The legal profession in South Africa offers one of the highest-paying and most lucrative careers in the country, with many legacy and emerging fields requiring highly skilled individuals to make sure affairs are in order.
According to two salary reviews by professional services and recruitment firms, Michael Page and Robert Walters, it is evident that these professional skills come with salaries to match.
South Africa’s legal sector faces a shortage of skilled specialists, with Michael Page noting a growing gap in the market over the last few years due to attractive international opportunities drawing many local legal professionals to emigrate.
Specifically, specialist lawyers within the banking, finance and mergers & acquisition space are in big demand in South Africa, especially catering to tech law, legal compliance and African experience.
“South Africa is considered a major commercial hub in setting a favourable landscape in support of the exponential growth of the fintech sector, both locally and across the African continent. Lawyers who possess the necessary skills and experience within the fintech / IT and ICT sectors are in high demand during this growth phase,” Michael Page said.
Meanwhile, there has been a notable increase in the need for compliance professionals as companies are expected to comply with relevant legislation and regulations to mitigate business risk and operate in an ethical manner.
“Knowledge and implementation of the POPI Act have been of special interest since companies have had to be fully compliant since mid-2021,” the firm said.
Given the local constraints on available skills, however, the group said that companies will have to regularly evaluate their attraction and retention strategies of specialist hires in order to remain competitive and be considered as a compelling employer of choice in the current market.
“Clearly defined growth and succession plans, lucrative salaries and incentive structures, exposure to top quality work and a progressive work culture are some of the main considerations.”
When it comes to salaries then, it is clear why legal professionals are drawing premium earnings.
Based on Michale Page’s salary data, even support staff within legal firms, such as legal secretaries who draw the smallest salary of between R300,000 and R550,000 per year (R25,000 to R46,000 a month) still out-earn the average salary in the country.
Those who have the mettle to stick it out and soar up the ranks of top law firms, meanwhile, can end up earning over R5 million a year as a senior partner (over R415,000 a month).
Fresh graduates, operating as candidate attorneys, also start out at R25,000 a month.
Robert Walters’ data shows an even bigger salary range for entry-level lawyers, with associates earning R600,000 a year.
The tables below outline the minimum and maximum estimates for legal sector salaries from both recruitment firms.
|Senior Partner||Top Local and International Practice||R1 800 000||R5 000 000 +|
|General Counsel / Head of Legal||In-house||R1 700 000||R3 500 000|
|Chief Compliance Officer / Head of Compliance||Legal Compliance||R1 700 000||R2 500 000|
|Group Company Secretary||Company Secretary||R1 500 000||R2 200 000|
|Junior Partner||Top Local and International Practice||R1 400 000||R1 750 000|
|Senior Counsel||In-house||R1 200 000||R1 600 000|
|Senior Compliance Manager||Legal Compliance||R1 200 000||R1 600 000|
|Company Secretary||Company Secretary||R1 000 000||R1 500 000|
|Senior Associate||Top Local and International Practice||R900 000||R1 300 000|
|Legal Counsel||In-house||R750 000||R1 100 000|
|Compliance Manager||Legal Compliance||R750 000||R1 100 000|
|Assistant Company Secretary||Company Secretary||R700 000||R1 000 000|
|Associate||Top Local and International Practice||R600 000||R800 000|
|Junior Counsel||In-house||R550 000||R700 000|
|Paralegal||Support Staff||R450 000||R680 000|
|Candidate Attorney||Top Local and International Practice||R300 000||R420 000|
|Legal Secretary||Support Staff||R300 000||R550 000|
|General Counsel||In-house – Commerce & Industry||R2 500 000||R2 500 000|
|General Counsel||In-house – Financial Services||R2 500 000||R2 500 000|
|Equity Director / Senior Director||Private Practice (Large Firm)||R2 000 000||R2 000 000|
|Head of Legal||In-house – Commerce & Industry||R1 500 000||R2 500 000|
|Head of Legal||In-house – Financial Services||R1 500 000||R2 500 000|
|Junior Director/ Salaried Director||Private Practice (Large Firm)||R1 300 000||R1 900 000|
|Equity Director / Senior Director||Private Practice (Boutique Firm)||R1 200 000||R1 200 000|
|Senior Legal Advisor/Counsel||In-house – Commerce & Industry||R1 000 000||R1 500 000|
|Senior Legal Advisor/Counsel||In-house – Financial Services||R1 000 000||R1 500 000|
|Senior Associate||Private Practice (Large Firm)||R900 000||R1 300 000|
|Junior Director / Salaried Director||Private Practice (Boutique Firm)||R900 000||R1 200 000|
|Associate||Private Practice (Large Firm)||R900 000||R900 000|
|Legal Advisor/Counsel||In-house – Financial Services||R750 000||R1 000 000|
|Junior Legal Advisor/Counsel||In-house – Financial Services||R750 000||R750 000|
|Legal Advisor/Counsel||In-house – Commerce & Industry||R700 000||R1 000 000|
|Junior Legal Advisor/Counsel||In-house – Commerce & Industry||R700 000||R700 000|
|Senior Associate||Private Practice (Boutique Firm)||R600 000||R900 000|
|Associate||Private Practice (Boutique Firm)||R600 000||R600 000|