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Male lawyers more likely to rate their remuneration highly

New findings from Lawyers Weekly and Agile Market Intelligence demonstrate that men in law are more inclined to perceive their remuneration levels as being above average compared to their female colleagues.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 04 March 2024 Big Law
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Lawyers may argue whether a gender pay gap exists – indeed, findings from the 2023–24 Legal Firm of Choice Survey reveal a near-even split between lawyers as to the veracity of the gap or otherwise.

However, data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) offers a definitive answer.

As we learnt earlier this week, less than half of law firms have a gender pay gap below the professional services sector average of 16.7 per cent for median base salary and 17.5 per cent for median total remuneration.


What’s worse is that more than 50 percentage points separate the firm with the smallest pay gap from the one with the biggest.

The existence of an ever-pervasive pay gap between men and women lawyers has long been discussed, including by this masthead. At last year’s Women in Law Forum, WGEA chief executive Mary Wooldridge said that “compositional” issues contribute to the gap in legal circles.

Recently, the release by the Attorney-General’s Department of the Legal Services Expenditure Report for the 2021–22 financial year showed that the value of briefs going to women barristers, profession-wide, is still falling short.

Tellingly, the aforementioned split between lawyers as to the existence of the gendered pay divide becomes much starker when gender perceptions are considered.

This may, then, give some insight into why men in law appear to view their pay more favourably than women practitioners.


According to the 2023–24 Legal Firm of Choice Survey, conducted by Agile Market Intelligence, men are more likely than women, in the legal profession, to perceive their pay scale as being high.

When asked – taking into account one’s current role, years of experience, and performance – how they would rate their remuneration compared to their peers, one in three (34 per cent) of all survey respondents rated their pay highly. Four per cent said their pay is “far above average”, while 30 per cent rated it “above average”.

At the other end of the spectrum, 22 per cent of all lawyers surveyed rated their remuneration as being “below average” or “far below average”.

With a middle cohort of 44 per cent rating their remuneration as average compared to peers, it seems that lawyers are, on the whole, relatively happy with their pay levels, with more deeming it very favourably than those deducing it to be very unfavourable.

When the results are broken down by gender, however, a slightly different picture emerges.

Forty-one per cent of men in law rate their remuneration as “far above average” or “above average” relative to their peers, while 31 per cent of women lawyers said the same thing.

Female practitioners were also more likely to rate their remuneration as “average”, with nearly half (48 per cent) selecting this option on the survey, compared to 38 per cent of men.

Interestingly, the number of male lawyers who deem their remuneration to be below average is slightly higher than that of their female counterparts – 22 per cent of men surveyed rated their remuneration as being “below average” or “far below average” compared to 21 per cent of women.

This is perhaps accounted for by the fact that so many women in the profession rate their pay levels as simply being “average”, but it could also speak to broader perceptions around the existence of a gender pay gap in law.

Regardless, the results pertaining to positive perceptions of one’s remuneration are perhaps not surprising, given that – as previously reported by Lawyers Weekly – the survey revealed that an overwhelmingly greater number of female practitioners believe a gender pay gap exists in the profession, compared to their male counterparts.

What is the Legal Firm of Choice Survey?

Now in its ninth iteration, the Legal Firm of Choice Survey identifies the most sought-after private legal practices across the country. It is conducted by market research agency Agile Market Intelligence for Lawyers Weekly.

This latest survey was conducted between 22 January and 14 February and received 401 responses in total, recording the attitudes, priorities, and perceptions of legal professionals in private practice across Australia.

Since late February, Lawyers Weekly has been publishing insights from the 2023–24 iteration of the Legal Firm of Choice Survey. To read those stories, click below: