Many people believe that lawyers are some of the highest earning professionals in Australia, but is that actually the case? And what areas of law pay the highest salaries?
Thanks to a recent release of statistics by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), we can now reveal the highest paid jobs in Australia.
The statistics also set out where the average lawyer salary in Australia (2020) sits in the hierarchy of income earners.
The figures have led some to take particular note of the disparity between males and females, particularly in the legal industry.
WHAT ARE THE HIGHEST PAYING JOBS IN AUSTRALIA?
It will come as no surprise to see that legal professionals are among the top 10 salary earners in Australia. On average, lawyers earn more than Chief Executive Operators and Managing Directors.
However, they are well behind specialist medical practitioners such as surgeons and anaesthetists.
The graphic below sets out the 10 highest paying jobs in Australia.
|Job title||Average Salary|
|3.||Internal Medicine Specialist||$301,129|
|6.||Other medical practitioners||$215,728|
|7.||Judicial or other legal professionals||$184,958|
|9.||CEO or Managing Director||$170,336|
HOW MUCH DO LAWYERS EARN IN AUSTRALIA?
On average, lawyers earn a salary of $184,958 per year.
This figure is based on the average income of lawyers across all areas of law.
To gain some context, it is useful to look at the average pay for all occupations. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) conducted an analysis of 13.7 million individuals in the financial year 2016/17.
They were able to determine that the median salary for all occupations was $48,360.
Against that backdrop, it appears that lawyers are paid significantly better than most other jobs.
But what happens when we look at different areas of law?
What type of lawyer earns the most money?
According to SEEK, the type of lawyer that earns the most money is a Generalist In-House Counsel, with an average salary of $128,988.
They are closely followed by Building and Construction Lawyers who earn an average annual salary of $124,041.
Surprisingly, Corporate Lawyers are well behind, earning an average salary of $118,558.
The average annual salary for a Family Lawyer in Australia is $97,981 according to Indeed.
How much do corporate lawyers make?
The average Corporate Lawyer salary in Australia will depend on their level of experience.
For example, a junior Corporate lawyer can expect to start on a salary of $70,000 per year.
However, the most experienced Corporate Lawyers can earn an annual salary of over $200,000.
To that point, consultancy firm Taylor Root, published its "2020-21 Salary Guide & Market Report for the Banking & Financial Services Legal sector in Australia" in the last week.
That report details the average and expected salaries of various legal departments in the corporate world. There was a particular focus on General Counsel for Banking and Finance firms.
General Counsel for a global company can earn between $285,000-$440,000.
While these may seem to be significant figures, they pale in comparison to General Counsels with multijurisdictional coverage. Their yearly remuneration is usually between $400,000-$750,000.
The most experienced lawyers in this field can earn $750,000-$1,000,000.
It should be noted that the location of a firm can have an impact on how much Corporate Lawyers earn.
Beacon Legal published their 'Private Practice Salary and Market Report 2020' earlier this year and noted that Sydney was home to the highest paying lawyer jobs in Australia. The average lawyer salary in Melbourne was the second highest in the country followed by Brisbane in third place.
How much does a criminal lawyer make in Australia?
How much a criminal defence lawyer in Australia can earn will depend on their level of experience.
For example, a junior lawyer can earn as little as $45,000 per year, while more experienced criminal lawyers can earn $150,000 and above.
When a lawyer achieves the title of an accredited specialist in criminal law, their salary will increase exponentially given the significance attached to this title.
According to PayScale, the average annual salary for a criminal lawyer is $72,075.
This will also be affected by which State and suburb a lawyer practises in. It is well-accepted that criminal lawyers in Sydney earn more than their counterparts in other States. As such, the average criminal lawyer salary in Australia can vary significantly.
How much do family lawyers make?
The average Family Lawyer salary in Australia is $ 68,993 according to PayScale.
At the lowest end of the scale are junior family lawyers who earn an average annual salary of $52,000.
Conversely, the top 10% of Family Lawyers earn an average annual salary of $133,000.
Human Rights Lawyer Salary Australia?
The average Human Rights Lawyer salary in Australia is $ 62,455 according to PayScale.
When starting a career as a human rights lawyer, you can expect to earn $54,500.
At more senior levels, this increases significantly to well over $100,000.
Often human rights lawyers are required to travel overseas and spend months or years working in other countries. This can come with a significant pay rise as well when currency exchange rates are taken into account.
HOW MUCH DOES A BARRISTER MAKE IN AUSTRALIA?
While many people ask what is the salary of a barrister, it is important to note that barristers are not employees.
They are more akin to sole traders and as such, they generally do not have a salary unless they are employed by an organisation such as the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Public Defenders.
The average income for barristers in the 2017/18 financial year was starkly different when males and females were analysed separately.
Female barristers earned an average yearly income of $70,227. This was significantly less than their male counterparts who earned an average yearly income of $190,454.
These figures are amongst the highest gender gap in the country.
By way of comparison, in 2018/19 the average salary of females across all occupations was $49,922, while the average salary for males was $71,917.
This has led to calls from some to address the gender pay gap in the legal industry.
HOW MUCH DOES A SOLICITOR OR LAWYER COST?
Most lawyers charge their time at an hourly rate. This rate will be largely dependent on their level of skill and experience.
The area of law they practice in will also have some effect on the rate they charge for their legal services.
A lawyer or solicitor who has less than 2 years experience can charge approximately $300 per hour.
A solicitor in Sydney with between 2-5 years experience can demand fees of $400 per hour.
Senior lawyers with over 5 years experience can charge $500-$600 per hour.
A principal or director of a law firm may range from $600-$800 per hour.
It is important to be aware that solicitors are required to give prospective clients an estimate of their fees and a quote of how much they will charge per hour.
While this estimate does not have to be exact, any significant change in the estimate requires a fresh cost agreement to be issued.
Some lawyers can offer fixed fee cost agreements whereby all work can be done for a fixed price, or a fixed price per Court appearance.
If you are in need of an experienced lawyer, Astor Legal are well-equipped to handle any case no matter how big or small. With a team that boasts a Law Society Accredited Specialist, you will be in safe hands with us representing you.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.