It is a well-known fact that lawyers are some of the best paid professionals in the job market. Reed estimates that the average UK solicitor earns almost £50,000 per year, around double the average UK salary of around £26,000 per year. Bonuses received on top of base salaries for solicitors widen this gap even further. Less well-known, however, is the huge range within which solicitors can earn based on a number of factors, including location, practice area, firm, and specific roles. Read on to learn more about the factors affecting salary, plus a few examples of legal roles and their salary ranges. 

Average Solicitor Salary in the UK

On a broad scale, you can expect an average starting salary of £34,700 as an entry level solicitor. Senior solicitors can expect to earn £140,000+. Across the Solicitor profession, trainee solicitors or Newly Qualified Associates (NQs) have the lowest salaries, while highly experienced solicitors in London tend to have the highest salaries.

Mid-career solicitors, with 4 – 9 years of experience, earn an average yearly salary of £47,600, while an experienced solicitor with 10 – 20 years of experience makes on average £78,950. Solicitors with more than 20 years of experience earn £98,600 on average.

Throughout this article, we will examine the approximate salaries of some of the most well-known steps within a solicitor’s career, from vacation schemer all the way up to partnership.


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Early Career Solicitor Salaries

Vacation Scheme Pay

At the very start of your journey as a solicitor, you may consider applying for a vacation scheme in the hopes of securing a training contract. These schemes typically pay their interns by the week (most vacation schemes range from 1 to 4 weeks in length), and you’re usually looking at between £300-£500/week for relatively big firms. 

Solicitor Apprentices

If you’re looking to avoid university after A Levels and instead enrol as a solicitor apprentice, you’re entitled to the National Minimum Wage as a minimum (which gets reassessed by the government on April 1st each year). However, most firms will pay more than this – approximately starting at around £18,000 outside of London, or £22,000 inside London. You will usually receive a small increase in salary as you go through each year of your apprenticeship, before joining up with the pay band of university-route solicitors at NQ level.

Trainee Solicitors

Trainee solicitors can earn around £40,000 at a large firm in London. However, Magic Circle trainees can expect around £50,000 a year, whilst elite US firms will sometimes offer salaries as high £60,000. Also worth noting is the fact that salaries usually receive a slight bump between years 1 and 2 as a trainee (often a few thousand).

Average Newly Qualified Solicitor Salaries

Once you’ve qualified as a lawyer (and thus become a ‘junior associate’), your salary will likely take a rather significant leap upwards. This is where some of the most noticeable differences between firms become apparent. As already discussed, in London, the average newly qualified solicitor salaries is as high as £160,000 at an elite US firm, over £110,000 at a Magic Circle firm, over £100,000 at a Silver Circle firm, or over £70,000 at smaller regional firms. These salaries are often significantly reduced (by around 30-40% if you work at an office outside of London). 

After each year that you’ve been qualified, you will often receive a small increase in pay (generally a few thousand) on your salary – these years of experience after NQ level are referred to as PQE (Post-Qualified Experience)– for example, a Magic Circle 3PQE lawyer (having been qualified for 3 years) may earn £5,000 more than they did upon qualifying. This is also where bonuses start to come into play, which will be discussed in further detail later in this article. 

Senior Solicitor Salaries

After a few years as a junior associate (the exact number varies widely between firms), you’ll often be promoted to a ‘senior associate’ role, which usually comes with a relatively significant increase in pay. Not only does this increase vary widely between firms, but firms are also often very secretive about salaries after NQ level, so predicting this jump exactly is very challenging.

Partner Salaries

Finally, we come to partner salaries. As you now reach the top of the legal profession, your salary will vary even more so than ever before based on specific factors such as firm type and practice area. In a smaller regional law firm, this may be the point at which you reach a six-figure salary – at a large Magic Circle firm, this may be the point at which you reach a seven-figure salary. 

The base salary itself often only makes up a small portion of your earnings – bonuses (based on bringing in new work for your firm), make up a large portion of your income. Furthermore, if you progress from a ‘salaried partner’ to an ‘equity partner’, you’re essentially becoming a shareholder in the firm itself (hence ‘equity’), and so your total pay package will be somewhat dependent on the firm’s success too.

