The Beginner's Guide to a Career in Law 2021

Chartered legal executives As of May 2020, there were around 20,000 trainee and practising chartered legal executives.

Solicitors As of March 2020, there were 148,284 practising solicitors. The total number of solicitors on the roll was 201,186. Women make up 49% of all solicitors in law firms. But there are many more men than women at partner level – on average a large firm has 65- 70% male partners and only 30-35% women. People from BAME backgrounds make up 21% of all solicitors, as well as 20% at partner level. Mostly employed in private law firms, so receive regular monthly salary.


In 2019 there were 16,982 practising barristers. Of those, 13,434 were self-employed (not including those in dual practice, registered European lawyers or second six pupils). Women make up around 37% of all practising barristers (ie, 6,389 women compared to 10,465 men).

Women make up around 74% of all CILEx members.

BAME individuals make up 14% of all practising barristers (ie, 2,289).

BAME individuals make up around 13% of all CILEx members and more than a third of new student members. Mostly employed in private law firms or in-house, so receive regular monthly salary.

Mostly self-employed, so receive irregular (but often substantial) fees. The early years can be hard.

Work mainly with individuals, companies and barristers.

Work mainly with solicitors and other barristers.

Work mainly with solicitors and individuals.

Office-based, although they have some of the same rights of audience as solicitors. Engage more in ongoing advisory and one-to-one client work. Should they choose to do so, legal executives can go on to become coroners, judges or partners. Starting salaries are usually £15,000 - £28,000 per year while qualifying, while qualified chartered legal executives can expect to earn £35,000 - £55,000, and can earn much higher.

Office-based, although have some rights of audience. Engage more in ongoing advisory and one-to-one client work.

Chambers and court-based. Engage more in one-off advocacy (ie, court cases).

Aspire to become partner – that is, part-ownership of firm and entitlement to a percentage of its profits.

Aspire to become Queen’s Counsel (QC) – that is, a top barrister, normally instructed in very serious and complex cases. As of 1 January 2020, all pupil barristers must be paid a minimum of £16,322 (outside London) or £18,866 (in London). Many earn much more - upwards of £50,000 in some cases.

Trainee salaries vary widely. A small firm could pay £20,000. Trainees at regional firms earn around £27,000 while City firms pay from £35,000 to much, much more.


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