Switching firms pays off – quite literally, research finds

Avatar photo

By Emily Hinkley on


Lawyers who moved firms last year earned more than those who stayed loyal

Lawyers who switch firms receive greater salary increases compared to those who choose to stay put, research has found.

The research, conducted earlier this summer, is part of an annual salary audit by legal recruitment specialist Realm Recruit. The 338 legal professionals surveyed were predominantly from North West of England, Yorkshire and the Midlands and at a range of career stages.

It found that in the last year, legal professionals who moved jobs achieved an average pay increase of 15%. For lawyers remaining at the same firm, 37% received a pay rise of less than 5%, and 18% didn’t receive a pay rise at all.

The report’s introduction explains that because inflation has been higher than 10% for the past year, pay has become a crucial element in luring and keeping talent. It found that pay rises were the main reason for lawyers moving firms last year, with 56% of those moving citing pay rises as the motivation.

The 2023 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

Despite this, 64% of lawyers polled this year said they believed they were being paid fairly, which is nearly double the number that said they were paid fairly in 2022. The survey’s authors suggest this could be related to “inflated costs” pushing lawyers to increase their earnings.

The research also revealed that 85% of law firms increased employee pay by 5-10% in the last year.

Kelly Reid, associate director at Realm Recruit, commented:

“It’s clear that in today’s tight market, firms are willing to do what it takes to secure the best talent. With high inflation and cost of living, more and more lawyers are keen to boost their earnings and those who explore new opportunities will have a better chance of doing so.”

For all the latest commercial awareness info, and advance notification of Legal Cheek's careers events:

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Hub



Water is wet.

Picking an argument for no apparent reason

Water is not itself wet, water gets other things wet

why can't lawyers just keep argumentative thoughts in their head

Bet everyone at the party loves your “well actually you should just say PIN, PIN number is tautology” routine too

Picking an argument for no apparent reason

You think I get invited to parties with comments like that?

Glass half empty

I’m a Solicitor in the Midlands. Nothing new there, you just have try and maintain a good reputation when moving. I have made some careful moves over the last 2 years, during which I have increased my wage by over 80%! I’ll pat myself on the back! (Although I did go from being underpaid to being paid the top market rate). I can now afford to heat the house, and buy brand name cereal, lucky me.

Barney the tree

In other news, water is wet

Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome Pontifex maximus

I have something to tell you about my religious leanings.

Cardinal Burke

If only you were

Water makes other things wet.

Sorry science police, the point still stands.


I have something to tell you about my favourite location for defecation.

Junior MC Associate

The operative words here are “last year”. Last year transactional work was exploding, and firms which focus on that work were underresourced and desperate to poach talent. This study focuses on the North West, which is a particularly interesting example – London firms were poaching top Northern associates, meaning that there was a lot of scope for associates moving between firms in the North West to get pay bumps if they were in transactional departments.

This year, transactional work is pretty much dead outside of a few areas, and firms across the country are openly laying people off, quietly downsizing by pushing people out, or in any case minimally recruiting. There’s a major oversupply of lawyers looking for jobs, and not enough of those jobs to go round. So if you leave your job in 2023 – and probably 2024 as well – the chances are you’re not going to get a major increase in your salary. Certainly sign-on bonuses and other perks are not happening currently.

US Associate

“transactional work is pretty much dead” is a pretty big overstatement unless you’re solely taking about billion dollar M&A /PE.

Clifford Chance trainee

Kirkland here I come


Is this “News” or a paid advertisement by the recruitment agency?

Just drawing your attention to this:

Join the conversation