Emolument Press Release: Pay in Law Specialisms 
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Law specialisms: where should lawyers focus their talents to secure top salaries? 

Lawyers rarely choose a specialism with an informed view of what the impact on their future earnings could be. In this report, looks into the best paying specialisms, both at junior and senior levels, and the pay gap between those working for a law firm versus in-house lawyers.

Starting a career in law - UK Associate Salaries 
Specialisations Salary
Leveraged & acquisition finance £90,000
Investment funds £82,000
Derivatives and structured finance £72,000
Compliance and regulatory £70,000
M&A £63,000
Intellectual property £58,000
Commercial property £58,000
Insurance £57,000
Litigation £58,000
Commercial £55,000
Employment & pensions £55,000
Tax & trusts £50,000
Private client £45,000
Based on 510 UK Associates - All numbers are Median Salaries
  • Huge spread! - With such a demanding job, long hours and years of studying, it is surprising to see as much as a 42% gap between Leveraged finance and Private client work
  • Working for corporations: if aiming for the top pay, it's best to work for companies rather than individuals, as margins are by far more attractive 
  • Finance, finance, finance: Staying close to the financial industry guarantees higher pay, with specialisms such as Leveraged finance, Structured finance all holding the top spots in's earning table. 

Entry-level pay in decline

Based on 510 UK Associates entries

Young lawyer pay has been under pressure especially in finance-related specialisms as banks have tightened their cost base and their own staff costs, sending a ripple through their law contractors. Base salary has dropped by nearly 40% over recent years, leaving junior lawyers £30,000 pounds worse off. 

Law firms or In-house legal jobs: what is the gap during the career?
Years of Experience Law Firms Salary In-house
Junior (1-4) £38,000 £30,000
Mid-career (5-9) £57,000 £54,000
Experienced (10-14) £90,000 £67,000
Late Career (15+) £97,000 £70,000
Based on 1,489 entries from UK Law Firms and in-house  lawyers

Prestige and pay - Working directly for a law firm is more attractive in financial terms despite requiring higher level qualifications throughout a legal professional's career but even more so for senior professionals. Law firms are clearly intent on rewarding qualifications and often gruelling hours at the behest of client calendars. 

In-House Sectors: Entry level pay
Sectors Median Salary
Banking & Financial Services £50,000
Insurance £31,000
Consulting & Outsourcing £30,000
Charity & Not For Profit £26,000
Healthcare £27,000
Based on 155 UK Junior Managers entries

If in-house, then finance comes up top, but beware â€“ Unsurprisingly banks will pay their in-house legal counsel the most by a huge margin when comparing to other sectors. However, lifestyle is key: a trading floor lawyer is likely to be under extreme pressure to deliver time-sensitive documents, and hold the key to enabling or killing key trades, thereby directly impacting the bank's earnings.
Alice Leguay, Co-Founder & COO at said: 'While choosing to study Law is a long and demanding journey, it is rewarding when it comes to picking a career and a working environment. If it's high pay you are looking for, then aim for legal counsel positions at investment banks, or finance-related departments within a law firm. Beyond pay though, working as legal counsel is an effective way to switch sectors and infiltrate a new industry or firm as other opportunities beyond purely law-related jobs are bound to open up. A stepping-stone to a different career or a vocation, being a lawyer is a bow with many strings.'


For more information, contact or call Alice Leguay/Hugo Ostyn on +44 20 7183 1744.

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