Trainee barristers are being offered annual pay of £100,000 as the battle to attract legal talent heats up.
The grants, offered to those in their first year of training, are 10pc higher than the average salary of a qualified barrister.
Gray’s Inn Tax Chambers is offering pupil barristers £100,000 a year, up 43pc from £70,000. The pay rise makes the tax chambers’ pupillage the highest-paying of any UK chambers, according to law website Legal Cheek.
The annual grant is higher than the average salary for a barrister, which is £89,200 according to jobs website Jobted, although this is depressed by low pay for those practising criminal law.
The pay also outstripped the highest-paying salary for a trainee lawyer at a leading law firm, which is £60,000, Legal Cheek found. American firms David Polk & Wardwell and Weil Gotshal & Manges both offer trainees £60,000 a year.
Once they are qualified, lawyers can expect to make much more. Chambers and legal firms hiring young lawyers have recently engaged in a competitive wave of pay rises as part of an ongoing battle to poach talent, particularly from American firms.
All companies in the top five for junior lawyer pay in London are headquartered in the US. Akin Gump pays the most and has recently increased starting salaries for newly qualified solicitors 9pc to £179,000.
To compete with their US rivals, Magic Circle law firms have been boosting graduate salaries, with Clifford Chance now offering newly qualified solicitors a starting salary of £125,000, up from £107,500.
While UK firms may not pay junior solicitors the most, their hours are slightly less gruelling. Research by Legal Cheek found that the average solicitor at US firm Kirkland & Ellis starts work at 9:14am and finishes at around 11:28pm – more than two hours later than trainees working at most Magic Circle firms.
Laurent Sykes QC from Gray’s Inn Tax Chambers told the website Targetjobs: “While the complexity may seem daunting, people studying tax soon find themselves interested in the subject.” He added that the regularity and complexity of cases meant “the route to silk may be quicker than in other areas”.
Many of those applying for a spot on the highly competitive course will be graduates in their early 20s who have finished a one-year Bar vocational course.
The chance of securing a place on a course like Gray’s Inn Tax Chambers’ pupillage is just 5pc, according to the Bar Council, as thousands compete for just a few spots every year.
The chambers is the first to offer six-figure grants to pupils who are not earning fees during their training, although some other commercial sets offer grants of £75,000. Once barristers do earn fees, they must pay towards their chambers’ expenses. The minimum pupillage award was £19,144 in London, and £17,152 outside the capital, according to the Bar Standards Board, the regulator.
Criminal law defence barristers are currently striking over low legal aid rates. The Criminal Bar Association found barristers have lost 28pc of their real earnings since 2006.
The Law Society of England and Wales has also warned of a “looming crisis” in criminal law recruitment, as its data shows that between 2018 and 2021, the number of duty solicitors aged 35 and plunged by almost 35pc.