New Zealand Law Society - Legal Salary Survey 2018 results released

Legal Salary Survey 2018 results released

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There appears to be little difference between salaries of employed male and female lawyers with the same levels of experience in the first nine years of legal practice.

This is one of the findings of the New Zealand Law Society and Niche Consulting Group Legal Salary Survey 2018.

The survey was sent in August 2018 to all New Zealand-based lawyers who were employed by a law firm or who were working as in-house lawyers. It does not, therefore, include directors and partners of law firms or barristers sole. Niche Consulting Group carried out analysis of the results and the survey report is available on the Law Society website.

The survey went to 7,688 lawyers, with 2,579 (33.6%) responding in full or partially. This was the best response of the five legal salary surveys which the Law Society has carried out. Women made up 61% of those to whom it was sent and comprised 67.8% of respondents.

There was a broad distribution of experience levels and locations among respondents, although a relatively small response from lawyers with five to nine years post qualification experience (PQE).

While the data indicated there was little gender difference in the levels of pay in the first decade of work experience, it found some noticeable differences between men and women in working hours, the level of salary increases and benefits. It is also clear that any industry-wide attempt to compare remuneration of lawyers will inevitably show a bias in favour of men by the fact that they make up 67% of partners and directors in the profession – roles which are remunerated at much higher rates.

Work hours

The survey found that 85% of respondents worked full-time (more than 37.5 hours a week). However, 96% of the men who responded worked full-time, against 80% of the women. Of those who worked part-time, over half (52%) worked 21 to 30 hours, with 30% working more than 30 hours. Slightly more (86%) private practice lawyers worked full-time than in-house lawyers (84%).

Lawyers in their first decade of work experience tend to work full-time, with the proportion working part-time rising steeply after 10 years PQE.

When asked why they worked part-time, 78% of women and 11% of men said it was to enable caregiving. The main reasons for men working part-time were “don’t need to work full-time” (29%) and “to pursue other hobbies and interests” (25%). Not needing to work full-time was the second main reason for women, at 8% of respondents.

Lawyers working in smaller centres were more likely to work part-time. Lawyers in Wellington, Auckland and Tauranga (87% of respondents in each) were most likely to work full-time, while lawyers in smaller centres in both islands were least likely (with 22% working part-time).

Salary increases

When asked if they had received a salary increase in the last 12 months, 25% said they had received none, 29% had received from 1% to 3%, 11% from 4% to 6%, 11% from 7% to 10% and 24% had received a salary increase of over 10%.

Those who received no salary increase made up 38% of part-time and 23% of full-time workers, while another 37% of part-time workers and 28% of full-time workers received 1% to 3%. Just 8% of part-time workers received over 10%, compared with 26% of full-time workers.

Men appeared more likely to receive a higher salary increase than women. Nearly one-third of women (31%) and a quarter of men (25%) received an increase of 1% to 3%, with 50% of men and 44% of women receiving a salary increase of 4% or more. When combined with the information on part-time work, this seems to indicate that women are significantly disadvantaged when salary increases are considered.

More lawyers working in law firms (26%) did not receive a salary increase when compared with in-house lawyers (23%). There was a noticeable difference between the two types of practice in the magnitude of salary increases. While 16% of private practice lawyers received 1% to 3%, 49% of in-house lawyers received an increase of that amount. Just under 32% of private practice lawyers received an increase of over 10%, compared with 11% of in-house lawyers.

The size or nature of the employing enterprise appears to have a noticeable impact on the size of salary increase. A high 39% of lawyers in large firms (over 20 lawyers) received increases over 10%, compared with 28% of lawyers in medium firms (5 to 20 lawyers), 22% in small firms (less than 5 lawyers), 13% of in-house lawyers in commercial/corporate enterprises, 11% working in community law centres and 8% working for central government.

A relatively high 30% of Auckland lawyers received an increase of over 10%, while 17% of Dunedin lawyers received over 10% – the lowest of any centre. Lawyers in smaller South Island centres (25%) were the next best-rewarded, followed by 24% of Christchurch lawyers.

Dunedin was the centre with the highest proportion of lawyers who received no salary increase, at 35% of respondents, followed by Tauranga (35%), other North Island centres (34%) and other South Island centres (33%).


Survey participants were asked about the benefits they received in addition to their salary. Half of the respondents said they received benefits, and the longer a lawyer had been in practice, the more likely they were to receive more benefits.

Lawyers working in private practice (53%) were slightly more likely to receive benefits than lawyers working in-house (50%).

The most common benefits were mobile phone (62% of those receiving a benefit), laptop/tablet (45%), bonus scheme (44%) and flexible hours (39%).

The research found that male lawyers were more likely to have a mobile phone, bonus scheme, parking, private health insurance and gym membership than female lawyers. Women were more likely to receive flexible hours, a laptop/tablet, discounted/free legal work and a “day off for their birthday” than men.

Private practice lawyers were most likely to receive a mobile phone (56%), bonus scheme (42%), discounted/free legal work (41%) and laptop/tablet (35%). In-house lawyers were most likely to receive a mobile phone (74%), laptop/tablet (61%), flexible hours (55%) and bonus scheme (50%).

Respondents were asked to estimate the value of the benefits they received. While there was obviously a subjective element in this, the responses showed that 77% estimated the annual value at up to $10,000, with just 4% estimating it at over $40,000. There were more women (79%) than men (74%) who estimated benefits up to $10,000, while 5% of men and 3% of women estimated their benefits to be over $40,000.


The good response rates have enabled good detail in salary information, which is available by location for each year of practice up to 10 PQE, and in bands thereafter. The following summary shows the result for all New Zealand for selected years of practice.

The full survey report and findings is available on the Law Society website at Practice resources The business of law Human resources and remuneration

New Zealand Law Society and Niche Consulting Group Legal Salary 2018. Average salaries, all New Zealand

Enterprise 0-1 PQE 2 PQE 3 PQE 5 PQE 7 PQE 10-14 PQE
Small firm (<5) $50,000 $58,000 $62,000 $75,000 $71,000 $94,000
Medium firm (5-20) $49,000 $61,000 $71,000 $89,000 $98,000 $117,000
Large firm (>20) $54,000 $64,000 $79,000 $98,000 $117,000 $143,000
In-house Corporate $61,000 $80,000 $79,000 $113,000 $126,000 $162,000
In-house C Govt $64,000 $68,000 $77,000 $85,000 $107,000 $120,000
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