Thanks to tv shows and general media representations of lawyers who are extremely wealthy, people are often drawn to law for the promise of high salaries – but what is the reality? How do salaries of a solicitor vs barrister compare?

How Much Do Solicitors Earn?

According to data released by Jobted for 2022, the average solicitor salary in the UK is £55,200 per year, 86% higher than the UK’s national average. Solicitors also average bonus payments of £2,300 per year and profit sharing incomes of £2,150 per year.

The amount a solicitor can earn firstly depends on the level at which they serve. For example, a trainee solicitor earns an average of £18,000 per year, while a senior solicitor earns upwards of £75,000 annually. 

Trainee Solicitors

Although in 2012 the Solicitors Regulation Authority removed their previous minimum salary requirements for trainee solicitors, firms are still obliged to respect the national minimum wage and often pay competitive rates.

Trainee solicitors can expect large variations in salary depending on the firm – some firms inside and outside London pay around £25,000, while some of the larger city firms pay above £40,000.

Qualified Solicitors

In smaller firms newly qualified solicitors can expect to earn between £25,00 and £40,000, whereas those who qualify into larger firms, usually in the city, can expect to bring in closer to between £58,000 and £65,000.

US firms will often pay higher rates, with some trainees earning around £40,000 and qualifying into a salary over £100,000. However, it’s well-known that these salaries come with the workload to match.

As solicitors gain seniority there is considerable variation in the progression of salary amounts – senior level solicitors who haven’t made partner yet can expect a salary increase of somewhere between £15,000 and £30,000, with solicitors making partner at larger firms often earning well into five figures.

As we have discovered, solicitor salaries vary hugely by firm, but they also vary depending on practice area. A commercial solicitor earns an average of £59,000 per year, while a conveyancing solicitor earns an average of £38,000 annually. The information below should serve as a rough guide to the average solicitor salary according to practice area. 

 Training
Year 1
Training
Year 2
PQE
Year 1
Commercial Law£40,000-£50,000£45,000-£55,000£70,000-£120,000
Public law£20,000-£30,000£25,000-£35,000£35,000-£45,000
Criminal law£18,000-£25,000£20,000-£28,000£22,000-£30,000
Family law£25,000-£35,000£30,000-£40,000£40,000-£60,000
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How Much Do Barristers Earn?

The average salary for a barrister in the UK is £89,200 gross per year, £5,030 net per month, according to Jobted, 202% higher than the UK’s national average. Barristers also average bonus payments of £4,900 per year and profit sharing incomes of £1,870 per year.

Similar to solicitors, a barrister earns in relation to their seniority. A junior barrister earns an average of £42,000 per year, while a senior barrister earns upwards of £132,000 annually.

Pupil Barristers

Unlike solicitors, pupil barristers are afforded a minimum wage of £12,000 for the year of pupillage – although most chambers pay competitive rates, with some paying in excess of £50,000 for the year of pupillage. 

However, it’s important to bear in mind that chambers do not often cover course fees – meaning the salary for a pupillage year must cover living costs and course fees.

Practicing Barristers

Unlike solicitors, who are employed by firms or businesses, barristers remain self-employed throughout their career (unless they move to practice in-house) – therefore their salary is more dependent on the type of work and level of experience.

During the first year of qualification barristers can expect to bring in anything from £12,000 to £90,000 dependant on their line of work.

As barristers gain experience however, their case load and rate will increase and within five years of experience a barrister can expect to earn between £50,000 and £200,000. A barristers salary will continue to increase, with 10-years qualified barristers looking at a salary between £65,000 and over £1 million.

Similarly, barristers’ salaries fluctuate in line with what area of law the chambers practices, for example, a criminal barrister will earn an average of £86,000 per year, while a commercial barrister is more likely to earn around £96,000 annually. The table below gives an indication of practice area earning expectations for barristers. 

 Pupillage
Tenancy
Year 1
Tenancy
Year 2
Commercial Law£45,000-£70,000£70,000-£150,000£80,000-£200,000
Public law£20,000-£70,000£35,000-£80,000£40,000-£90,000
Criminal law£12,000-£20,000£14,000-£30,000£16,000-£40,000
Family law£14,000-£35,000£16,000-£40,000£18,000-£55,000
Last updated: 25 May 2022
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