Career legal salary and market review 2013

Jade Ollis Posted By Jade Ollis
from Legal Support Network

Welcome to the Career Legal Market Review and Salary Survey for 2013.

Following a turbulent time across the industry over the last few years we are delighted to report that 2013 has seen a distinct upward trend in the demand for both temporary and permanent recruitment. That said this trend has not yet had a significant effect on the market rate of most salaries across all areas of the legal sector with stagnant or slightly reduced starting rates for many of the roles.

This may be because the new found optimism is still in its infancy and cannot yet be definitively reported on; however the green shoots are appearing. We expect salary levels to increase during 2013 and in to 2014 as the market continues to grow.

The last twelve months have also seen a growth in requirements for more specialised and project based roles across many of the professional and business support functions which will also contribute to an upsurge in remuneration.

Our review contains insights and salary benchmarks using the most common terminology for the roles within the legal field and across the wide spectrum of service areas, however if you require a more detailed or tailored review for your business we urge you to get in touch. 


The first quarter of 2013 has most certainly taken over from where the last quarter of 2012 left off. New instructions in 2013 are significantly up on the first quarter of 2012. More good news for recruitment is the marked increase in the number of impressive candidates voluntarily dipping their toe into the recruitment market to better their prospects because they want to rather than have to.

Furthermore there is even a sign of a good level of recruitment returning within the property law market which is often referred to as a barometer of the state of the legal recruitment market.

Increased activity in the recruitment of lawyers is not confined to law firms alone. In-house legal teams have not only shown an increase in the number of permanent hires but have also not been slow in coming forward to recruit maternity cover for a full 12 months. Companies are opting for the luxury of plenty of handover cover at the start and the finish – something not seen for many years.

With regard to salaries, if the momentum of the first quarter of 2013 is maintained, firms and companies alike may well adjust their salaries upwardly. 

Risk and compliance

Risk & Compliance in law firms has continued to grow over the past year but at a slower rate than in previous years. Job titles, team structures, and duties involved in each role still vary greatly between law firms and therefore salaries cover a wide range.

Some firms who have set up new teams have chosen to do so in a regional office for cost purposes, but have found recruiting for experienced staff difficult and that the junior staff do not stay long. It would seem the majority of opportunities are in London and candidates are relocating for career progression. Salaries are typically 20% higher in London at entry level, but the gap narrows at a more senior level.

Global law firms are still split between offering a ’24 hour’ service and with shift patterns in the UK covering 7am- 10pm seem to be working well, but those with night shifts seem to be moving their members to a day team. The shift patterns come with a premium in terms of salary, typically 20% over what the normal 9-5 salary would be. The firms that do not operate a shift pattern often offer overtime, although some only offer this at a junior level and not to their seniors, some offer it at all levels, and this tends to be at time and a half and may have an ‘on call’ weekend offering.

We have seen a rise in bonuses for the Risk & Compliance teams over the past year and higher jumps at pay review as firms are increasingly aware of what they need to do to retain staff.

Salary benchmarking at the senior / manager / director level continues to be difficult and varies greatly as each role encompasses such different duties. More often than not when assessing if the incumbent is rewarded effectively comes down to ‘what they are worth to the business’ and if recruiting externally needs to cover a very wide range to entice the best candidates. 

Patent and trade mark

This year Career Legal has undertaken a more thorough questionnaire for Patent & Trade Mark attorney firms, including a salary survey. As you will see, salaries are on the whole moving just above inflation. Exceptions are in line with supply and demand, with increasing need for electronics attorneys who command more competitive salaries to secure their services.

Redundancies are still not uncommon, particularly amongst support staff, indicating a reduction of work flow in some firms which will no doubt have an effect on salaries. Firms which are enjoying progressive success and growing remain committed to rewarding their staff who are enjoying higher salaries.

Our information is taken from our own surveys, our database of candidates, jobs registered and jobs offered. We combine this information to give as accurate a picture as we can achieve. 


The last twelve months have seen much more optimism and an increase in recruitment activity compared to 2011. Areas of increased activity include Revenue (credit control, billing and revenue control), Management Accounts and Business Analysis.

Although 2012 saw an increase in market confidence, the uncertainty of the global market has led to clients sharing an element of caution as they have proceeded through the year and we have subsequently seen a large amount of contract roles to cover permanent vacancies.

With many people opting to stay with their current firm there has been a shortage of immediately available candidates.

We have seen a significant increase in fixed term contracts for Legal Cashiers (especially for project work due to the changes in SARs, i.e. clearing client account balances) and Qualified Accountants (due to increased focus on cost control and compliance).

It has been challenging when sourcing good quality candidates as they are still a little reluctant to move due to on-going uncertainties within the economy. This has led to shortages in some areas and decreased candidate pools, especially in the two areas outlined above.

Immediately available candidates for temporary and fixed term contracts have also proved challenging as many firms retain their contract staff, often extending contracts, making them permanent or offering a loyalty bonus at the end of the contract ensuring continuity and commitment from the candidate.

Rates for temporary / contract and permanent workers have remained broadly the same over the last 12 months, however the shortage of immediately available Qualified Accountants has seen an increase in rates of pay. 

