The firm has broken cover and matched Freshfields, which recently became the first Magic Circle firm to increase NQ pay to £100,000. The move is understood to be an attempt to bolster the firms' appeal to junior lawyers who might otherwise be tempted by the fabulous wages available at US firms.
Clifford Chance's raise from £91,000 to £100,000, however, includes a discretionary bonus. And some US competitors still pay significantly more, such as Kirkland & Ellis, which currently pays NQs a salary of £143,000. But the push into six figures will make its offering more attractive to picky students and trainees, and piles the pressure on Slaughter and May, Allen & Overy and Linklaters. They still pay their NQs salaries of 'only' £80,000 to £83,000.
With net pay of circa £5,400 a month, Clifford Chance NQs can get a sweet new scorpion chair every four weeks.
Meanwhile, White & Case has raised its first year trainee salary from £46,000 from £48,000, and its second year salary from £50,000 to £53,000. The bump doesn't quite take its trainees past those at some other US firms (Debevoise & Plimpton and Skadden 2nd years are paid £55,000). But it does stretch just past the Magic Circle firms which had overtaken it, putting a few symbolic pounds between White & Case and Linklaters (£52,500 for 2nd year trainees) and Clifford Chance (£50,500).
A spokesman for White & Case said that its London office offered a compensation package "that is designed to be highly competitive in the London market", and that "we constantly monitor the market...to maintain that position".
At the start of the year, White & Case trainees told RollOnFriday in the Firm of the Year 2019 survey that their salaries were "among the best for London and well received", but needed to be closer to top-end US pay rather than behind the Magic Circle. "We had been told the intention was to sit directly in between the two", said one trainee. If so, mission accomplished, for now.