Salaries within the legal market in Exeter have shot up over the past three years since the pandemic… but is this sharp rise in salaries starting to plateau?

Back at the start of March 2020, just before the pandemic hit, one large firm in Exeter gave me an NQ level Solicitor role to work on, with a salary of £44,000. This was the top salary level for an NQ Solicitor in Exeter and was an attractive salary for the area.

Yet, fast-forward just two years to July 2022, this firm increased their NQ salary levels to £60,000 for their NQ Solicitors, while they have a clear and transparent pay structure in place for Associates, Senior Associates and more Senior Lawyers. This is a pay rise of around 14% year-on-year and hugely out-performed the other competing firms in Exeter!

However, fast forward another year to August 2023… and this firm still pay the same level of £60,000… and others are catching up.

Is this an issue?

Probably not, as this particular firm also get so many other areas of their Employee Value Proposition right, in having a great culture, fantastic training and clear strategies on diversity and inclusion.

What are other firms doing to compete?

Another of the larger firms here have just announced in the past few weeks that they now pay their NQ Solicitors the same market-leading £60,000, while another is now at £58,000, so other firms are coming into line, making the market a more level-playing field again.

A top regional firm, which competes with the larger firms in a number of ways and which continues to grow, have increased their salaries from £40,000 to £48,000 over the past two years, which is an increase of 17%.

Just as impressively, some of the more local and medium-sized firms have taken huge leaps forward, with one firm having increased their NQ salaries from £32,000 up to £38,000… an increase of 16%.


While 2023 has brought some slowing-up of salary increases in Devon, the reality is, most of the firms have continued to play “catch-up” with the market-leaders, so there were still some bold increases across the sector. I wouldn’t bet against firms continuing to push their salaries forward in the latter part of this year and continue to make Exeter and the rest of Devon a very attractive place to work!

If you’re looking for advice or market-info, please feel free to get in touch with James at Aspiria Recruit for a confidential chat.

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