away. I changed and I’m not looking back.

Love the process and the money will follow you. Love just the money and you’ll wear the golden shackles forever.

It’s okay to say you didn’t get a TC after years of trying

You’ve tried to flavour your comment with certain “city” buzzwords and acronyms but I think the content you provide really betrays a lack of experience and knowledge. It essentially amounts to that generic boomer advice of “ooh you should work in tech, that seems to be in demand at the moment!”

The reality remains that, for the largest part, high-paying jobs are ones that are most demanding and not necessarily the most exciting. The apparatus of the commercial world doesn’t really require genius, just personal sacrifice. Yes, when you’re further into your career you *might* find a lucrative opportunity for work that you believe to be your passion; the overwhelming majority of people (in the city at least) work to make money.

Perhaps you could browse some widely-available statistics on the success rate for startups.


A fair analysis of those career choices. Although all jobs wear your individualism away, that’s inherent in the division of labour and the hyper-specialised world we live in. If you don’t want to run your own business (massively over fetishised imo) then the erosion of your individualism is something you just have to contend with.

The answer to that, surely, is to realise that no job is going to reflect a well-rounded picture of who you are as an individual (even if you work for yourself, and even more so if you employ and manage people). Ultimately, that’s for your personal life and seeking that fulfilment through work is a sure fire route to dissatisfaction and disillusionment.

I found once I set my expectations a bit lower (within reason, obviously) I actually enjoyed my job a lot more.


In reality, commercial law is sadly (for those of us in it) a distant second behind investment banking (IB). These statistics don’t take into account bonuses, which are a massive part of the pay packet of bankers. Bonuses over 25% of basic salary aren’t really a thing in commercial law (especially not at trainee level), whereas a first-year banker will receive between £35k-£45k bonus on top of the £60k basic salary figure quoted.

This means as a 21/22 year old first year banker, you’re only making slightly less than a 25/26 year old NQ at a silver circle firm.

The pay gap between commercial law and IB gets even wider later on, with associate salary bunching, but I won’t even go there…

common sense

Right, but a busy week in commercial law is considered standard in IB. One is a demanding job, the other is a lifestyle job. And quite frankly, if you struggle on a commercial lawyer’s salary you really need to look at your spending habits.


Ha ha. Lawyers and trainee investment bankers earn more but then give it 5 yes and where are 90% of trainee investment bankers redundant and most lawyers are on maybe 20% more than they started on.

The fact is if you are interested in a lifetime career and choice and positivity Chartered accountants are CEOs of the majority of the top 100 FTSE companies and the overwhelming majority of enterprises, a similar majority are the chair persons and almost all CFOs are chartered accountants.

Look at National Statistics showing average remuneration by occupation and the average lawyer is on £45,000 the average barrister on £40,000 and average judge on about £90,000.

Then look at who most lawyers clients are and they are mostly life’s lowlife whether in criminal or commercial law or family law. Only IP is it generally positive creative people.

That’s why ask most 40 to 60 yr old lawyers if they enjoy their career, only a small % will say yes and why exhaustion and cynicism and self medicating habits of booze drugs and adultery are so prevalent among lawyers when by the age of 25-30 lawyers realise it has nothing whatsoever to do with justice. Its dog eat dog and winning at all costs and telling untruths is a daily exercise…

common sense

I’m not even going to entertain the suggestion being a Chartered accountant is more fulfilling than being a corporate lawyer.

With respect to your other suggestions – they’re all C suite. Not really attainable.


Should compare this to the trades. Plumbers and electricians will easily out-earn these nerds when they set up their own company in a few years and with a much less stressful job. Furthermore, their work has some social utility, unlike corporate law or IB.

FF Sake

Love this, upvoted

Weil Funds 3 PQE

I am in the trades – I traded my soul away

Individual of Counsel

I suppose the best way to retain your individualism in a high-paying legal job is to go to the Bar.

The only problem then is that you have to spend your life working alongside other barristers and appearing before judges. And you probably weren’t a great individual to start with.

That said, though it is harder to protect my weekends, I’ve come to realise that I probably on average work fewer hours during the week than in City firms, and I’m on track to bill 230k this year (3 years’ post tenancy at a London Band 1 specialist, non-commercial set) with 45 days of holiday.

Join the conversation

Related Stories