How the legal consultant model compares to the average lawyer salary

How the legal consultant model compares to the average lawyer salary

Platform law firms provide an alternative operating model. They allow lawyers to work as self-employed consultants under a revenue-sharing model that allows them to keep the bulk of client fees. All excess funds are spent via a central network, which provides tools that lawyers need to fulfil their roles: legal technology, insurance, branding services, and much more.

Platform law firms are growing popular. According to research from Hazlewoods, the number of UK lawyers in platform law firms increased by 29% in 2018. That growth has continued into 2022 and looks to grow even further in the not-so-distant future.

A recent report by Arden Partners, for example, suggests that one-in-three lawyers will work under the platform law model in the next five years. The report claims that as many as 3000 of the UK’s 10000 law firms could close or merge and platform firms can easily absorb entire teams of lawyers in ways traditional firms may struggle to do.

We’ve already seen the growth. Three major platform law firms include Taylor Rose, Keystone Law and gunnercooke, who employ approximately 350 legal consultants each. All of them have grown rapidly in recent years.

In this article, we explore takeaways from a recent report from LexisNexis and consider the appeal of platform law firms for lawyers. And that exploration starts with salaries.

The question of salaries

Determining average lawyer salaries across the UK is difficult. Compensation is largely dependent on firm size, legal role, and area of law. The highest salaries, for example, are usually found in commercial or corporate law. Lower salaries can usually be found in personal areas of law, with personal injury and family law serving as obvious examples.

We can draw some broad conclusions. According to JobTed, for example, the average trainee lawyer in the UK can expect around £25k, the average graduate lawyer can expect £29k, junior lawyers can expect £43k, and senior lawyers can expect upwards of £95k, all of which will vary depending on experience, firm, practice area, and so on.

Research from Prospects shows that lawyers can expect to earn more from the top 100 firms. Even trainees at magic circle law firms took home £100k pre-COVID, though salaries have been cut since. City law firms often pay newly qualified lawyers more than £75k, with Ashurt paying an average of £105k, Hogan Lovells paying £90k, Dentons paying £75k and so on.

So how do salaries at platform law firms compare? The comparison depends on the amount work consultant lawyers bring. But the fees in the major firms are broadly indicative of wider renumeration, so lawyers can judge the amount they could potentially make.

Keystone, for example, allows consultant solicitors to keep up to 75%. Taylor Rose allows consultants to retain 70%. Similar rates are offered at gunnercooke, starting at 70% but rising up to 90% depending on meeting revenue thresholds. Most firms offer referral options, too, with payment to consultants who bring in work for others. Keystone, for example, pay the referrer 15%, with 60% going to the person working on the case and the firm retaining 25%.

Learn more about the commission structures of platform law firms by downloading our new report

An emphasis on culture 

The battle for attracting lawyers to platform law firms goes beyond salary. Darryl Cooke, co-founder of gunnercooke, explains that platform law firms can take away the aspects of big law people don’t like – bureaucracy, politics, pay battles, billing targets.

The competition for talent, Cooke explains, comes down to offering additional freedom to lawyers. ‘If they don’t want to work Fridays, they don’t work Fridays. If they want to take six weeks off in the summer, they take six weeks off in the summer.’

That is an attractive proposal. Lawyers want less management, less bureaucracy. In the LexisNexis report, for example, Ian Cooke said that after three decades in private practice he felt increasingly bogged down with management tasks, which prevented time with clients. ‘I didn’t become a lawyer to be a manager,’ he explains.

Cooke joined Keystone and found the platform model provided better working practices ‘You just work with your clients, prioritise deals, and get on with the business of offering Rolls Royce legal service,’ Ian Cooke claims. ‘I have never been happier at work. The clients are thrilled because they have my attention and the practice is growing nicely as a consequence.’

The problem with autonomy

Platform law firms offer an interesting proposition for lawyers. There are several drawbacks, however. The first is that many lawyers do not have a financial cushion to become self-employed. Platform law requires lawyers to drum up client work, which could mean a loss of income in the short-term, perhaps even longer.

James Harper, senior general counsel at LexisNexis, elaborates on that challenge: ‘You are setting up your own business and if you don’t have the capital sitting behind you to cover yourself when you’re not going to be earning much…that’s a barrier and it’s also quite scary.’

Another problem is that many lawyers do not possess the skills for the level of self-sufficiency that platform law requires. It’s a hunter-gatherer mentality, with lawyers having to go out and generate their own revenue without the support and backing of a big firm.

Tony Williams, founder of Jomati, asks an interesting question: ‘How many lawyers are there who genuinely have the sort of following and the business development skills [to succeed].’ The reliance on self-sufficiency poses huge problems for many lawyers who are used to prior working models, who are given work by their firms, who do not have to generate clients.

Find out more about working at a platform law firm.

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About the author:
Ashton leads on the marketing strategy developed to enhance LexisNexis’ relationships with medium and large law firms across the UK. He is a qualified marketer with a demonstrated history of executing Account Based Marketing strategies across financial services and SaaS companies.