One of the main decisions when you are a newly-qualified lawyer is where to base yourself to build up your practice and reputation. There may be many reasons for choosing a certain area, including family ties, where you perceive to be the best place to practise your specialty, and money.
Recent research by BCL Legal Recruitment revealed that the salaries of newly-qualified lawyers vary greatly in different parts of the country. This is to be expected, but the amount of variance may raise some eyebrows.
North vs south
A great example of the large variance in salaries that was observed in the research is that a newly-qualified lawyer working in commercial law in London can potentially earn an annual salary ranging from £35,000 up to £110,000, although the actual average salary of a newly-qualified lawyer working in London is close to £65,000.
Although a newly-qualified lawyer working in Yorkshire, the North West or South West could start off earning in the region of £35,000 – the lower end of the London range – many newly-qualified lawyers in these regions are earning on average £39,000 per year, which is considerably less than the average in London. Those choosing to work in the North East are the worst off, as their average salary is around £34,000; however, this should be balanced by the range and availability of work in this area and the cost of living.
As a newly-qualified lawyer, you might think the best place to be is London; however, the flip side of this is that you are likely to have higher living costs and day-to-day expenses than someone practising in a different region. In another area, while the basic salary is less, you are likely to be able to keep hold of more of your salary, as living costs and expenses outside London are generally lower. This is something that needs to be considered.
Which area of law?
The area of law that commands the highest starting salary is commercial law, although the value of pay rises for this specialty varies throughout the country. Those working in commercial practice outside London may see a pay rise of as little as £2,000, while in London it could be as much as £5,000.
Salaries for newly-qualified lawyers working in general practice do not vary that much between London and the regions, although the most lucrative area for general practice outside London seems to be the Midlands.
If you want to work in commercial law and earn a large salary from the outset, London is probably the best option, even taking into account living costs. For all other areas of practice, it seems that earnings are relative to the location and are keeping pace with the cost of living.
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