Gender pay gap continues to persist: legal salary survey

The gap reached 35% in favour of men at the principal level

Gender pay gap continues to persist: legal salary survey

The gender pay gap continues to persist across most positions in the legal profession, according to findings from The College of Law Australia’s Australian Legal Salary Survey 2024. 

The survey showed that the average annual base salary for women fell below that of men across positions and level of experience; men reported an average base salary of $102,659 while women reported just $92,079. As per The College of Law, this suggests that gender pay inequity “is not a legacy issue”. 

The gap reached 35% at principal level. College of Law CEO Neville Carter noted that this was a problem “that needs to be tackled holistically across the industry”. 

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Notably, women in associate roles reported higher salaries than their male counterparts, with the former making an average of $3,732 more than the latter. The average annual base salary across all survey respondents was $102,100; lawyers who had 6-10 years of experience reported an average base salary of $124,493. 

The survey found that level of education/qualification also impacted level of pay for a lawyer; Masters of Law holders made a maximum of $30,267 more from every year law firms than their peers who were of Bachelors of Law or Juris Doctor degree holders. Masters of Law lawyers in corporate got $101,300 more annually. 

“An interesting thread throughout the responses was the impact of further education on increasing remuneration, such as a Master of Laws. What was also interesting was the fact only 17% of respondents said, ‘further education’ was an available benefit, and on average, 70% of respondents said further education did not factor in their salary or promotion reviews”, Carter pointed out. 

Bonuses vs flexibility 

Moreover, the study results revealed that flexible working arrangements were the benefit 55% of respondents capitalised on. Government agencies offered the most flexibility, with 82% of respondents being offered flexible arrangements; by contrast, only 45% of respondents received this benefit from law firms. 

“The impact of the pandemic and the resulting evolution of the workplace appear evident in the feedback we have received, flexible working arrangements and staff enabling technologies are two of the most common benefits respondents receive”, Carter noted. 

In addition, 52% of respondents said that they did not have expected billable targets; 56% of lawyers in law firms had the highest likelihood of implementing individual targets, which Carter said was “another indication of industry change”. 

The College of Law surveyed over 1,300 lawyers across Australia over late 2023 and early 2024.  

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