Salary Survey: Salary rises and satisfaction

Across the UK, 72.4 per cent of lawyers received a pay rise in 2014-15. Salaries rose fastest in Scotland. North of the border, some 22.9 per cent of respondents got a pay rise of more than 10 per cent, compared with 15.9 per cent in London and 14.6 per cent nationally.

In general, however, a pay rise of up to 5 per cent was most common: 42.9 per cent of respondents reported getting this level of salary increase.

Breaking the numbers down by type of practice, national firms – those with multiple offices across a number of regions – proved the most generous. At these firms, some 26 per cent of lawyers got a pay increase of more than 10 per cent.

Nationwide, just over a quarter of lawyers (26 per cent) received no pay increase at all. This was most prevalent in Wales and Northern Ireland. In Wales, 34.5 per cent of respondents received no pay rise in 2014-15. In Northern Ireland, 38.9 per cent of lawyers saw no change in their base salary.

In-house lawyers and those at boutique firms were the most likely to get no salary rise at all. One-third of in-house and boutique firm respondents said they received no increase in 2014/15.

The areas where most lawyers got a pay rise were Scotland and the East Midlands. In both cases, three-quarters of all respondents got some kind of salary increase.

Nationwide, only 1.6 per cent of lawyers saw their salary decrease. In-house lawyers were the most likely to see their earnings fall: 3 per cent of in-house respondents reported a salary decrease – double the average.

Men were only slightly more likely to get a pay rise than women: 25.2 per cent of men got no salary boost in 2014-15, compared with 26.8 per cent of women.

However, men tended to get bigger pay rises than women. Some 47.1 per cent of females got a small pay rise of between zero and 5 per cent, compared with 38.5 per cent of males. However, 16.6 per cent of males received a six to 10 per cent salary bump, compared with only 13.3 per cent of females. Meanwhile, 18.1 per cent of males got a pay increase of more than 10 per cent. The same was true of just 11.2 per cent of females. These overall figures, however, may be influenced by the fact that there are more men than women in high-level positions, where salary rises are likely to be greater.

Perhaps not surprisingly, women were more likely than men to be unhappy with their pay. Some 40.5 per cent of women expressed themselves ‘dissatisfied’ or ‘very dissatisfied’ with their salary, compared with 33.5 per cent of men. The percentage who felt neutral about their salary was roughly the same for each gender – just under one-third – while men were more likely to express satisfaction. Of the men, 30.1 per cent were ‘satisfied’ and 5.4 per cent were ‘very satisfied’ with their salary, compared with 26.2 per cent and 3.2 per cent of women who felt the same.

Also not surprisingly, lawyers at US firms in London recognise when they are on to a good thing – a huge 68.7 per cent of them declared themselves satisfied or very satisfied with their pay, compared to 15.8 per cent who were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied, giving a net satisfaction score of +52.9.

Magic circle lawyers were the only other group who, as a whole, were more pleased than unhappy about their salaries, with a net satisfaction score of +27.3.

Lawyers at other large London and international firms were far more split. Here, about a third were satisfied with their pay, another third were neutral and the final third were dissatisfied, giving a total net satisfaction score of 2.2.

The least satisfied groups were lawyers at regional firms and those working in the public sector. Within regional firms, 29.8 per cent of respondents were happy with their pay and 47.5 per cent were dissatisfied, giving a net satisfaction score of –23.6. In the public sector, only 23.5 per cent of respondents were satisfied with their pay and 44.5 per cent were unsatisfied – a net satisfaction score of –21.

Despite the comparatively generous pay rises at national firms in 2014-15, 43 per cent of lawyers in this category of firm still expressed dissatisfaction with the size of their pay packet.

Salary Survey Salary Graph

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