Lawyer Salary Australia: The Comprehensive Guide for Lawyers
Tom Borman* The Australian law profession is a healthy and vibrant one that offers major opportunities for lawyers, as well as attracting some of the world’s major law firms like Baker McKenzie, Jones Day, DLA Piper, King & Wood Mallesons and others. The salary for the Australian lawyer can reach “eye watering” levels, as one newspaper recently reported.
Legal opportunities abound. There is an upward trend in lucrative salaries for fresh graduates, offering attractive remuneration packages to talented professionals according to a recent survey undertaken by The Aussie Corporate, which provides so-called “cheeky insights” into Australian business and had surveyed 2500 professionals in the country.
The survey was conducted among finance employees, lawyers, and others but certainly demonstrated how much the salary of Australian lawyers was increasing.
The Australian legal industry has historically experienced a lack of transparency surrounding salary information. The survey conducted by The Aussie Corporate intends to bridge this gap and provide a greater transparency for the legal profession.
Big Dollar Australian Law Salaries
For experienced legal professionals with over ten years of expertise, the earnings continue to be impressive, according to the Aussie Corporate survey and as also noted in our LawFuel Jobs website there is a healthy average law income across the Australian law profession.
Lawyers with a decade of experience in Sydney earn an average of $275,000 annually, while those in Adelaide earn $149,000 on average.
According to other recent data, the average base salary for a lawyer in Australia is around $104,085 per year, with more experienced professionals earning considerably more. Remember in all these statistics about legal salaries there will also be potential bonuses, profit sharing, and commissions to boost legal income for the law professionals.
Jobted Australia states that the average salary for a lawyer is AU$124,800 per year (AU$10,400 per month).
But the Aussie Corporate survey is one of the most recent and most authoritative, which also shows the changes in salary payments to lawyers in Australia and demonstrates the growth in earnings with Baker & McKenzie continuing to hold one of the top-paying law job rankings with senior staff earning up to $450,000.
For graduates, Allen and Overy take the lead, offering a generous pay packet of $115,000 but other big law firms are around a similar salary figure.
Lawyer Numbers in Australia
The profession’s latest statistics on numbers showed over 83,000 lawyers, which was a significant increase on the earlier year and the growth in the profession has hardly slowed, despite the Covid pandemic.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics conducted an analysis of 13.7 million individuals in the financial year 2016/17, indicating that lawyer salaries are generally higher than those of other professions.
Some law firms, such as Allen & OIvery and King & Wood Mallesons offer annual salaries reaching up to $188,868. Entry-level lawyers (trainee lawyers as they are often referred to in the UK) can expect to start at a lower salary range, averaging around $71,100 per year according to reports. Once again, remember that the starting salary figures will alter and we are providing these based on surveys and reports.
As lawyers gain experience and further develop their skills, the potential for salary increases is significant. With the possibility of earning over $250,000 per year at the higher end of the spectrum.
Average Lawyer Salary in Australia
The average salary for a lawyer in Australia varies depending on factors such as experience, location, and firm size, which will not surprise those familiar with legal job opportunities in major jurisdictions like the UK and the US. These are the typical issues (as outlined below) that affect other law firms that we have reported in our Big Law pay scale reports.
According to Indeed, the average salary for a lawyer is $104,259 per year in Australia. This is based on 1.1k reported salaries and was updated in July 2023.
Talent.com place the average pay for lawyers in Australia somewhat higher at $119,334. They report entry-level legal positions starting at $100,931 per year, while most experienced lawyers make up to $151,348 per year.
Another source, Payscale, says that the median salary for an lawyer in Australia is AU$72,617 in 2023.
Australasian Lawyer also reports that lawyers earn an average salary of $184,958 per year across all areas of law, according to the Australian Tax Office.
In conclusion, the average lawyer salary in Australia varies widely but is generally higher than the average pay for other occupations.
As lawyers gain experience and advance in their careers, their salaries typically increase correspondingly. It is important for individuals considering a career in law to consider factors such as location, area of practice, and potential employers when assessing their earning potential.
