The private practice market in Scotland witnessed the first major uplift in remuneration within the larger commercial law firms for over a decade. Many of these firms have increased salaries to retain talent and as a result, the private practice market in Scotland now has a legitimate top-tier with the difference in terms of salaries between that and the mid-tier being as high as 25% in many instances. For the larger firms it is a strategy that would appear to be working with many firms posting higher retention levels and renewed ability to fill vacancies by attracting lawyers from their direct competitors.


Hiring the best talent within both private practice and in-house legal teams remains of paramount importance in Scotland in what is an unquestionably a candidate-driven market. The market is most challenging at the mid-level, with candidates likely to have multiple offers when considering a move in addition to being counter-offered at the point of resignation. Undoubtably, salary remains the key driver when candidates are making career choices. However flexible-working, culture and progression also remain important career considerations.


The Scottish market has successfully moved to adopting hybrid-working with many employers now working a ‘2/3 day a week in the office’ model. With a reputation for being a long-hour office-based culture, many lawyers have now greatly enjoyed less commuting, more time with family and ultimately for many, a more efficient way of working. Some organisations continue to provide a more flexible working arrangement (although limited numbers remain fully-remote) which is proving a successful retention and attraction tool. It is a positive development to see that flexible-working is here to stay in the legal sector and will remain a priority when hiring and retaining staff in the future.


With the threat of a potential economic slow-down affecting the legal sector in 2024 on the horizon, it is important that law firms and in-house legal teams learn vital lessons from the last decade. Whilst we are likely to see certain practice areas have an unpredictable 12 months, there would appear to be no immediate signs of a slowdown in terms of recruitment activity. Both private practice and in-house markets remain buoyant with recruitment focusing on replacement, strategic growth and opportunistic lateral hires.





Banking & Finance


The private practice market in Scotland has remains buoyant with all of the commercial firms now back in ‘hiring-mode’ following the pandemic. Activity levels in the last 6 months in certain practice areas have been the highest in over a decade.

Recruiting at Associate level remains one of the major challenges for Scottish law firms with salary levels and now flexible-working  arrangements needing to be attractive enough to laterally hire the best talent and to retain existing lawyers. It is also important that the Scottish law firms continue to demonstrate their plans for investment, growth and commitment to remain competitive.

High NQ retention levels are expected to continue in 2024 with a return to normal over the last 12 months after what was a difficult period for NQ lawyers qualifying in the height of the pandemic.

The pandemic initially slowed down the Partnership track for many lawyers, particularly in the large commercial firms which resulted in a higher than normal level of lateral movement at Senior Associate level. Over the last 6 months, we have seen a considerable increase in lateral movement of Partners and teams within the Scottish market. Partners with a decent, portable book of business will continue to be
in demand.

The overall financial results of the private practice sector continues to be strong and commercial firms in the majority should be in a decent position to deal with any potential slowdown in the next 12 months. Smaller and specialist law firms have taken longer to recover from the pandemic with many of these firms now considering merger options to strengthen or re-consolidate their position in the legal market.


Private Practice lawyers considering a move in next 12 months


Lawyers confident about opportunities in Private Practice


Private Practice lawyers expected a pay increase in next 12 months


Private Practice lawyers happy with hybrid-working arrangements.



In-House lawyers content with current remuneration levels.


In-House lawyers considering a move in the next 12 months


In-House lawyers happy with hybrid-working arrangements.


Increase in In-House Commercial Contacts roles.

The most notable development within the in-house market during the last 12 months has been centred around remuneration levels. With substantial increases in terms of Private Practice salaries, many in-house legal teams are finding it more difficult to recruit from this sector despite offering in many cases better work/life balance- Some in-house teams simply cannot compete with many of the top-tier law firms. Many organisations have found recruitment has been more time-consuming and has provided a narrower talent pool than in previous years. This has prompted in-house teams to have to reconsider PQE levels as well as the remuneration package on

There has been renewed growth across the banking and financial services sector with both traditional banks as well as the retail banks and other niche FS organisations actively recruiting once more. Much of this is being generated by strategic growth that was planned pre-Covid which is highly encouraging. As expected, we are seeing particular growth within the in-house legal teams in areas including technology, communications, life-science and renewable energy-
notably at the junior and mid-level. These sectors are proving popular destinations for private practice lawyers looking to make their first in-house move.

The Oil & Gas market in the North East continues to face its challenges and it is a far more static market for those looking to break into the Energy sector or to move laterally. For many Scottish lawyers a move in-house remains a popular career choice and is more accessible than ever before, even at the junior end of the market. In addition to commercial contracts, there continues to be demand for regulatory
experience in-house, notably within financial services and also a rise in opportunities for lawyers with data protection/ data privacy exposure.

“ The unprecedented rise in private practice salaries combined the ongoing cost of living crisis is making financial reward the number one priority for Scottish lawyers considering their next move. ”


1 YEAR PQE£45,000£70,000
2 YEAR PQE£48,000£71,000
3 YEAR PQE£50,000£73,000
4 YEAR PQE£55,000£75,000
5 YEAR PQE£60,000£79,000
6 YEAR PQE£64,000£83,000
7 YEAR PQE£67,000£88,000
IN-HOUSE NQ£40,000£55,000
HEAD OF LEGAL£80,000£120,000

Please note our salary survey figures are indicative and are intended to be used for guidance only. Salary figures are based on our existing specialist market knowledge gained in the Scottish market. The above figures are based on salary only and do not include bonus or benefits. For the purpose of this salary, figures are based on positions within commercial law firms and large commercial organisations. Regional salaries and those within smaller law firms and companies will differ. Market commentary is based on discussions with our client and candidate population. Should you wish to have a private and confidential discussion on salaries, packages and market conditions please contact us at

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