Gender pay gap remains at 28% in the legal profession

Written by: Ethan Cumming
Published on: 6 Mar 2020

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This Sunday 8 March is International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women that advocates for gender equality around the world.

Jarring with the theme of the day is our finding that the gender pay gap in the legal profession did not change between 2018 and 2019, remaining 11% above the national average at 28%. This pay gap, as revealed in our recently published Audience Insight Report, is equivalent in real terms to an average discrepancy of £17,458 between men and women working in legal.

The gender pay gap in legal is most pronounced amongst senior professionals, with male Partners and Heads of Department earning £27,962 (+28%) and £24,697 (+27%) more than their female counterparts, but significant discrepancies were reported across the profession in different job titles, practice areas and experience levels.

Men out-earned women in all but 2 of the 26 surveyed practice areas, but inequality peaks in corporate finance and M&A where men earn an average of 39% – or £32,875 – more than women in similar roles.

In terms of job titles, women only got the chance to compete for equal pay and representation in non-fee-earning roles where salaries are lowest. For example, female Legal PAs earn, on average, £11,206 more than male Legal PAs, but women made up 98% of Legal PA respondents.

Amongst more senior legal professionals, salaries consistently favour men, and, in the case of Practice Managers and Heads of Department, the gender pay gap has worsened since 2018.

Despite these discouraging findings and the overall stagnant gender pay gap, some progress towards parity was made last year.

Significantly, men and women working in litigation achieved pay equality last year, while female Legal Assistants and Document Reviewers reported higher salaries than their male colleagues for the first time since the report was first published in 2016.

Additionally, key practice areas including commercial, dispute resolution, clinical negligence and compliance all experienced narrower gender pay gaps in 2019 than the year before. For the second year in a row, In-House Counsel respondents reported a significant drop in the average gender pay gap and were 7% closer to closing the gap entirely last year.

On International Women’s Day 2020, we celebrate these victories but remain vigilant in our advocacy for equal pay and equal representation for female legal professionals. Stay tuned to TotallyLegal for the latest stories on gender equality in legal.

Would you like to take part in an interview about your experience of the gender pay gap in legal? If so, we would love to hear from you. Get in touch on to find out more.