The basic salary of a corporate lawyer, before any tax deductions or added bonuses, can range from R500 000 – R1 400 000 a year, depending on experience, gender, and educational background amongst other things.
Corporate Lawyer Salary in South Africa 2021:
|Less than 3 years||R500 000 – R750 000|
|More than 3 years||R750 000 – R950 000|
|More than 6 years||R950 000 – R1 400 000|
Salary Comparison By City 2021:
|Cape Town||68,100 ZAR|
|Port Elizabeth||62,800 ZAR|
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Corporate lawyers navigate the world of commercial law by representing businesses ranging from small start-ups to multi-million dollar enterprises. Their role is not limited to legal advice but is also to oversee business strategies as well as financial dealings company. They work through the legal world in a way to benefit their clients. Most successful corporate lawyers represent several successful businesses at a time.
Due to their adaptability and importance, a corporate lawyer’s salary is one of the highest in the legal sector. On average, a corporate lawyer’s salary in South Africa is around R40,000 ($2680) per month, amounting to a cool R480,000 ($32118) annually.
Corporate Lawyer’s Salary according to Work Experience
As with any career, work experience is heavily valued and can make all the difference in a lawyer’s salary.
On average, a corporate lawyer at the beginning of his career with less than one year of experience can hope to earn around R225,000 per annum. After a few years of experience (1-4 years), the average salary rises to R308,000 a year. A corporate lawyer’s average salary peaks at around R555,000 a year with close to 10 years of experience under his belt.
As a lawyer gains experience, he gets promoted within his firm and that leads to an increase in his pay scale. Becoming a named partner at a firm contributes greatly to a rise in any lawyer’s salary.
Corporate Lawyer’s salary according to Skillset
Since corporate law is such a vast field, lawyers have to deal with several aspects of it in their practice. The salary of a corporate lawyer is, therefore, largely influenced by the set of skills he masters and the niche of corporate law his expertise lies in.
Corporate lawyers who specialize in Contract Negotiations and Legal Document Review attract higher average salaries of around R342,000 to R352,000 per year. Those who deal with Mergers and Acquisitions and Corporate law make around R250,000 to R300,000 a year.
Corporate Lawyer’s salary according to Educational Background
Not surprisingly, work experience alone does not influence a corporate lawyer’s salary. The educational qualification also plays a role in determining an individual’s salary.
Predictably, a higher background in education results in a more robust paycheck. On average, an attorney’s salary in South Africa rises by 57% if a lawyer has a Master’s degree rather than only a Bachelor’s. The salary further increases by 68% after a Ph.D. Although higher education is significantly more expensive, it is clearly a wise investment to make.
Corporate Lawyer’s salary according to Gender
Corporate law is largely a male-dominated career with a gender distribution of 90% men to only 10% women. Though that gap is slowly narrowing, it will be quite some time before there are equal pays for both genders. The dishonest gender wage gap very much exists in the corporate law sector and could be a contributor to the imbalance in gender distribution.
Male lawyer’s salaries on average exceed their female colleagues’ salaries by about 12%. Reducing the wage gap in the future may give women more incentive in the future to enter into this career path.
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Corporate Lawyer’s salary in comparison to other countries
Although corporate law is one of the best paying fields in the legal world, its salary in South Africa does not match with some other countries.
Corporate lawyers in the UK can earn on average, 50,600 GBP which is approximately 1 million South African Rand a year. The South African average salary is also less in comparison to the US average salary of 111,000 USD which is around 1.7 million South African Rand a year. However, the average salary of corporate lawyers in other African countries is similar to South Africa’s.
South Africa’s ‘Big Five’
This is one other leading factor that determines a lawyer’s salary is the firm he works for.
More notable firms tend to have bigger companies as their clients, allowing them to take part in lucrative business dealings and earn their profits accordingly. In South Africa, there is a well-known list comprising of the country’s top 5 law firms. That list is informally referred to as the ‘Big Five.’ It includes Bowmans, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs, Webber Wentzel in alliance with Linklaters and Werksmans. To be able to secure a job with the nation’s top law firms is a goal of any aspiring lawyer. Doing that ensures that he is placed on a path of success for this future. Moreover, these firms also offer a steady and comfortable salary.
In South Africa, the LLB course takes 4 years to complete after high school. Another route that is now gaining popularity is to get a degree first (3 years), and then do an LLB as a postgraduate degree. This pathway allows students to gain an in-depth knowledge of the economic world which can play a beneficial role, especially when considering specialization in corporate law. An understanding of how the business world operates plus a strong grasp on the New Companies Act, the Competition Action, and the Consumer Protection Act amongst other things, are considered important tools in becoming a successful corporate lawyer in South Africa.
Strong command of the English Language is an invaluable asset for any lawyer as they are expected to understand and draft complex contracts and mergers in English. A language barrier can pose a significant threat to their progress in this competitive legal field.
The starting salary can then range anywhere from R5000 a month to R25,000 a month, depending on the law firm. This number then rises according to the quality and quantity of an individual lawyer’s experience.
Attorney vs. Advocate
In South Africa, a lawyer is an umbrella term and includes attorneys and advocates.
To simplify it, attorneys are those that work in law firms, drafting contracts, mergers, and dealing with clients. Attorneys tend to group together to form their own law firms.
An advocate is someone who primarily presents and fights the case in court in front of a judge while wearing a robe. Advocates commonly work privately.
Traditionally, attorneys would try their hand in all aspects of the law and consider themselves general practitioners. The trend to specialize as an attorney is now growing however, corporate law is leading as one of the highly desirable fields. A corporate lawyer may then choose to work as an in-house counsel for a corporation or may work as part of a firm, representing multiple companies at a time.
Corporate Law job opportunities
Corporate law is a rapidly expanding field not just in South Africa, but around the world. As the business world continues to grow more expansive and complex, so does the demand for competent corporate lawyers skilled enough to manage it. And as is the case for most careers, a host of subspecialties are beginning to emerge in the commercial law sector. This ultimately opens up more opportunities for fresh graduates.
Platforms such as LinkedIn have provided us with a convenient way of searching for jobs that suit our skill set. There is a large variety of job vacancies to choose from with nearly 150 job opportunities for corporate lawyers in South Africa currently. Whether you want to join as a Junior Legal Counsel or a Commercial Litigation Attorney, there is likely a job opening for you. And this trend will only continue to grow. Corporate law is part of the legal sector that is going to continue to grow and expand. Therefore, this will be reflected by its salaries.