Time to shed the “fat cat” reputation
The Law Society’s 2013 annual earnings fact sheet proves, if indeed proof were needed, that far from being the fat cats of the professional world, the vast majority of solicitors are paid around, or even slightly less than, their counterparts in comparable jobs.
The Private Practice Earnings Report shows that the average annual salary for an assistant solicitor in the UK is just £43,000 per annum with the lowest paid 25% earning an average of £32,000 per annum dropping to an average of £28,000 in the north of England.
Figures from Total Jobs (http://bit.ly/1dkJEMz) show that these figures are on a par with, and even slightly behind many other sectors including technical trainers, financial advisers, business managers, systems administrators and sales directors who can, it would appear, expect an average salary of £42,500, whilst finance directors, systems analysts, procurement managers and planning managers earning nearly £50,000. Interestingly, it is, according to Total Jobs, also on a par with many plumbers, heating engineers and electricians.
So why the fat cat image and what can we do to rid ourselves of it?
Inevitably, as in any sector, there are those who do earn substantial amounts. The Law Society report indicates that the average salary for equity partners in Greater London is £170,000 with many earning in excess of £300,000. However, these are the minority and for many sole practitioners and partners in small firms, simply remaining solvent can be a difficult task.
Unfortunately, it is the media and others with a vested interest who seem to want to portray all lawyers as high earners.
Just this week, the Ministry of Justice has been criticised by the UK Statistics Authority for publishing misleading figures about the earnings of barristers when it misleadingly claimed that criminal barristers earn an average of £84,000 from legal aid.
Many lawyers are not, it has to be said, poorly paid, but on the other hand many are struggling to make ends meet and reports such as “Legal aid gravy train has not yet ground to a halt” which appeared in the Daily Mail in 2010 and more recent reports such as the one by the BBC on 6th January this year which stated “Legal aid costs taxpayers about £2bn every year – half goes on criminal defence” are only going to make things ever more difficult for the many who can barely keep their firms ticking over.
Perhaps the time has come for us to be more vocal about the reality of solicitor earnings – possibly this might also stem the tide of would-be lawyers fighting to join the ranks of a profession which they misguidedly believe is a road to infinite riches.