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Census 2013 information on lawyer incomes

By Geoff Adlam 

Just under half (49%) of New Zealand’s lawyers reported before-tax personal income over $100,000 in the year to 31 March 2013. By contrast, 9% of all employed New Zealanders aged 15 and over had income over $100,000. 

The customised information on lawyer incomes has been prepared by Statistics New Zealand. While it shows that a good number of lawyers are reasonably remunerated for their hard and skilled work, a couple of things stand out. 

The information indicates that 41% of all male lawyers earned over $150,000 in the 2013 financial year, but only 15% of female lawyers did. The differences are less stark in the band $100,000 to $150,000, which includes around 19% of all female lawyers and 19% of all male lawyers. A higher proportion of female lawyers (21%) than male (16%) were in the $70,000 to $100,000 bracket. Below that, however, were 44% of all female lawyers and just 23% of male lawyers. 

Women currently make up 46% of New Zealand’s lawyers. There appear to be three main factors at play to explain the big divergence between men and women: partnership, age and hours worked. 

At 1 July 2014 women made up 26% of partners and directors in New Zealand’s law firms. However, women comprised 43% of all lawyers working in law firms. Assuming that partners and directors are generally the highest earners, this difference has to have an impact on average incomes. This is accentuated even more with the statistic that 24% of all partners and directors in law firms with 10 or more partners/directors are women – but 48% of all practising certificates in those firms are held by women. 

The next factor, age, is linked to partnership/directorship. Another set of customised Statistics New Zealand data shows that at the 2013 census, 26% of female lawyers were aged under 30, while only 12% of male lawyers were. The number of women entering the profession continues to be well ahead of the number of men (around 61% of new entrants are female). However, across the whole profession a much higher proportion of men are far more experienced and, presumably, better remunerated because of this. Sitting in the 50 to 64 year age bracket are 35% of all male lawyers, but only 18% of female lawyers. 

The other big contributor appears to be hours worked. This is covered separately on the table on page 25. 

Another feature of the statistics is that almost one in five barristers (19.1%) earned $30,000 or less in the financial year. This compares with just 4.6% of solicitors. Some of the difference appears to reflect the available work, with 15.1% of barristers working less than 30 hours a week, compared with 9.1% of solicitors.

Category 

Loss - $20,000 

$20,001 - $40,000 

$40,001 - $60,000 

$60,001 - $70,000 

$70,001 - $100,000 

$100,001 - $150,000 

$150,001+ 

Barrister Female 

21.0% 

17.4% 

10.2% 

6.6% 

11.4% 

13.8% 

18.6% 

Barrister Male 

6.8% 

6.8% 

7.3% 

4.4% 

12.2% 

16.6% 

45.9% 

All Barristers 

12.9% 

11.9% 

8.9% 

5.4% 

11.9% 

15.1% 

33.7% 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solicitor Female 

3.7% 

8.7% 

20.6% 

10.0% 

22.2% 

19.7% 

14.8% 

Solicitor Male 

1.8% 

4.0% 

11.1% 

5.8% 

16.1% 

20.2% 

42.0% 

All Solicitors 

2.7% 

6.2% 

15.6% 

7.7% 

19.0% 

20.0% 

28.4% 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lawyers Female 

5.4% 

9.5% 

19.6% 

9.6% 

21.1% 

19.1% 

15.1% 

Lawyers Male 

2.3% 

4.3% 

10.7% 

5.7% 

15.7% 

19.8% 

40.8% 

All Lawyers 

3.7% 

6.8% 

14.9% 

7.5% 

18.2% 

19.5% 

29.0% 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NZ Females 

24.8% 

31.4% 

21.9% 

6.8% 

8.4% 

2.9% 

1.4% 

NZ Males 

13.8% 

23.7% 

24.7% 

8.8% 

13.8% 

7.4% 

5.0% 

All NZers 

19.0% 

27.4% 

23.4% 

7.9% 

11.2% 

5.3% 

3.3% 

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Last updated on the 23rd October 2014