(Original post by Rancorous)
No they don't.
Looking at partner salaries is extraordinarily misguided - I did it myself.
Training contracts at City firms have about a 80% retention rate. They then have about 10-20% leaving each year PQE. Yes, lawyers do move to other firms, but law firms are like pyramids which are getting ever pointier. Most have an up or out policy. So yes, partners or those who have a share in the profits of the firm can make lots of money, but it's like betting on the lottery. There are easier ways to make money than this - even setting up your own business.
Lawyers do tend to stay in law, but when they leave they tend to take a pay cut to a still decent salary in-house depending on the level of experience, 50k+. But with 5-10PQE+ experience in an MC it's not too tricky to find jobs 100k+. My data on in-house salaries isn't bang up to the minute though.
You can see what lawyers make on ROF and other sites in the training years and years within 5PQE.
However, your question was do they actually make much money. And in real terms; no! 100k after tax is close to 60k. Income tax is progressive, i.e. higher salaries have greater percentages taken away in tax. Generally that means after doing the GDL/LPC, a two year training contract, practicing for 7-10 years, in your 30s, you'll be getting 60k after tax; is that good money for you? Do you think that's a good trade off for the hours you'll have to work? Many do.
It also depends on lifestyle choices. On the one hand, some lawyers have money coming into the bank and they never have the time to spend it; so they have more money in their bank accounts. On the other hand, other lawyers on the same salary do manage to spend most of their money depending, for example, on their rent/mortgage rates. I know of associates in big firms who live on baked beans when it comes to the end of the month.
It's also true the greater the income, the greater the fixed costs and sometimes the less disposable income. For instance, a 4 bed house in Putney, having 2/3 kids in private school is going to leave the average lawyer working 50-80 hours a week with little disposable income. It's a comfortable lifestyle, but lesser paid jobs involving a tweak in the lifestyle, i.e. putting the kids in state (maybe grammar) schools will lead to the same or better.
Self-employed get greater benefits in terms of income tax, i.e they can claim back expenses and there are easy ways to avoid it almost altogether through companies and trusts. However, lawyers do still get much of their lives put on expenses.
So yes, if you become a senior partner in a City firm you'll be making huge amounts of money. However, most lawyers don't ever earn that much. And most professions are the top end have high earners over 100k, i.e. HR directors, Marketing directors, headhunters, management consultancy, IT directors...