Mind the Gap: Addressing the Gender Pay Gap for General Counsel

Written by: Evie Courtier
Published on: 15 Nov 2022

Pay gap

The gender pay gap impacts the legal profession through job title, practice area and PQE level. Inequality is most prevalent in senior roles, with female representation remaining significantly lower than male counterparts. Thanks to our 2022 audience insight survey, detailing the responses of 1,200 legal professionals, from Legal PAs to Partners and General Counsels, we can see the trends of where we stand in terms of equal pay. 

Female Representation in Senior Roles:  

Female representation within the TotallyLegal audience increased from 53% to 64% this year, with women dominating 17 out of the 24 surveyed job titles, yet the disparity remained between junior roles and those in the higher echelons of the industry. 93% of Legal Secretaries and 100% of Legal PA respondents were female, compared with just 11% of Barristers and 29% of Litigators.  

The Pay Gap Itself:  

As clarified in our salary survey, the gender pay gap sits at 30% in 2022, down 3% from last year. The average salary for male respondents is £73,962, compared to £55,954 for women - a pay gap of £18,008.

Large disparities can be seen in the roles that are occupied predominantly by men, such as Document Review, with male colleagues earning 134% more than their female counterparts, and Litigators, with men receiving a 64% increase. For roles that aren’t as male heavy, we see the same result. Male Legal Secretaries, by example, earn 57% more. 

Certain fee-earning roles, such as Lawyers, have started to break the pattern, with the pay disparity decreasing to 6% in 2022, compared to 33% in 2021; female Lawyers now earn £67,222 on average, with their male counterparts taking home £71,397.   

Non-Fee Earning and Legal Support Staff:  

A variety of non-fee earning positions, such as Paralegals, have seen a positive closure of the gap. In fact, female Paralegals now average a 6% higher salary than men in the same position. 

Equal salaries for Legal Support Staff however varied greatly, with male Legal HR employees receiving a 50% higher salary. By contrast, salaries of those working in Legal Administration roles fell in favour with female employees, with women receiving 16% more than their male counterparts.

The Hope for General Counsel: 

For those in senior positions, representation as well as pay parity remain an issue. General Counsels have started to bridge the gap, with the pay gap decreasing from 16% in 2020, to 14% in 2021, and 5% this year. Taking a lead in the race for pay equality in senior roles, it’s refreshing to see a new generation of female legal leaders being recognised and rewarded with a fairer pay grade.  

The Covid years saw a shift in gender representation for General Counsels, with our female respondents now standing at 34%, and 66% male. In spite of the uneven split, the increased figure shows an active improvement for gender equality in senior positions.  

Despite the gender pay gap impinging higher-paying legal roles like Partner and Head of Department, the improvement for those in General Counsel demonstrates a hopeful beginning in equalising the gap in the senior legal landscape.  


 

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