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Solicitors’ salaries in 2016

23 October 2017

The median gross average salary across private practice grades analysed in 2016 was £60,000 per annum, an 11% increase on the 2015 median figure. This increase was driven by a 15.4% increase in salaried partner earnings, a 14.1% increase in equity partner drawings, and a 6.8% increase in assistant/associate median salaries. Fluctuations in salaries from year to year are not unusual so comparisons over a longer timeframe are informative.

Men, on average, continued to earn more than women. The gender pay gap (the difference between men’s and women’s annual salaries as a percentage of men’s salaries) based on average (median) annual salaries for assistant and associate solicitors was 6.3% - lower than the 10.3% reported in 2015. The gender pay gap across private practice solicitors (assistant/associates, equity and salaried partners) was 30% using the median, or 54% using the mean. The gender pay gaps for those at partnership level were wider, likely a reflection of women partners being better represented in smaller firms. 53% of female partners in the sample worked in small firms (1-4 partners) compared to 29% of male partners. Number of years post-qualification experience, tenure, size of firm, region, practice areas undertaken and hours worked are factors which explained a larger amount of variation in salaries than gender when other factors were controlled for (based on a standard OLS regression).

Across all in private practice, median salaries were highest in Greater London (£80,000). Outside of Greater London, median salaries did not vary significantly across aggregated regions of; the South of England (£48,000), the Midlands and Wales (£45,000), and the North of England (£46,000).

Similar proportions of men and women reported receiving a financial bonus in the past financial year. However, men's bonuses were, on average, 30% higher than women’s based on the median averages, or 40% higher based on the respective means.

Perceptions of transparency around pay and reward structures has improved. In 2016, around half (51%) of all PC holders (including those working in private practice, in government and other in-house roles) ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ with the statement ‘the pay and reward structures in my organisation are transparent’, an increase on the 40% reported in 2012. The largest improvement in perceived transparency was in private practice - in 2012, 37% of private practitioners reported transparency compared to 51% of those surveyed in 2016.

The salaries factsheet figures are based on a sample of 510 private practitioners who participated in the Society’s 2016 PC holder survey and provided salary data; were working full-time; and were either on a permanent contract or at partnership level at the time.