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Salary Survey: In-house

Written by: The Lawyer
Published on: 14 Jun 2015

    Supported by QC Legal

    Precisely one-quarter of respondents to the survey work in-house – an area that is an increasingly popular and well-regarded career choice among lawyers.

    Typically, base salaries are lower in-house, with some newly-qualified lawyers here earning in the low £40,000s – though depending on the type of employer others might take home closer to £60,000. The PQE marker beloved by law firms is less important in the in-house world but the salary for a junior legal counsel (i.e. between 1 and 3 PQE) ranges to the mid-£40,000s at the bottom of the scale to the £70,000s at the top. Sector plays an important role, too, the average salary for in-house lawyers in the banking sector, for example, is significantly higher than other areas.

    While base salaries are typically lower for in-house lawyers than in private practice, this is usually made up for by generous benefits packages – particularly when it comes to bonuses and transport allowances. Almost three-quarters (71.4 per cent) of in-housers who responded to our survey received a bonus in 2014/15, compared to just 38.9 per cent of lawyers in private practice.

    Furthermore, in-house lawyers’ bonuses tend to be considerably more substantial than those of their colleagues in law firms. Of those private practice lawyers who did get a bonus in 2014/15, most – 51 per cent – got a small top-up of between 0 and 5 per cent of their base salary.

    By contrast, the majority of in-house lawyers picked up bigger bonuses. Just 19 per cent of in-house lawyers who got a bonus in 2014/15 got one of less than 5 per cent of their salary. Indeed, a substantial chunk – 16.5 per cent – received more than 30 per cent of their base salary. This compares with just 4 per cent of private practice lawyers who got a similar top-up.

    In-house lawyers also tend to get a car allowance – something relatively rare for private practice lawyers. This allowance can be to the tune of several thousand pounds and can be taken as cash, essentially bumping up in-house lawyers’ earnings quite considerably.

    Other areas of the in-house lawyer’s compensation package which make up for a comparatively low base salary include free or subsidised parking (28 per cent of in-house lawyers got this compared to 16 per cent of private practice lawyers) and private medical arrangements (70 per cent of in-housers compared to 64 per cent of those in private practice).

    Then, of course, there is the opportunity for flexitime. Some 7.7 per cent of private practice lawyers said this was part of their benefits package compared to 15.4 per cent of in-house lawyers – exactly double, proving that while working in-house is far from a soft option, the fabled opportunities for greater work-life balance certainly exist.

    As far as things like gym membership and cycle to work schemes are concerned, there is relatively little difference between private practice and in-house. The one ‘perk’ where private practice lawyers do substantially better is that of subsidised legal services. Some 11 per cent of private practice lawyers can take advantage of this, compared to 1 per cent of in-housers.

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    In-house salaries, supported by QC Legal

    This survey shows that the in-house market is in rude health. The downward pressure on fees in private practice is the result of clients looking to reduce their external spend by bringing their advisers in-house. This is the main reason why we have seen a large spike in headhunt instructions for general and junior counsel positions. Legal teams that are able to cut costs for their business can be well rewarded.

    Alongside a disillusionment with the stresses of law firm culture and an eagerness to act more as commercial advisers, this is one of the main reasons we have had a huge increase in instructions from lawyers looking to make the switch in-house. In combination, these trends are resulting in a ‘brain drain’ of the best talent away from private practice. The legal market is client-led, now, more than ever before.

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