How much will I earn as an associate?
Associate salaries in the UK are contingent on a variety of factors. Here, we examine all the factors that influence how much you could earn as an associate at a law firm.
What is an associate?
Associates are employees of a law firm and their work is supervised by senior associates. They start as newly qualified lawyers and gain more responsibilities over time.
In addition to dealing with their own clients, they may also be requested to assist senior associates with high-profile cases. During their time at the firm they will be given more and more responsibilities, eventually becoming senior associates themselves.
How much do associates earn?
The salary of an associate really depends on a wide range of factors, including the area of law they specialise in, the type of firm they work for, and the part of the country they work in.
When considering UK companies, the highest salaries are offered by the Magic Circle firms, a colloquial term used to describe the five top international law firms in the country. As you might expect, all of them are located in London. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been offering salaries just shy of £100,000 to associates.
However, American firms operating in the UK have been challenging the Magic Circle. They have pushed salaries above the £100,000 mark, some even presenting contracts that allow associates to earn as much as £150,000 a year. Whilst UK firms are struggling to compete, the prospect of earning a six-figure income certainly makes working for an American firm an attractive option for recently qualified lawyers.
Areas of law & pay
The area of law you specialise and choose to work in also greatly influences how much money you take home at the end of each month. The highest earning associates tend to work in private equity, corporate and commercial law. Those who are involved with international legal systems usually earn higher than average salaries as well.
The lowest paying solicitors work with localised legal matters. From family to personal injury and insurance law, these legal areas generally provide an income that is below the associate average.
Location, location, location
When looking at the earnings of associates, you also need to take into account where the law firm is based. In the UK, there is a great deal of regional disparity in income amongst lawyers.
The highest paying legal jobs are in London, where associates on average earn around £88,000. The North of England sees the lowest salaries for solicitors, where they can expect to earn just over £40,000. In Scotland salaries stand between £30,000 and £38,000 – significantly lower than England.
However, in addition to earnings, it is important to take into consideration other factors. HIgh performing associates will earn more over the years as the firm rewards lawyers’ work by offering them better contracts.
When considering your career pathway, it may benefit you in the long run to start out working at a smaller regional firm. There, you are entrusted with more responsibilities and can climb up the firm hierarchy quicker. This will put you in a good position to apply for better paying jobs at national and international law firms at a later date.
More than just the money
Law firms also offer a range of benefits that are not reflected in associates’ earnings. For example, certain companies offer health insurance to employees and subsidise travel expenses.
It is also important to remember that working as a lawyer is not just about your income. It is crucial to find a position in an area of law that you are interested in and one that gives you a work-life balance that you are comfortable with.