Higher bonuses can’t halt fall in lawyer payouts

Elizabeth Fournier
LAWYERS saw their total pay pack- ages fall by five per cent last year, as rising bonus payouts failed to stem the drop in average salary.

Total remuneration for lawyers in 2012 came in at £139,040, down from £146,500 in 2011 according to recruiters Laurence Simons.

Though bonuses edged up very slightly to £35,000, it wasn’t enough to offset the seven per cent drop in base pay to £103,450 – down from £111,500.

The survey showed a stark difference between the amounts that in-house counsel can expect to receive compared to their private practice counterparts. The average bonus for an in-house lawyer working in financial services last year came in at £48,688, compared to just £14,852 for private practice professionals.

“2012 was a tough year for legal firms and departments, meaning they couldn’t replicate the sharp rise in pay seen in 2011,” said Laurence Simon’s director Lucinda Moule. “The focus was on stability and a conservative steadying of salary costs.”

But she said the pattern of bonus payments, which ticked up sharply in December after a lull from August to November, “offers some green shoots for lawyers, suggesting performance exceeded expectations”.

Falling salaries have left many lawyers considering jumping ship, with two-thirds of those surveyed saying they were actively looking for a new role, or would move if the right opportunity came up. And 69 per cent said they would be willing to move abroad in search of the perfect role, up one per cent from last year.

But Moule said those moving job in the hopes of securing a substantial rise in pay would be disappointed. “The average lawyer looking to change roles in 2013 will be expecting an increase in basic salary of 15 per cent. This type of increment is more the exception than the norm.”