JLU: Junior Lawyers' Union

Asserting the rights of junior lawyers, who have much more power than they realise.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Top tier salaries revealed!

The long-promised results of the survey of what junior lawyers are paid are presented below.

It was hoped that a table could be produced that outlined the salaries paid by specific firms to lawyers at various levels of seniority. Due, however, to reticence, disinterest or possibly a desire to abide strictly by contractual terms of confidentiality, an inadequate number of responses were received to produce the sort of comprehensive chart that was intended.

Consequently, we present the following figures as a sort of average for top-tier firms for financial year 2006-7. The figures include superannuation - simply because the numbers are rounder - although the JLU objects in principle to the quoting of salaries inclusive of super.

These salary levels also take a few months to kick in. In other words, you may be a second year lawyer as of March in terms of experience but you'll still be on a first year's salary until the following July. (I guess, if you really wanted to, you could discount the salaries by a third of the difference between the salary levels to produce a more accurate figure.)

The final thing to bear in mind is that this survey turned out to be rather Melbourne-centric. Sydneysiders should expect about 10% more, everyone else less.

Now for some numbers...

Law graduates / articled clerks: $53,000

1st year lawyers: $67,500

2nd year lawyers: $79,000

3rd year lawyers (standard discretionary bracket): $90,000

3rd year lawyers (highest discretionary bracket): $97,500

4th year lawyers: $105,000


A smattering of figures received from lawyers at mid-tier firms suggested that you can subtract about 20% for salaries at mid-tier firms.

The JLU hasn't the faintest what junior lawyers at small firms are getting - although we'd be willing to bet our superannuation that you're getting less still.

Please feel free to post your comments, clarifications or condemnation of any of the above.

13 Comments:

Blogger I am the Queen of F*%&ING EVERYTHNG...OK!! said...

Ummmm, hello, I can't believe those figures...OMG!!! I was earning more than a 3rd year lawyer in the PS a decade ago as an insurance /risk manager complete with flex time. r/l, etc. Paid travel allowances to Canberra and living allowances which left plenty for me to fly my OH up weekly. SHit, shit, shit...why am I studying law? Maybe I"ll go back to teaching.........

04 October, 2006 14:09  
Blogger Shop Steward said...

'dem just the facts, ma'am.

Your point is a very interesting one, though, as it makes a nonsense of the suggestion that junior lawyers should accept oppressive conditions (including unjustifiably long hours) because they are adequately compensated.

How do I become a teacher?

04 October, 2006 14:14  
Blogger Armagnac Esq. said...

Average government lawyers with 2-6 years' experience are usually sitting around the 50-70k mark. Legal aid and prosecutor jobs typically start in the 40s, with experience.

In law there's a diametric opposition between the extent to which an area of law is interesting and useful and the pay cheque.

05 October, 2006 14:54  
Blogger Shop Steward said...

Too true, I'm afraid.

The way I think of it is that in the legal profession you only get 10 utility points to spend and they have to be distributed between job satisfaction and salary.

Unfortunately, that means those at big commercial firms generally have about a 2/8 (satisfaction/salary) split, while those doing more interesting or useful things end up with more like an 8/2 split.

05 October, 2006 17:13  
Blogger Legal Eagle said...

Hmm, well, keep some perspective, guys. My scientist friend who has worked for four years after getting his PhD gets paid less than a second year solicitor. And he supports a wife and child on that income.

The thing is that he is doing stuff which is going to be good for the whole world - seems to be that if you want to do good, you have to accept that you are not going to get a good salary.

05 October, 2006 18:02  
Anonymous ky said...

Based on these figures, junior lawyers in top-tier Australian firms are paid significantly less than their counterparts in London, Hong Kong and even Singapore. Take annual salaries of top tier firms in Hong Kong, for example (figures cited below are pre-tax):

1. trainee (2 year training contract): ~AUD$84,000 per year.

