Baker McKenzie has raised the base salary for its newly-qualified lawyers from £77,000 to £90,000, joining the City firm dash to make six figure pay possible for the most junior solicitors.
Bakers said its NQs would all receive a £5,000 signing bonus, taking guaranteed NQ earnings to £95k. There is also the potential for NQs to earn in excess of £100,000 thanks to the availability of a performance bonus.
It is the latest firm to succumb to the NQ gold rush after Macfarlanes, Hogan Lovells, Ashurst, Linklaters, Slaughter and May, Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance all scrambled to match Freshfields (and then each other) when the Magic Circle firm hiked NQ pay to £100k in May. It has been widely seen as a move to turn junior eyes back from US firms, which, without a thought for the bank balances of partners at UK firms, have sprayed NQs with salaries of over £140,000 (and that's not counting the bonus).
At Bakers, six figure NQ pay is contingent on NQs scoring a performance bonus of at least £5k. NQs at Clifford Chance, HSF and Linklaters will also have to qualify for a sufficiently large performance bonus to earn £100,000. Just how large is unclear, since those firms have declined to disclose what proportion of the potential £100k+ pay package they are touting comprises salary and what proportion comprises a discretionary bonus.
High-performing NQs may now buy one pair of Rocky's trunks (condition: --) a month.
The veil can be partially lifted, however, after several Herbert Smith Freehills lawyers told RollOnFriday that its new base salary for NQs is £90,000. Meanwhile, Ashurst volunteered that its new base salary for NQs is £84,000, and Macfarlanes' is £85,000.
Allen & Overy's split between NQ salary and bonus is understood to be a £92,000 base salary and an £8,000 signing bonus. It has guaranteed that its NQs will be paid £100,000. So has Freshfields, and so has Slaughter and May, which was open about the fact that it was raising its NQ salary from £82,000 to £92,000, with a guaranteed bonus taking the full package up to a minimum of £100,000.
The source of NQs' joy has put a few senior lawyers' noses out of joint, however. One HSF lawyer told RollOnFriday that senior associate bands have “not been moved from £104k - £150k max”. They grumbled that their pay grade "is now less than middle market competitors like Ashurst, Addleshaw Goddard, Macfarlanes and Hogan Lovells”.
In response, a spokeswoman for Herbert Smith Freehills told RollOnFriday, "While we previously disclosed band figures, we have decided not to disclose our salary investment beyond NQ level due to the highly competitive market we operate in. We review all our salary bands to ensure they are in line with the market and our approach has always been to invest in those who make the greatest contribution to our firm".