Factors Affecting Lawyer Salaries
The salary of a lawyer in Australia is significantly influenced by their level of experience just as it is for any profession and as is common in any jurisdiction. The experience level will vary in terms of legal salary and law income levels.
Geographical location also plays a role in determining a lawyer’s salary in Australia. Lawyers working in major cities like Sydney or Melbourne generally earn higher salaries than those working in smaller cities or regional areas.
The large law firms in Sydney and Melbourne will generally pay 5 percent to 10 percent more than large law firms in Brisbane or Perth. But of course living costs will also be higher.
Law Firm Size
The size of the law firm can also impact a lawyer’s salary. Larger firms tend to offer higher salaries compared to smaller firms or private practices. For example, a lawyer working at a top-tier firm in a major city can expect a higher salary than a lawyer working at a smaller firm in a regional area.
Different practice areas within the field of law can also result in variations in salaries. For example, a graduate mining engineer in Western Australia earns an average salary of AUD 107,000, which grows to AUD 137,500 upon receiving their professional certifications. In contrast, lawyers specializing in areas like family law or criminal law may earn lower starting salaries, while commercial, property and patent attorneys can earn considerably more.
These factors combined contribute to the observed differences in lawyer salaries across Australia. It is crucial for aspiring lawyers to consider these factors when planning their careers and selecting their practice areas.
Salary Comparison by Australian States and Territories
In Australia, lawyer salaries can vary significantly based on the state or territory in which they work. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) holds the nation’s highest average full-time salary of $99,247, with Canberra being home to many high-paying public service roles source. However, when it comes to the legal profession, the average salary for a lawyer across the country is around $104,085 per year source.
Taking a closer look at some specific companies and government agencies, lawyers’ salaries can range even more. For instance, City of Sydney offers an average lawyer salary of $188,868 per year, while a lawyer at King & Wood Mallesons earns an average of $158,376 annually source.
Industry sectors also play a crucial role in determining lawyers’ salaries in Australia. In the legal sector, average annual salaries amount to $115,835, while lawyers working for the government earn an average of $114,472 per year. Community services and development is another sector where lawyers may work, with an average salary of $96,483 per year source.
When comparing the cost of living and after-tax salary, Australia offers competitive wages for lawyers. The average after-tax salary in Australia covers living expenses for 1.8 months, as compared to 1.9 months in the United States source.
Lawyer salaries in Australia depend on various factors, including the state or territory, the company, and the specific industry sector. With the country offering a good work-life balance and competitive earnings, lawyers can find lucrative opportunities to prosper in their chosen professional field.
Entry Level Lawyer Salaries
Entry-level lawyers in Australia can expect to earn an average base salary of AU$59,482 per year. This figure varies depending on factors such as location, firm size, and area of expertise. Generally, entry-level lawyer salaries range from AU$49,000 to AU$77,000.
Law graduates entering the workforce fall into a middle-range salary bracket when compared to other professions such as medicine, dentistry, teacher education, engineering, and nursing. These professions have starting salaries ranging from AU$62,200 to AU$84,000.
Aside from the base salary, entry-level attorneys also receive additional benefits such as bonuses and profit sharing. Bonuses may range from AU$884 to AU$3,000, while profit sharing can be up to AU$350, although this is less common at this career stage.
It’s important to note that lawyer salaries in Australia tend to increase with experience. For example, the average salary for an attorney or lawyer in Australia is AU$72,617 per year, with the potential to reach up to AU$127,000 at the higher end of the pay scale.
Even though starting salaries for entry-level lawyers may not be as high as those in other professions, opportunities for career growth and higher earning potential make the legal profession a viable choice for many graduates.
Mid-Level Lawyer Salaries
Mid-level lawyers in Australia typically have between 4 to 9 years of experience in the field. Their salaries can vary significantly based on factors such as their area of practice, their level of seniority within a firm, and the location of their workplace. In general, mid-level lawyers can expect to earn between AU$80,000 and AU$120,000 per year.
