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Clayton Legal’s 2020 Legal Salary Report

  • February 8, 2020

Attrition rates in UK law firms increase by 34%

Law firms up and down the country are fighting to keep hold of their legal talent according to specialist recruitment agency Clayton Legal’s 2020 salary survey. The most comprehensive of its kind in the UK involving over 4000 law firms, Clayton’s survey offers a unique insight into the challenges facing law firm in the country across every region. Significantly, these results come after an optimistic 2018 survey when 78% of firms reported decreased attrition rates from the previous year. So why the sudden reverse?

According to Clayton Legal’s latest report, the lure of bigger salaries from larger firms is enticing candidates away, placing greater economic pressure on smaller firms forced to compete. Yet financial remuneration isn’t the only factor at play. According to Lynn Sedgwick, Managing Director of Clayton Legal, “candidates are looking for a better work-life balance and workplace culture, and they’re prepared to move firms in order to get it. We’re increasingly seeing a real parallel with those firms that are offering attractive workplace benefits, and those that are able to hold onto their top talent”. The survey reports that flexible working is the second joint most popular benefit offered by firms in the salary survey with private health insurance, additional holidays and professional study support as other popular draws. As Lynn highlights “employee expectations are high and law firms know that in order to keep hold of their talent they need to be offering something beyond a competitive salary – those that don’t adapt to the current candidate-driven market are finding themselves at real risk of losing their legal talent”.

Of course, the challenges faced by law firms in 2020 aren’t just around retaining candidates. Clayton’s survey discovered that finding and recruiting them in the first place is just as important a factor; a task that’s easier said than done when you’re operating in the midst of a nationwide talent shortage. According to the salary survey, 54% of firms are experiencing a reduction in the availability of legal skills across the board, and in particular a gap in the market was reported of candidates with more than 3 years PQE. “We’re seeing plenty of graduates coming through to sustain the breadth of entry level roles in the industry”, explains Lynn. “However, those with experience – and in particular specialist experience – are lacking, and it’s independent firms that are feeling the brunt of it”. For legal firms in the UK, the economically unpredictable year ahead is far from reassuring and with Brexit ever looming, firms have to look at ways to expand and promote growth while keeping overheads to a minimum. It’s a tough game to play when you’re under pressure to retain your key talent. The uncertainty of Brexit will no doubt remain a key challenge for firms in 2020, and the impact this will have on profit performance remains to be seen.

Clayton Legals salary survey shows that it’s not all doom and gloom though. Thinking outside the box when it comes to benefits can really pay off with the report citing duvet days, free fruit and healthy snacks, and enhanced maternity pay as benefits with strong appeal. As Lynn explains, “added benefits that offer something different to the traditional can really set firms apart from the competition, and act as a useful leverage tool when higher financial offers aren’t an option”. Increasingly too it’s been reported that firms are starting to address health and wellbeing initiatives within the workplace, with inclusion and diversity now at the forefront of employee engagement.

Despite the challenges of the year ahead, effective talent attraction strategies remain the key to combatting recruitment issues. Firms overwhelmingly reported that professional legal recruiters were the single most effective source of recruitment within the industry. Specialist recruitment partners that have an in-depth knowledge of the market as well as an extensive network of candidates can play a major part in enabling firms to not only recruit carefully, but to retain that talent for the long term; a strategy that will no doubt be the key to success for any law firm in 2020.

With over twenty years’ experience helping law firms recruit and retain their talent, Clayton Legal can provide expert recruitment advice and support to help build and grow your talent pipeline. Specialising in all areas of law, and with unique and expansive access to exclusive candidate databases, get in touch today to find out what they can do for your law firm. To start a conversation or to request a copy of the latest 2020 legal salary report, please visit their website, or contact them directly at or call 01772 259 121.

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