Pay rises are the number one reason lawyers switch firms, research shows

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By Bradley Fountain-Green on


Unhappiness also up there

New research has shown pay to be the biggest reason lawyers moved jobs in the last 12 months.

Of the 338 respondents that moved firms in the past year, more than half (56%) said they moved for a pay rise. This figure is up 20% from the year before, when only 36% of job-moving lawyers said did it for the money.

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

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Sarah Glynn, associate director and head of client experience at Realm Recruit commented:

“With the tightest talent market in years and the added pressure of the cost-of-living crisis, it’s harder than ever for law firms to attract and recruit the people that are going to help drive profitability. However, it’s clear that money is at the forefront of lawyers’ minds and paying properly (or at least in line with the market rate) is crucial.”

Avid Legal Cheek readers will already know that switching firms pays off financially, with lawyers who moved earning a 15% salary increase on average. 85% of the surveyed law firms had also increased salaries for existing team members by 5-10% in 2023.

But pay wasn’t the only reason lawyers moved, with 34% of respondents citing unhappiness or disengagement in their current role and 32% moving for greater flexibility.

Flexibility and greater working from home opportunities became especially important to those later on in their legal career, with the research showing that firms who offer working from home three days a week are now above the market average. This is despite nine out of ten respondents saying flexible working was important to them and 87% seeing home working as a priority.

Unmanageable workloads and a lack of opportunities to progress were amongst other popular reasons lawyers made the switch.


Water is wet

What a mind-blowing insight.


Water actually isn’t wet. Wetness is actually the ability of a liquid to adhere to a solid surface. So water itself is not wet, but it can make other things wet…




People move jobs for more money?!!!! Shockerrrr 😱😱


Any confirmed new salary rises? ES or S&M??

Surprise Surprise

Well we certainly aren’t moving just because another firm has more ‘prestige’. I don’t think British Gas or Sainsburys accept payment in the form of ‘prestige’.


Sainsburys? Joker.


What’s the difference between 95k and 105k after tax?

Tax avoider

It’s 10k if you put it all into pension or salary sacrifice EV scheme!


These calculations can be tricker than they sounds, but there are online calculators for this sort of thing. Here is a starter for 10k.

All things being equal (they rarely are – ignoring student loans and pension contributions and all other personal factors) you’d be paying 40% income tax plus 2% employee NICs. But the personal allowance is tapered away from £100,000, giving an effective 60% income tax rate from £100k to about £125k. So half of your nice £10k rise is taxed at 42% and half at effectively 62% – so on average 52% – and you should take home £4,800 more. Don’t spend it all at once.

That pay rise is 10.5% before tax, but not quite 7.5% after tax. The salary is still around two or three times median earnings, and in the top 5% of incomes nationally.

If you can, I’d suggest you make a pension contribution of at least £5k to get out of the 60% income tax band. You won’t get the NICs back but in effect you are buying £1 of tax free compound growth until retirement for 40p. Just put a bit of money in a pension fund every month and live on the rest. You’ll be grateful in the future.

Hope that helps.


I’m recently on 95k so i guess im not affected unless my salary increases further

office game enjoyer

Silly me, I thought it was for the foosball tables.


Does it make sense after just 2 years of training those in their 20s or early 30s should be on £90 – 179k a year and that doesn’t include bonus?



Sex & Violins

Not really no but that is how the legal services market has chosen to price its services and customers pay the fees. They could, and often do, use cheaper providers if they felt the need.

US quitter

I am one of the few who moved from K&E to a UK firm for better hours.

Money in the box

This is research which confirms a well known fact. Lawyers who move firms know it. Recruiters know it and use it to move candidates from one firm to another. Firms also know about this and use it to bring in lateral hires. Of course this also means they know they can lose people the same way, but it doesn’t bother them because they can bring in replacements in the same way.

It’s a sad state of affairs that firms are only genuinely committed to paying market competitive salaries at the NQ stage (to attract trainees) and when they have an important void to fill. For anyone else already at the firm, you’re really looking at a pre-pandemic 2-3% payrise if you’ve beasted yourself against your targets.

This might not be much of an issue if you’re in the City where the base NQ rates are already market leading, but for everyone else, it’s a huge problem. It’s high time firms stopped talking drivel about paying competitive rates throughout the grades and actually started putting their money where their mouth is. (And no, paying shit rates because your neighbours pay the same shit rates doesn’t mean you’re paying a competitive rate).

Junior Leachman

With more money comes more investments and retirement fund. That is the way to go.

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