London Private Practice Salary Survey 2012


Garfield Robbins is a specialist legal recruiter established in 1989. We have long standing relationships with leading law firms (UK, Middle East, Asia, off-shore) and corporates, and a strong track record of placing candidates from NQ through to Senior/Partner levels into both private practice and in-house roles.

Each year, we conduct a salary survey amongst London law firms (including US firms with a London base). The survey below reflects the market as at mid 2012.



Salary reviews within respondent firms are typically carried out annually. The specific month for reviews varies by firm, with May & July the most popular months, and September the least popular.

Based on the most recent round of reviews, average salaries have shown small year on year cost of living increases (typically 1% to 3%, with occasional 'freezes' and occasional increases beyond 3%), with averages as follows:

LevelUS FirmLarge UKMid UK
1yr PQE£95.0k£69.0k£60.0k
2yr PQE£101.0k£76.0k£64.0k
3yr PQE£109.0k£84.0k£69.0k

In terms of practice areas, there is less variation than we have seen in the past and salaries tend to be very tightly clustered around the average.

Whilst most pay scales/progression are still based on PQE, we have continued to see an increasing trend within firms to move away from this and to implement competency based schemes. We expect that this trend will continue.

Main Benefits

Most firms (c95%) have fee-earner bonus schemes. On the whole, these are still based on billings targets, although there are signs that individual performance (including pro bono work and good citizenship) and overall firm performance are also starting to feature.

Bonuses can be as high as 50% of salary for the top performers, although the 'norm' is nearer to 20%

Typically bonuses are paid in July or December/January

Other Benefits

Firms continue to provide a wide range of benefits to their professional staff. In some cases, these are part of a benefits package. In other cases, firms are offering flexible benefit schemes, where staff can 'buy' benefits according to their needs. Main benefits provided:


  • Holidays - range from 20 days pa to 30 days pa, with the average at 25.2 days. In 35% of cases, the number of days holiday given increases with service.
  • Pension schemes - 90.5% of firms surveyed have a contributory scheme
  • Season ticket loans - offered by all firms
  • Private medical insurance - offered by all firms
  • Disability insurance - offered by 91% of firms
  • Life Assurance - offered by 95% of firms
  • Gym benefits - 62% of firms either have their own on site facilities, or offer subsidised membership to one of the 'chains'

Other benefits are numerous, and vary from firm to firm. These could include childcare vouchers/enhanced maternity pay, commission on new business introduced, flexible benefits (ie the ability to tailor by individual), an Employee Support Programme, subsidised (or free) restaurant, dental insurance, and an extra week's salary at Christmas.


Other Findings

Around three quarters of firms have billings targets. Three quarters (but not necessarily the same three quarters!) offer secondments, either in-house or to other offices.

c80% of trainees completing their training contracts are being retained, broadly similar to past recent rounds. 

In terms of Partners made up, year on year we have seen very little variation. There still appears to be something of the 'bottleneck' first created by the downturn, with the time frame to making Partner having been extended in many cases. The financial case also needs to be that bit more compelling than perhaps it might have been 4-5 years ago. 


The Recruitment Market

Contingent recruitment consultancies remain at the top of the list when it comes to recruiting new associates, with all firms using them, and 95% rating them as the most effective ways to recruit new talent.

60% of firms use retained search consultants, in all cases for more senior hires (mostly at the Partner level).

In terms of advertising (whether direct or via recruitment consultancies) The Lawyer appears to be the most prominent job site, with Roll on Friday and Legal Week next and Totally Legal ranked 4th. The trend towards on-line advertising appears to be continuing.

We hope that you enjoyed reading the results of our survey! If you are a client with a recruitment need, or you are a potential candidate thinking about your next move, career progression etc, please do contact us for a brief discussion.

Garfield Robbins Legal Recruitment

24 Greville Street

London EC1N 8SS

T +44(0) 845 671 0199


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