Lawyers: do they really earn astronomical salaries?

After donning their black robes in court, their goal is to win the case: plead the client’s innocence. The salaries of lawyers, which are increasing every year, fascinate as much as they intrigue.

Eric Dupond-Moretti, the current Minister of Justice and former well-known criminal lawyer, told HATVP in 2020 that he received 70,000 in fees per month. If we suspect that this salary is far from the salary of all lawyers, then what really ?

On average, high salaries for lawyers

In France, lawyers’ fees are free, which means that everyone can set their own based on a fixed price, results or number of hours devoted to the case. On average, a lawyer’s salary is €81,310 per year, according to a 2019 Caisse nationale des barreaux français (CNBF) report. This represents 6,776 euros per month, but it should be noted that this gross amount does not include the payment of fees and taxes, which represent approximately 45% of freelance income. In fact, that average is significantly pushed by some extremely high salaries. Therefore, it is interesting to keep in mind the average income of a lawyer, which amounts to 46,118 euros gross per year, or 3,843 euros per month. Concretely, this means that half of the lawyers earn more and the other half less.

Obviously, the salary develops with the seniority of the lawyer who gains more experience and skills. Thus, the average salary of a beginner lawyer (less than two years of practice) is 25,325 euros gross per year. An average of 47,929 euros per year is required for a middle career: this is more than half the compensation of lawyers who have been working for more than ten years, and who receive a salary of 106,776 euros gross per year.


Associate lawyer: salary and title

Very strong differences within the expert body

The first element to consider is the lawyer’s status: employee, partner or independent. If he is an employee of the company, the lawyer is often paid less than if he is an associate lawyer. In the latter case, he does not have the status of an employee, but the status of a business manager, just like the other lawyers with whom he is associated with the company. As such, he usually has a higher salary, but also various bonuses in the form of bonuses, commissions, meal vouchers or incentives. Independent lawyers are neither partners nor employees, and already have many years of experience. Their compensation is largely based on their reputation and specialty (business law is known to pay very well).

So large that it seems unbelievable, the difference in wages between men and women should also be taken into account. According to the CNBF, the average income of a female lawyer is 58,128 euros gross per year, compared to 112,546 euros for men. So, the average earnings of lawyers represent only 52% that of men. This can especially be explained by the well-known glass ceiling: women occupy important positions in law firms less and less. Furthermore, they also access the status of associate lawyer, which is the highest paid, less often.


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How to become a lawyer?

Becoming a lawyer is not easy. After the baccalaureate, you need at least five and a half years of study: four years to obtain the Master of Laws 1 degree, at the end of which you have to pass the CRFPA (judicial) exam, which is very selective. This is followed by 18 months of training at the Faculty of Law (EDA) and passing the final Cap exam (certificate of aptitude for the profession of lawyer).

However, future lawyers generally need longer than that to complete their studies because they often have to prepare for the bar exam for a year with a preparatory course, not to mention frequent repetitions due to the difficulty of the course. Others also prefer to get Master 2 before starting. In any case, it is better to arm yourself with persistence…


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