Senior in-house lawyers’ pay has increased by £8,000, latest research shows, as businesses seek to bolster their in-house legal teams and reduce spend on external law firms.

Specialist legal recruiter Laurence Simons reports that lawyers’ average total earnings – basic salary and bonus – now stands at £165,190, compared to £157,060 last year. However, while average basic salaries increased by 12%, from £112,920 to £126,100, bonuses have shrunk.

Last year a ‘typical’ in-house lawyer commanded a bonus that was 39% of their basic salary (£44,130). This year senior in-house solicitors reported that they received a 31% bonus (£39,090). But despite the fall, bonuses were still higher than the £31,500 reported in 2014.

Global managing director Clare Butler said: ‘High spending on the salaries of top in-house lawyers is not merely corporates splashing the cash, but represents a structural shift in their approach to the provision of legal services.

‘While legal is mission critical, most corporates don’t have huge budgets to spend on elite law firms. The result of this is a greater focus on building stronger and broader in-house teams, which means recruiting lawyers from private practice at a premium.’

Although a big salary for an experienced lawyer was a ‘significant outlay’, Butler said it was an important investment ‘that can save a company huge amounts of money in fees and costs’.

Although the research suggests senior in-house lawyers are well paid, more than three-quarters of lawyers said they were potentially or definitely open to moving jobs.

Three in 10 lawyers left their previous job for better career development prospects. More than two in 10 left for a job with a better salary; one in 10 moved on for better bonus prospects. Meanwhile a further 15% changed jobs for a better work-life balance and ‘cultural fit’.