It is worth noting here that many associates will not make the successful jump to partnership. Larger firms often run an ‘up or out’ model whereby the failure to make the cut might mean being moved on (requiring you to look for another firm at which to take a shot at partnership). In other cases, you may be kept on and given a much lesser salary raise with the title of ‘Counsel’. These lawyers often earn more than senior associates but less than partners, and may also arrive at such a position by deciding they do not want the stresses of partnership themselves, and being allowed to continue on in this alternative role.

In-House Solicitor Salaries

Finally, we come to in-house lawyers. Here, the image is particularly unpredictable as, unlike law firms, companies employing an in-house legal team are unlikely to have a rigid lockstep system. In these cases, it’s even more important to negotiate (using your finely tuned lawyer skills) your salary to maximise your earning potential. The decision whether to move in-house is a difficult one, and factors to consider might be a potential slight drop in pay, needing to act as a ‘general counsel’ (being less specialised than you might be in a law firm), a different culture, and an emphasis on a particular service or product that the company offers. 

Your salary will mostly be determined by your experience – most companies seek in-house lawyers from around the 3-5PQE mark onwards, and you can look at individual job listings to get an idea of what different industries will pay.

Factors Affecting Solicitor Salaries


The type of role you perform will naturally have a large effect on your potential earning power. Remember that there are other roles to consider which fall outside this traditional ladder too – for example paralegals (earning approx. £25,000-£30,000 nationally according to Reed) or professional support lawyers (PSLs – very well paid qualified lawyers who trade off salary growth for better work life balance/the opportunity to go part-time).


Location is a major factor for deciding a solicitor’s salary. Most of the best-paying legal work can be found in London, which remains the highest earning city for solicitors by far. However, many larger firms maintain regional offices in cities like Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol. Salaries in those locations are often significantly lower (to match the lower cost of living often found there), so aspiring solicitors must make the decision to relocate based on a range of carefully considered other factors, too. 


The type of firm you work at has a massive effect on earning potential. Let’s take London as the example for some figures. At the very top of solicitor salaries sit the ‘elite US’ firms such as Kirkland & Ellis (currently the best-paying at NQ level in the UK, at around £172,000). Close behind are the ‘Magic Circle’ firms, ranging from around £130,000 at NQ (Freshfields) to £107,500 (Linklaters).

Silver Circle firms (alongside mid-to-large sized US firms) typically pay between £80,000 and £100,000, while more regional firms could pay anywhere between £50,000 and £70,000. High street solicitors will generally pay a little lower than that. These figures, it should be noted, are constantly changing, and in the last few years have risen dramatically. Of course, higher salaries will often mean more responsibility and longer hours (as we will discuss in more detail towards the end of this article).

Areas of Law

Pay scales across the different areas of law vary vastly. For example, salaries for corporate lawyers tend to be higher than other areas of legal practice.

Although salary levels are usually lower in areas such as Criminal Law and Family Law, many solicitors in these fields are passionate about the work they do. Work in these fields can also command a higher salary if, for example, the firm does high-profile criminal defence work or handles family matters for high-net-worth individuals.

Corporate Lawyer Salaries

According to, the average salary for a corporate lawyer in the UK is £72,960. Cities paying the highest corporate solicitor salaries include:

  • London – where the average corporate lawyer salary is £97,882 per year
  • Birmingham – where the average corporate solicitor salary is £68,733 per year
  • Bristol – where average corporate lawyer salaries are £63,599 per year
  • Leeds – where the average salary for corporate solicitors is £63,340 per year
  • Manchester – where the average salary for a corporate lawyer is £62,563 per year

* Note that all salaries above exclude bonuses.

Criminal Lawyer Salaries

The average UK salary for a criminal lawyer is £39,059 per year. However, some of the highest paying criminal solicitor salaries are outside of London in regions such as:

  • Nottinghamshire – where average criminal law solicitor salaries are £52,500
  • Leicestershire – where the average salary for a criminal lawyer is £50,000
  • Norfolk – where the average income for solicitors in criminal law is £50,000

* Note that all salaries above exclude bonuses.

