How much does a family lawyer make in Australia?

Posted on January 19, 2024 by Carla Coelho

Unified Lawyers Carla Coelho

Carla Coelho

Author
Carla Coelho has over 20 years’ management experience within the legal industry, working as a human resource manager, operations manager, practice manager and in recruitment.

Key Takeaways

  • A family lawyer salary can vary based on factors like location, experience, and specialisation.
  • The salary of a family lawyer can fluctuate depending on numerous factors such as experience, mentorship, performance targets, and the type of law firm. It encompasses more than a straightforward numerical figure.
  • In addition to base salaries, family lawyers in Australia may be eligible to receive bonuses, equity and stock options, and have professional development opportunities that contribute to their total remuneration.
  • A career as a family lawyer not only provides people the opportunity to earn a great salary, but also gives them the opportunity to help others in difficult times of their lives.

Many hold the belief that a career in law is among the most lucrative in Australia, and family law is often thought to be no exception.

But what’s the reality behind the salary of a family lawyer in this country?

This article dives into the financial aspects of being a family lawyer in Australia, balancing the common perception with the actual figures and factors that influence their earnings.

From the societal value placed on their vital work to the nuances of employment in the legal landscape, we explore what a career in family law truly entails financially, for both budding and experienced legal minds.

What is the highest salary for a family lawyer?

Family lawyer salaries in Australia typically range from $65,000.00 to $150,000 annually. However, this is not the ceiling with many lawyers having the opportunity to potentially earn significantly more.

The ability to earn more can see senior professionals in this field commanding salaries reaching up to more than $150,000 per year, ensuring a secure and gratifying career progression. But what influences this income range? A family lawyer’s salary can be significantly impacted by factors like:

  • Experience
  • Specialisation
  • Geographical location
  • Employment conditions

A family lawyer practicing in a metropolitan city, with a decade of experience and specialisation in a niche area of family law could expect to earn significantly more than the national average.

While each of the above factors plays a role in determining a family lawyer’s pay, the experience of a lawyer arguably has the largest impact on their wage as well as how much working with family lawyers cost. As lawyers gain more experience and climb the professional ladder, their earnings also see considerable growth.

Entry-Level family lawyers

Entry-level family lawyers in Australia, typically those who have just begun their journey in the field, can expect to earn between $65,000 per year, as they build their knowledge within Family Law.  This earnings range estimate takes into considerations factors like the type of law firm, the geographical location, and the individual’s level of experience.

To be considered as an entry-level family lawyer, individuals must:

  • Obtain a Practising Certificate from the local Law Society
  • Usually need to have completed 18 to 24 months of supervised practice at a law firm
  • Have 5-6 years of university education and training

Mid-Level family lawyers

As they gain experience and transition to mid-level positions, family lawyers in Australia can anticipate an annual income ranging from $90,000.00 to $120,000. However, this salary estimate is influenced by several factors such as their practical experience, specialisation, and the size and reputation of the law firm they are employed by.

This transition typically requires 3-6 years of experience working as a practicing family lawyer. At this stage, family lawyers are expected to possess:

  • Strong drafting and negotiating skills
  • Proficient research skills
  • Comprehensive understanding and experience of litigation and other dispute resolution processes.

Senior-Level

Experienced family lawyers at the senior level have the leverage to negotiate a more lucrative salary package and establish their own professional expectations. This is determined by their accumulated experience, perceived value, and their adeptness in cultivating a network of clients. This remuneration reflects their deep expertise, reputation, and the significant value they bring to their clients and their firm. With salary estimates in mind, it’s clear that these professionals are highly valued in the legal industry. Reaching this level of compensation isn’t a cakewalk. It typically requires a minimum of 5 years of experience and is influenced by factors such as the lawyer’s level of expertise, location, and the size of the firm they are associated with.

It’s important to also keep in mind that there are significant opportunities for growth in the family law field that can see a family lawyer earn a higher salary. For example, they a senior family lawyer may consider opening their own family law firm, or may have gained interest in a particular area of family law and specialise in the area.

How much do divorce lawyers make in Australia?

Divorce lawyers, a subset of family lawyers, also command impressive salaries in Australia. The earning potential is swayed by factors similar to those affecting family lawyers, such as experience, location, and specialisation.

The national average salary for divorce lawyers, with over 4 PAE in Australia hovers between $100,000 and $120,000 annually. This range has remained consistent over the past five years, indicating a stable earning potential for professionals in this field. Indeed, it’s a promising prospect for those seeking a career in divorce and family law.

Additional Compensation and benefits that could impact a family lawyer’s salary

Aside from the base salary, a family lawyer salary in Australia might also be supplemented with further compensation and benefits, greatly enhancing their overall earnings and average family lawyer salary. These include bonuses, equity and stock options, and professional development opportunities.

 

Bonuses

Bonuses form an integral part of the remuneration for family lawyers in Australia. While the allocation of bonuses is contingent on performance and company regulations, it is not a universal practice. Some firms may base the allocation of bonuses on factors such as meeting billable hour targets or engaging in pro bono work.

Equity and stock options

Equity and stock options are another form of compensation that may be offered to a family lawyer in Australia. These forms of equity enable employees to buy company shares at a set price, giving them a financial interest in the firm’s performance.  The offer of equity and stock options is influenced by factors such as the tradability of share units and the potential for lawyers to provide exceptional legal services.

Professional development opportunities

Professional development is a critical aspect of career progression for family lawyers in Australia. They have access to numerous opportunities such as online continuing legal education programs, attending conferences like the National Family Law Conference, and participating in networking events to ensure a secure proceeding in their career.  These opportunities not only enhance their skills but also help them stay updated with the latest developments in the field, ensuring a strong site connection for continuous learning and growth.

What is the process for becoming a family lawyer in Australia?

The path to becoming a family lawyer in Australia encompasses several key steps. The process starts with earning a law degree, either a Bachelor of Law (LLB) for undergraduates or a Juris Doctor (JD) for postgraduates. Specialising in family law can be achieved by taking Family Law subjects in postgraduate applied law programs.

After obtaining a law degree, the next step on how to be a family lawyer is practical legal training. Full-time programs involve both coursework and practical professional placements. Once you’ve completed your practical legal training, the final step is gaining admission to practice law in the applicable state or territory.

Consider a career in family law today

Family law, with its unique challenges and emotional dimensions, offers an engaging and rewarding career path in Australia. Not only do you have the opportunity to learn and develop your own professional skills, but you also have the opportunity to help your client at a time in their lives when they need support and guidance. On top of this, you also have the opportunity to be financially rewarded for your efforts and development.

Whether you’re an aspiring lawyer or a seasoned professional, the landscape of family law in Australia offers a promising future.

Unified Lawyers Carla Coelho

Carla Coelho

Author
Carla Coelho has over 20 years’ management experience within the legal industry, working as a human resource manager, operations manager, practice manager and in recruitment.

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