How much will I earn as a senior associate?
Salary is often an under-discussed topic in the legal profession, but here we'll try to provide some clarity, specifically around the salary of a senior associate in a UK law firm.
The value of legal services is fluctuating in the wake of Brexit, the uncertainty of the value of the pound and Covid, however the trend overall still seems to be positive, with demand for lawyers outstripping supply.
A senior associate is the position a solicitor takes on before partnership, usually after working for about five and seven years post-qualification, however this depends on many factors. It is usually the step after associate level, but people can take other roles in-between.
Another thing to bear in mind is that salaries differ across law firms and practice areas, and hinge on other factors like the area of law and location.
The area of law
Heat Recruitment recently reported that private client and employment law are areas that have seen an increase in pay recently, and there’s a particularly high reward for those specialising in the finance industry.
In general, commercial law, finance and IP law are often some of the best paying areas. This is normally in contrast to areas such as family and crime.
Covid has changed the working environment drastically and many lawyers are moving out of London to the regions for a variety of reasons. The subsequent shift in typical pay structures means salaries in the regions (basically, everywhere apart from London) have been increasing slightly compared to just a few years ago.
Having said that, the average London salary still easily outweighs the average senior associate salary outside of London.
Lastly, the standard of the specific firm is usually the most important factor when it comes to senior associate salaries, with US-based London firms paying far more than smaller regional firms.
In light of these factors, the following figures below from Heat Recruitment’s recent analysis can be seen in context.
US/Magic Circle firms based in London pay an average annual salary of £130,000 to senior associates, varying about 30% either side of this figure. Non-US/Magic Circle firms in London pay an average of £65,000 a year, with outliers paying at the lower end of about £40,000 and at the higher end almost £100,000. This is in contrast to the firms outside London which average £50,000.
Remember though, these figures should be considered in conjunction with the average working hours of particular firms – often US/Magic Circle ones have considerably longer working days.
Essentially, there is a big difference between the salaries of senior associates in London compared to those in other places. Then within London we see a further jump based on specific firms, although this does usually correlate with higher working hours. Despite all of this, a senior associate is a well-paid position whatever way you slice it, with even the lowest salaries still above the £40,000 mark.