2. Newly qualified: ~AUD$124,000 per year.

3. 1 yr PQE: ~AUD$132,000

4. 2 yr PQE: ~AUD$140,000

5. after 2 yrs: banding starts and calculations become more difficult

(the above is based on an exchange rate of AUD$1 = HKD$6)

And the package normally includes an additional sum of around AUD$2,000 per year for travel allowance, medical insurance coverage worth millions of USD's per year, and 27 days of annual leave.

And the hours in Hong Kong (or London, for that matter) are no longer than those in top-tier Australian firms, based on what I have heard from friends working in Australia.

Now, the question is, why the differential between Australia and London? A number of factors are at work, I suspect:

1. The profit margins of Australian firms are a lot lower. The hourly rates of Australian firms are much lower than that of their London/Hong Kong counterparts. I understand from Australian friends that even a very senior top-tier firm partner can charge no more than around AUD$650 per hour, with most charging more like AUD$500-550. In Hong Kong even a junior partner in a "second string" top tier firm can easily charge AUD$850-950 per hour, with junior partners in "first string" top tier firms now charging around AUD$1,100-1,200 per hour.

2. Why are the rates/profitability lower? Because there are too many lawyers in Australia relative to the size of deals/litigation claims. It's a pure supply/demand issue. Consider this: the London offices of so-called top-tier UK firms are, in most cases (Clifford Chance being the significant exception) no bigger than even the Melbourne offices (not counting Sydney) of the top-tier Australian firms. And yet the quantity and size of the pieces of work are, for the most part, no doubt bigger in London.

3. But if there are so many lawyers, why are people still working such long hours in top-tier Australian firms? Ironically, it is because the rates are lower that people tend to resort to lawyers more regularly. I remember speaking with a London litigation partner at my firm who used to be a partner at the premier Australian law firm. He said that whereas 80% of his cases in Australia went to trial because clients found it cheaper to fight all the way, in London only 20% of his cases went to trial, as clients find it a lot more expensive to fight. Similarly, I understand that more small deals are done in-house in London/Hong Kong (especially in specialised fields as media) than in Australia, where even small deals are often farmed out to external counsel. It is therefore fair to say that top-tier Australian firms are often kept busy doing cases/deals that London firms do not normally do.

06 October, 2006 14:12  
Anonymous Scallywag said...

There is one small melbourne law firm that pays as much as top-tier and where hours are reasonable (generally nine hours at the computer per day). If they can do it, there's no reason other firms can't ... except for the equity partners wishing to maintain their ridiculous cut

09 October, 2006 11:13  
Blogger I am the Queen of F*%&ING EVERYTHNG...OK!! said...

Shop Steward, Get thyself a Dip. Ed and go forth and teach what thoust has learnt in the hellfires of purgatory.
ky puts forward a valid point, that the Australian legal system is; allegedly; available to all whereas the costs to carry a matter to the bench in England outweigh the principle. More legal matters, vextaious or otherwise, require more legal minds, who require more $$ for their expertise.

09 October, 2006 13:32  
Blogger Shop Steward said...

What's the opposite of naming and shaming? Hmmm... advertising, I guess.

Still, scallywag, the JLU has no objection to outing relatively "good" firms. So go ahead and give the firm of which you speak a free run...

09 October, 2006 17:54  
Anonymous Scallywag said...

I mentioned the small firm not to discredit what you were saying about salaries and working conditions, but to show that firms don't screw over lawyers out of any kind of financial necessity. Y'know, if a small firm can provide a great salary and good conditions, the big firms sure as hell can.

10 October, 2006 09:57  
Anonymous Scallywag said...

Oh ... and it's Madgwicks.

10 October, 2006 09:57  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well aussies are getting a better deal than NZ top tier law grads - $37-38,000...year 1: $49,000...year 2: ~$57,000.

12 October, 2006 10:31  
Blogger Shop Steward said...

That's an absolute travesty. (No wonder all you Kiwis end up over here.)

15 October, 2006 00:58  

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