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Salary Guide: How Much Does A Lawyer In Singapore Earn?

A newly qualified lawyer in a large firm could earn $7,000, but this is commonly made up of $5,600 base pay and $1,400 front-loaded bonus.


While most portrayals of lawyers in legal thrillers and court dramas are flashy like in Suits, the day-to-day of a regular lawyer is much less dramatic. Aside from legal battles in the courtroom, lawyers also help to ensure that businesses can transact smoothly with each other, and also serve to ensure that business or personal legal disputes are settled fairly. Since lawyers are clearly valued in society for doing difficult work, how are they remunerated for this in Singapore?

Becoming A Lawyer

The first step to becoming a lawyer is to complete law school, either in a Singapore university, or an approved Overseas Scheduled University (OSU).

In order to qualify for the bar, candidates must either have attended law school in a Singapore university or have obtained a grade of at least lower 2nd class honours for UK OSUs or be in the top 70% of the cohort for other OSUs.

People who have already graduated with another degree, including people who wish to make a mid-career switch, can opt to do do a postgraduate degree in law (Juris Doctor) at NUS/NTU/SMU.

The next step involves undertaking 6 months of relevant legal training, or relevant legal practice or work. Public forums suggest that trainees at big law firms are paid a salary of between $2,000-$2,500. After this period of time, the trainee needs to sit for the bar examinations before they can practice law in Singapore.

Read Also: Salary Guide To How Much You Can Earn As A Doctor

Newly Qualified Lawyer (NQL) Salary

What you can earn as a lawyer is generally tied to the size of the firm.

After being called to the bar, NQLs typically earn between $6,800 – $7,000 at larger firms.

Information from public forum posts seem to suggest a common practice for larger firms is to front-load the annual bonus and include it in the monthly salary. In other words, a salary of $7,000 could be based on a $5,600 base salary, and a $1,400 frontloaded bonus. Regardless, most lawyers hired by the larger firms typically end up earning a similar amount as a NQL, which is roughly $85,000-$91,000 in the first year.

For smaller firms the starting salary is typically lower, and can range from $5,000 to $7,000 depending on the size of the firm and the type of work it specialises in.

Read Also: NUS, NTU, SMU, SUTD, SIT & SUSS: Complete Guide For Local University Courses Fees And How Much Starting Salary You Will Earn As A Fresh Graduate

Career Progression In Law Firms

For large firms, monthly salary generally increases by $1,000-$1,500 every year for the first few years. Most lawyers in large firms are paid a roughly similar salary for the first few years. Most firms hiring lawyers peg their remuneration to their Post Qualification Experience(PQE). A 3PQE lawyer is a lawyer who has been practising law for 3 years after having qualified.

The big milestone for lawyers working in firms comes where they have the opportunity to become a partner in the firm. Salary thereafter depends highly on the size of the firm, where partners of larger firms could be earning in the ballpark of $25,000 monthly or more, and partners of smaller firms could be earning in the ballpark of $12,000 – $20,000.

Salary progression beyond this point is highly variable and depends on other factors like whether or not a lawyer is able to bring business clients to the firm, or whether the lawyer is an equity partner.

Read Also: What’s The Median Salary In Singapore (At Every Age, Gender, Education and Race)

Judges

Judges’ salaries are defined by the Judges’ Remuneration Act. The Chief Justice earns an annual pensionable salary of $347,400; Judges of the Appellate Division earn an annual pensionable salary of $244,200, and Judges of the High Court earn an annual pensionable salary of $234,600.

In-House Counsel

Other than progressing within a firm, some lawyers may instead opt to work as in-house counsel. Typically, these lawyers serve mid-sized to large corporations to draft contracts and provide legal advice to the company on business negotiations.

Salary range varies depending on the employer as well as the level of experience required. In general, a lawyer with 3 years of post-qualification experience (3PQE) could be paid $7,000-$10,000, and a 5PQE lawyer could be paid $8,000 – $20,000.

Heads of legal teams could be paid between $13,000 – $27,000 a month for international corporations.

Some jobs may also pay by the hour, in which case they typically pay $100 – $125 per hour.

Read Also: Salary Guide: How Much Does An Accountant In Singapore Earn?

High Stress Environment

While lawyers are typically much better paid than people in other professions, it is well-known that lawyers typically work in excess of 60 hours in a week, especially during peak periods. While lawyers are generally well-paid, the high-stress environment, coupled with the long work hours, may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Read Also: What Is The Average Working Hours In Singapore For Full-Time And Part-Time Employees

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