Human Resources

2012 was a challenging year for the HR market and the job market as a whole. Recruitment as well as Learning & Development positions have been increasing in demand contrary to the previous three to four years. Generalists with strong Employee Relations experience and specialist Employee Relations roles have also been in high demand over the past 12 months as have Reward, Mobility, Change and Organisational Development positions.

In the forthcoming year, we expect this need to continue as more and more HR teams are faced with increasing workloads. This, in turn, will generate movement at all levels as HR professionals look to enrich their experience and progress their careers. 

Marketing and business development

2012 / 2013 has seen a continued trend for Marketing & Business Development teams to move away from traditional marketing methods in favour of commercially driven business development and client relationship initiatives. The competitive legal landscape has resulted in a high volume of tendering being requested from clients as well as an expectation of increased client and value-added services as mandatory. These client driven demands have resulted in skills such as strategic bids & tenders management, business development and client relationship management becoming increasingly valuable in what is already a skills short market.

Business Development teams are becoming more specialised and, as such, practice area and sector knowledge is becoming a higher priority in a bid to understand the client and the market in which they operate as well as to gain credibility with partners and build strong internal relationships. The highly skilled and specialised nature of the most sought after Business Development professionals is driving a demand for higher salaries and a more equal standing within firms rather than the traditional and outdated ‘back-office’ culture that is still prevalent amongst many.

Client Relationship Management has experienced the highest growth rate in the last year with the majority of larger firms taking steps to implement formal programmes in a bid to generate maximum revenue from existing clients as well as better listening and understanding of their requirements to ensure repeat business.

Overall, despite well-publicised redundancies and the continued consolidation of the legal market, the demand for quality Business Development, Bid, Client Relationship Management and Marketing professionals is ever buoyant and in extremely high demand across the entire legal landscape. 

Facilities management

2012 saw a marked improvement in confidence in the market in general. Candidate confidence and optimism was strong and showed in candidates looking to move roles for career progression.

With confidence higher we saw large scale competition for roles of all levels. Restructuring of facilities departments was fairly prevalent, this leading to some redundancies as well as a production of new positions. The summer is normally a quiet time for senior level FM recruitment, but combined in 2012 with the Olympics, brought a longer more severe hiatus followed then by a larger rush of roles coming on to the market towards the end of the year.

The first quarter for 2013 has seen the largest number of roles coming to market than at any time during the last 5 years. Salaries have remained stable throughout. 


After a very quiet second half of 2012 in both temporary and permanent paralegal recruitment, the start of 2013 has seen a marked increase in activity in both.

Litigation continues to be the busiest area on the temporary side and candidates with experience often have multiple offers and are taking the role offering the highest pay rate. This has meant rates across the board are rising to £14-18ph for candidates with 3 months to a year’s experience, and up to £25ph for candidates with more. In US firms the rates are higher still and can be up to £35ph. Overtime availability and rates are also coming into play when candidates are deciding which role to accept, and those firms not offering time and half and double time are not competitive in the market.

On the permanent side Litigation still features heavily but Corporate and Banking roles have also increased and we have had a number of Property roles recently. Entry level salaries have increased from £20-22k to £22-24k in London and then with 3-12 months experience is £25-28k. Certain practice areas are still paying more for experienced candidates, Finance, for example ISDA, will pay up to £40k and Property up to £38k.

We have also seen an increase in requests for Paralegal PAs who have a legal background (law degree and LPC) and are able to combine both roles. The successful candidates in these roles tend to be those with excellent academics and who have secured a training contract seeking work in the interim for 6-12 months. These roles will pay £24-26k. 

Legal document production

Career Legal’s Document Production team has experienced a huge growth surge in this area of legal recruitment over the past 12 months. More and more law firms are opening or now using in-house Document Production Units and are producing their own pitch, proposal, tender, and marketing materials in-house.

This has been an area of growth and development for many firms across London, as we are seeing more and more law firms looking for these specialist individuals. We have found that the Document Production / WP Operator role is evolving across many firms, and we foresee continued growth in this area. 

Facilities and office support

2012 saw a marked improvement in confidence in the facilities and office support market in general. There has been an increase in permanent roles across all areas.

Candidate confidence and optimism was strong and showed in candidates looking to move roles for career progression. With confidence higher we saw large scale competition for roles of all levels. Restructuring of facilities departments was fairly prevalent, this leading to some redundancies as well as a production of new positions.

The first quarter for 2013 has seen a noticeable increase in permanent Receptionist positions for both the legal and commercial sectors. Salaries for these roles have remained comparable to that of 2012 but with slight movement upwards. 

Legal secretarial

Firms are also improving the training and development of their secretarial population and placing more emphasis on recruiting less experienced and more junior staff often of graduate calibre who they believe will keep pace with the evolving role of the legal secretary.

Candidate confidence is still an issue with many candidates still reluctant to look for alternative employment due to the negative news and media reporting on the UK economy.

Firms are also doing a better job at retaining talent, with more structured career development opportunities for secretaries and better management of their secretarial population.

We expect the market to continue to improve slowly throughout 2013 and the trends that we have seen in 2012 to continue. 

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