Clifford Chance has given pay rises of over £20,000 to its associates, with 1PQEs potentially earning £95,000.

Trainee salaries are rising, too. Backdated to 1 May, first years are now on £43,500, up from £42,000. Second years are on £49,000, up from £47,300.

The firm has adopted the same method of presenting its rises as Linklaters which, as RollOnFriday revealed in March, has decided to wrap up the bonus figure with the salary figure to give a total compensation figure. It makes CC and Links' numbers look very good compared to the rest of the Magic Circle, since Allen & Overy, Freshfields and Slaughter and May state bald salary figures, not inclusive of bonuses.

At NQ level, CC pay increases from a salary of £70,000 to a total compensation figure (i.e. salary and bonus) of £85,000. At 1PQE level, lawyers move from a salary of £75,500 to total compensation of £95,000. Those are both on a par with Freshfields, the highest payer of the MC. Freshfields' figures don't include a bonus, though, and so Clifford Chance's NQs and 1PQEs will need to be awarded theirs just for their total pay to match Freshfields' salaries. However, CC London Managing Partner David Bickerton said that "the vast majority of junior lawyers will receive it". It's being called a "Binary Bonus", said Bickerton, explaining "we expect our lawyers to work hard to develop the skills and good habits of an exceptional lawyer so their contribution is assessed on the basis of whether or not they are acquiring these skills and habits. This is a binary assessment. At these levels, lawyers receive a salary and a Binary Bonus. If the lawyer is developing the skills and habits they will require they will receive the Binary Bonus".


Clifford Chance has told its lawyers they will fall into two camps above 1PQE: those who have made a "Good contribution" to the firm's "success over the course of the financial year" and those who have made an "Exceptional contribution". No mention of those who have made a Poor contribution, or even an Average one. Presumably they will be quietly catapulted off Canary Wharf. The firm is following Freshfields' lead with this approach (to splitting PQE bands, not to launching slackers off the roof). When RollOnFriday broke the news of Freshfields' rises in May, it had also split its bands, into 'Median Performers' and 'High Performers'. In a subtle jab at its rival, CC doesn't have 'Median' performers, don'tchaknow, beginning at 'Good' instead.

It means Clifford Chance's 2PQEs move from a salary of £88,000 to total comp of £100,000 if they're 'Good', and to £119,000 if they're 'Excellent'. 3PQEs move from a salary of £98,500 to a total comp of £111,000 if they're 'Good', and £130,00 if they're 'Excellent'.

RollOnFriday averages out the performance bands to give median figures. Here's how it looks:

Allen & Overy
 £78,500  £92,000  £104,500  £115,000
Linklaters*  £81,000  £90,000  £100,000  £111,000
Clifford Chance*
(old figures)
Slaughter and May

*Figure includes bonus

CC also announced that it is expanding its remote working pilot scheme. Don't picture lawyers at home with their feet up and checking their phone every couple of hours, though. This is the Magic Circle, so it's more about being able to get them to work 24/7 wherever they are. As Bickerton said, "It is already the case that many of our lawyers work out of standard working hours to support our clients and therefore we see working remotely not as a perk, but as removing a barrier to effective client service".

Interestingly, it means CC has said that a portion of those big salaries is to be spent on a "technology boost" to "enable our lawyers to invest in technology (on top of the laptops we are providing) so that they can work effectively remotely". So those whopping rises aren't just for Lambos and Gucci. They're for associates to bring about, by their own hand, a dystopia in which their CC inbox is projected onto the backs of their eyelids and clients can shout new deadlines directly into their brains. A cruel twist. Still. £95k for a 1PQE.

    "I invested in MindBuzz, which uses my pain receptors to combat fatigue!" 

Slaughter and May, CC, Freshfields and Linklaters have now all raised pay this year. Allen & Overy kicked off the round of big rises when it hiked salaries enormously last year. It constituted a significant leap toward the amounts on offer from US firms, and now that the rest of the Magic Circle has followed suit (except Slaughters, whose lawyers feel it should have jumped higher), many of those same US firms are feeling the pressure to put some clear water between themselves and the UK elite.


Anonymous 01 June 16 17:37

To be fair, Slaughters hasn't announced its bonuses this year, so if they are decent it would take them into the ballpark of the rest in terms of total compo.

Conflating salary and bonus into one figure is a bit cheap as base salary is far more useful in terms of pension contributions and mortgage multiplier.