For the first time since the banking crash lawyers at City firms are receiving inflation-beating pay rises, reflecting growing confidence in the economy, according to studies published today by two separate legal recruiters. 

Lawyers’ average salaries rose £5,000 over the past year to £108,690, according to legal recruiter Laurence Simons. However, the average bonus fell from £35,590 to £31,495. 

Separate research from another legal recruiter, Edwards Gibson, found that for the first time in six years lawyers are expected to receive above-inflation salary rises. Scott Gibson, partner at the company, said reports for 2014 pointed to a 5% increase in salary for associates.

Magic circle salaries rose 4% to £64,000 for newly qualified solicitors in 2013. However this is still below the £65,000 offered at the market peak in 2008, said the research.

Chris Cayley, managing director at Laurence Simons, said: ‘Rising salaries are a sign that the legal sector has returned to stability after a tough period. We saw green shoots in 2012/13, with higher bonuses showing signs of tentative confidence.

‘Salary increases demonstrate long-term commitment to staff and confidence that prospects for 2014 are better.’

Of the 383 City lawyers questioned by Laurence Simons, 89% said they felt secure in their jobs, and 61% were optimistic about the economy over the next year. 

Around 71% of respondents said they are looking to move jobs if the right opportunity presented itself – a 5% increase on 2012/2013. 

Some 47% expect headcount to increase in their department over the next year compared with just 5% who think headcount will decrease.