Criminal lawyer salaries in Kent, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire also average around £50,000 (excluding bonuses).

Intellectual Property Lawyer Salaries

According to UK Talent, the average salary for an intellectual property lawyer is £60,000. Trainee Solicitors in intellectual property law practising in London can expect to earn £45,000+. Outside London, salary levels for trainee intellectual property lawyers can range from £30,000 to £35,000 per year.

Newly qualified intellectual property solicitors practising in London can earn anywhere between £60K and £75K. Outside London, salaries can range from £47,000 to £55,000.

Intellectual property law partners can earn upwards of £100,000 within London and other major cities across the UK.

Tax Lawyer Salaries

Tax lawyer salaries in the UK average £77,200 per year, according to Jobted. Salaries in this profession are 161% higher than the UK’s national average salary. Senior tax lawyers can earn in excess of £107,000 per year, while the average starting salary for a junior tax lawyer is £19,000 per year.

Some of the highest paying cities for tax lawyers include:

  • London – where the average corporate tax lawyer salary is £97,882 per year
  • Birmingham – where tax lawyer salaries average around £68,733 per year
  • Bristol – where the average salary for a tax lawyer is £63,599 per year
  • Leeds – where tax lawyer salaries average £63,340 per year
  • Manchester – where the average salary for a tax lawyer is £62,563 per year

* Note that all salaries above exclude bonuses.

Clinical Negligence Lawyer Salaries

Average clinical negligence lawyer salaries are £43,125 in the UK, according to UK towns and cities paying clinical negligence lawyers the highest salaries include:

  • London – where the average clinical negligence lawyer salary is £53,988 per year
  • Southampton – where the average salary for clinical negligence solicitors is £50,487 per year
  • Bristol – where average clinical negligence lawyer salaries are around £48,703 per year
  • Leeds – where the average salary for lawyers in clinical negligence is approximately £47,483 per year
  • Birmingham – where the average clinical negligence lawyer salary is £43,951 per year

* Note that all salaries above exclude bonuses.


All of the salaries mentioned above are without bonuses. Bonuses are often tied to billable hours, or sometimes linked to performance in closing particular deals or cases. It’s difficult to say exactly how much of a bonus a solicitor can expect, but at the largest firms associates (the earliest stage in your solicitor career at which you usually qualify for bonuses) can sometimes gain up to 10-20% of their annual salary as a bonus. At partner level the picture is even more complex, and often bonuses reflect even more of their salary since a partner’s work is essentially measured by the matters that they bring in and execute.

Negotiating Your Salary

If you choose to become a solicitor, gaining experience and advancing your career will put you in a strong position to negotiate your solicitor salary. Solicitors spend their day negotiating deals on behalf of clients, so you can put your skills to good use when negotiating your salary for a new job or when seeking a pay rise with a current employer.

To negotiate a solicitor salary, it’s important that you do your research and keep an eye on average solicitor salaries in your area of legal practice and location. For example, the Law Society recommended a 4% increase in 2022 for trainee solicitors in England and Wales.


It’s clear that solicitors are some of the best-paid individuals in the UK. However, all of these lucrative salaries come with trade-offs. First, these careers come with a significant level of pressure, especially towards crunch time on larger transactions if you’re at a bigger firm. The impact on mental health can therefore be significant – as is often worsened by high expected billable hours of over 2000 hours per year at certain firms. Furthermore, the industry is highly competitive at all stages – training contract applications, for example, are notoriously competitive, and at senior associate level the competition to ‘make partner’ is equally heated. Some people thrive under this pressure, or can at least work to manage it over time. It is worth bearing these factors in mind when looking at solicitor salaries.

In short, it’s important to acknowledge that while solicitors are certainly well-paid professionals, their pay will vary significantly based on a number of factors. It’s also worth remembering the demands that have to be met to achieve such high salaries. Ultimately, you have to weigh up your options as an individual to decide which career in law suits you best. 


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