There are differences in salaries depending on the region where a lawyer works. For instance, in Sydney, a public M&A lawyer with 3 years of post-qualified experience (PQE) was offered a salary of AU$145,000. Sydney tends to have the highest overall salaries compared to other cities in Australia.
Mid-level lawyers in other major cities also see variations in pay. For example, in Melbourne and Brisbane, salaries may be slightly lower than in Sydney, but still competitive within the legal industry.
Here are some average salary ranges for mid-level lawyers in Australia, based on experience:
- 4 years PQE: AU$80,000 – AU$100,000
- 5 years PQE: AU$90,000 – AU$110,000
- 6 years PQE: AU$100,000 – AU$120,000
In addition to base salary, some mid-level lawyers may also receive bonuses, profit-sharing, or commission as part of their overall compensation package. According to PayScale, these additional earnings can range from AU$727 to AU$20,000 for bonuses, AU$2,000 to AU$50,000 for profit sharing, and AU$0 to AU$25,000 for commission.
Mid-level lawyer salaries in Australia can vary depending on experience, location, and additional compensation factors. However, a confident and knowledgeable lawyer can expect to earn a competitive salary within the legal sector.
Senior-Level Lawyer Salaries
Senior-level lawyers in Australia can expect to earn a competitive salary based on their experience and expertise. According to PayScale, the average salary for a senior attorney in Australia in 2023 is AU$115,701. The base salary ranges from AU$79,000 to AU$195,000, with the potential for additional bonus amounts between AU$5,000 and AU$50,000.
Data from Glassdoor also supports these figures, indicating an average senior lawyer salary of AU$145,000 per year in Australia. The average additional cash compensation for senior lawyers is reported to be AU$10,000, ranging from AU$6,250 to AU$22,250.
Indeed provides more specific data on senior lawyer salaries at top companies. Worksafe offers an average annual salary of AU$149,092, while Transport for NSW provides an average salary of AU$137,236 per year for senior-level lawyers.
It’s important to consider that salary expectations may vary based on various factors, such as the size of the law firm, the industry, and the region within Australia. Nevertheless, senior-level lawyers in Australia can look forward to earning a competitive income within the legal profession.
Gender Differences in Legal Pay For Australian Lawyers
Unfortunately, the gender imbalance with legal pay for lawyers in Australia continues to be a factor in legal incomes. Although matters have improved in Australia and elsewhere, the imbalance nevertheless continues.
Going back four years, for instance, the Criminal Defence Lawyers of Australia reported that the average salary for male lawyers was over $129,000 while female lawyers earned an average legal income of over $114,000. That disparity will have altered somewhat with gender imbalance in legal firms, including legal pay, being more seriously addressed by law firms in Australia, just as it is in other jurisdictions.
Legal Salaries beyond Law Firms
In-house counsel positions have experienced a significant increase in competition for top legal talent in Australia. According to the Australia in-house legal market report and salary guide 2022-2023, companies aiming to attract talent faced immense competition, and a dramatic shift in junior to mid-level salaries was observed.
This resulted in higher average salaries for in-house lawyers compared to their counterparts in private practice.
There are some excellent salaries paid for Australian lawyers and for other legal professionals, law students, and aspiring lawyers in Australia, with lucrative salaries attainable right after graduation.
As the demand for technical expertise and analytical skills continues to grow, the Australian legal industry offers competitive compensation packages, rewarding experienced professionals significantly.
When considering these figures, it is important to take into account factors such as experience, location, and law specialization. Lawyers working in top companies and large cities, such as Sydney, can expect higher salaries compared to those working in smaller firms and regional areas.
To conclude, the salary of a lawyer in Australia can fluctuate based on several factors. It is crucial for aspiring lawyers to research and consider factors such as location, firm size, and specialization in order to make informed career decisions. In doing so, they can maximize their earnings potential and achieve professional success in the field of law.