Alex Gotch of Beacon Legal discusses earnings potential of Australian Lawyers
We speak with Alex Gotch of Beacon Legal to analyse salary progression from Lawyer to Partner.
During salary review season, lawyers’ earnings are a hot topic. We speak with Alex Gotch of Beacon Legal to uncover recent trends and examine the earnings potential of Australian lawyers, as they move up through the seniority levels during their career.
Much has been made over the years about how much more money lawyers earn in London and the US comparatively to Australian lawyers, but are we starting to bridge the gap? Alex Gotch isn’t so sure about that, but comments that domestic salaries have risen significantly over the last few years: “The talent shortage during the covid years drove salaries upwards significantly within the large law firms, by as much as 20-30% above the norm”.
So how much do Australian lawyers earn from the early stage of their career to becoming Partner?
Alex Gotch provides the following analysis:
“Within the Top Tier law firms, their Graduate lawyers can begin their career on circa $110,000, which is an amount far beyond the average wage for a Graduate in most professions. Generally, the Mid Tier firms will pay 15-20% less and salaries reduce further when comparing against small law firms.
Lawyers can generally expect a 10% pay raise most years, as they move up through the earnings matrix towards Senior Associate. A 3-4 PQE lawyer at a large law firm can easily earn $160,000 in 2023.
Newly minted Senior Associates generally earn between $180,000-$210,000. The percentage increase once a lawyer becomes a Senior Associate can dip comparatively against Associate level pay rises, as they progress to Special Counsel. In Australia, most Special Counsel salaries top out at $300,000, with some exceptions within the Top Tier firms where we have seen salaries up to $350,000.”
Alex Gotch also comments that bonuses at large law firms are on average 10% of salary and on a good year, can rise to 20% and above, for top performers.
There is, as you may expect, significant variances between Partner salaries. Recently, the salaries of PWC Partners were made public and the variance between Partners is similar within large law firms. Generally, a newly appointed salaried Mid Tier firm Partner would earn a base salary of circa $300,000-$350,000, with Top Tier Partners generally ranging from $400,000 - $500,000 upon appointment.
The top performing Partners in Australia earn in the multiple millions. Generally, a Partner can expect to earn 1/3 of the value of their practice, so if their team bills $3,000,000, they’ll earn around $1,000,000. Every firm offers a different structure for remuneration, which is why it is common for Partners to move laterally between firms.
Alex Gotch reiterates that salaries have risen dramatically in the last few years in the Australian legal market.
The salary route from Graduate to Special Counsel is wage growth from circa $100,000 to $300,000, if you work at a large law firm. This journey takes on average 10-12 years.
If you would like a copy of Beacon Legal’s Salary and Market Report for July 2023, you can request a free copy here.
Additionally, if you would like to discuss your career and/or salary, get in touch with Alex at