Chambers entices trainee lawyers with £100,000 salary

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Barristers in training are offered an annual salary of £100,000 as the battle to attract legal talent heats up.

The scholarships, offered to those in their first year of training, are 10 percent higher than the average salary of a qualified attorney.

Gray’s Inn Tax Chambers offers apprentice lawyers £100,000 a year, an increase of 43 pc. of £70,000. The pay rise has left the tax chambers’ pupil the highest paid of all British chambers, according to legal website Legal Cheek.

The annual scholarship is higher than the average salary for a lawyer, which is £89,200 according to job website Jobted, although this is suppressed by the low pay for those who practice criminal law.

The pay also surpassed the highest paid salary for a trainee lawyer at a leading law firm, at £60,000, Legal Cheek found. US firms David Polk & Wardwell and Weil Gotshal & Manges both offer trainees £60,000 a year.

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Once qualified, lawyers can earn a lot more. Chambers and law firms hiring young lawyers have recently faced a competitive wave of pay increases as part of an ongoing battle to poach talent, particularly from US companies.

All of the companies in the top five for junior lawyers’ compensation in London are headquartered in the US. Akin Gump pays the most and recently increased starting salaries for newly qualified lawyers by 9 percent to £179,000.

To compete with their US rivals, Magic Circle law firms have increased graduate salaries, with Clifford Chance now offering newly qualified lawyers a starting salary of £125,000, from £107,500.

While UK firms may not pay junior lawyers the most, their hours are a little less grueling. Research by Legal Cheek found that the average US attorney at Kirkland & Ellis begins work at 9:14 a.m. and finishes around 11:28 p.m. — more than two hours later than interns who work at most Magic Circle offices.

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Laurent Sykes, QC of Gray’s Inn Tax Chambers, told the website Targetjobs, “While the complexity may seem daunting, people studying tax quickly find themselves interested in the subject.” He added that the regularity and complexity of things meant that “the route to silk may be faster than in other areas”.

Many of those applying for a spot on the highly competitive course are graduates in their early twenties who have completed a one-year vocational training for the bar.

The odds of securing a place on a course such as Gray’s Inn Tax Chambers’ pupils are only 5 percent, according to the Bar Association, as thousands compete for just a few places each year.

The chambers are the first to offer six-figure scholarships to learners who do not earn fees during their education, although some other commercial sets offer scholarships of £75,000. Once lawyers earn fees, they have to pay the cost of their room. The minimum price for pupils was £19,144 in London, and £17,152 outside the capital, according to the Bar Standards Board, the regulator.

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Criminal defense attorneys are currently on strike due to low legal aid rates. The Criminal Bar Association found that lawyers have lost 28 percent of their actual earnings since 2006.

The Law Society of England and Wales has also warned of an “imminent crisis” in criminal justice recruitment, as data shows that between 2018 and 2021, the number of lawyers on duty aged 35 and over fell by nearly 35 percent between 2018 and 2021.

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