The difference in the NQ pay gap in the City, in Pokemon card currency    

Bird & Bird and DLA Piper are the latest firms to raise NQ pay, but Charles Russell Speechlys has warned against firms making "knee jerk reactions" with the hikes.

Bird & Bird is increasing NQ base salary from £71k to £88k in London, effective from March, and is also raising trainee salary from £40k to £45k (year one) and from £44k to £50k (year two).

A Bird & Bird spokeswoman said "increases within other bands will start at 8% and will bring the guide salaries in line with the current market," but declined to provide the figures. 

Bird & Bird's salary hike means its NQs will leapfrog the likes of Trowers & Hamlins (£77,500), Clyde & Co (£80k) and Eversheds Sutherland (£82k). And it puts the TMT specialist just below Stephenson Harwood (£90k) and firms such as CMS, BCLP and Norton Rose Fulbright (£95k).

DLA Piper has joined the latter group, as it has upped NQ salary in London to £95k, having raised it just last summer to £88k, and it will raise the pay of its regional NQs from £48k to £65k. The pay rises will be effective retrospectively from January 2022.

Liam Cowell, DLA Piper’s UK Managing Partner said the rises represented a "new, more holistic and value-based approach to pay decisions, aimed at fairly rewarding the contribution of our lawyers across all locations". Hinting at the possibility of further rises this year, Cowell added: "it is an interim review and our regular annual salary review will also take place in July of this year.”

DLA Piper's rise is just below the £100k salary offered to NQs at Macfarlanes, Hogan Lovells and Simmons & Simmons. Above that, Herbert Smith FreehillsBaker McKenzie and Ashurst have hiked NQ pay to £105,000. And Magic Circle firms Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy, Linklaters and Slaughter and May pay their NQs £107,5000 (although Freshfields is sticking to its guns and paying £100k, for now). 

In a different stratosphere, the £140k+ NQ club is a US-only affair, with a growing membership, and one of the top payers, Goodwin Procter, recently increasing its NQ salary to an eye-watering £161,500. 

However, paying almost £100k below that, Charles Russell Speechlys has warned against the huge hikes seen across the City. The firm last gave its London NQs a modest rise from £66k to £68k in May 2021 and (unlike many City firms) will wait a year, until this May, for its next review.

"Our approach has been not to make knee jerk reaction changes in response to these unprecedented labour market fluctuations, driven by US and Magic Circle Firms," a spokeswoman for the firm told RollOnFriday.

"We regularly communicate with our fee earners on this, given the knock on effect to the wider legal market," said the spokeswoman. "Instead, we take a considered approach, which includes undertaking salary benchmarking with an independent market data provider, to ensure our salaries and total reward offering remain competitive."

Hill Dickinson is another firm that has yet to succumb to the City pay war, as it currently pays its London NQs £59k. 

A Hill Dickinson spokeswoman told RollOnFriday that NQ salaries are "under review" and that the firm was "committed to our aim of being an employer of choice for a wide range of award-winning benefits and policies of which salary is one part."

Is your firm raising pay by huge amounts, a fraction, or not at all? Get in touch. 

Tip Off ROF


CRS-lifer 11 February 22 08:09

Biased article, doesn't mention the free leftover sandwiches available on a Friday afternoon...

Anon 11 February 22 08:18

“Our approach has been not to make knee jerk reaction changes in response to these unprecedented labour market fluctuations, driven by US and Magic Circle Firms," a spokesman for the firm told RollOnFriday.”

As if CRS could get anywhere near those high salaries anyway even if it wanted to!!!  

Throw us a scrap of bread guvnor 11 February 22 08:34

Does hiking the pay of fee earners at dla mean there’s less money now to go around for the real workers namely the secretaries and admin? 

Oh how i feel for these poor high earners, might start up a just giving page.

Client's Privates 11 February 22 08:44

Outrageous, we're demolishing >800 hours chargeable a year and this is the reward?

Anon 11 February 22 09:12

Sad to see that RPC are now so far behind these rises that they no longer even get a mention in these articles. 

Casual Pay War Observer 11 February 22 09:34

The only thing wilder than the "city pay war" is these firms putting out press releases about how they're somehow above the whole thing. We had this last year with Pinsents' senior partner and Fieldfisher's managing partner coming out with warnings about "unsustainable salaries". It's gaslighting, plain and simple.

How about we look at the very sustainable amounts of revenue being generated by these junior lawyers? PEP at mid-market firms is hitting a million quid. It would be absurd not to share this with the engine room, especially when there's a shortage of talent.

Anon 11 February 22 09:35

The real problem for insurance-focussed firms is that for much of that work (particularly the defendant panel litigation stream) insurers treat their firms really quite badly.  Firms are seen as a cost drain.  Rates haven’t gone up with inflation for 10-15 years let alone in any other respect. At best in the city partners are only able to bill in the region of £250 to £400 an hour and that time is carefully controlled by claims handlers.   Associates are only able to bill at £150 to £250 approx generally.   So how can firms like DACB and RPC and Kennedys (and Clydes in their defendant insurance depts) possibly keep up with pay rises that are driven by firms whose clients are willing and able to pay much higher rates / fees on transactions where huge sums are in question and so lawyers’ fees are small in comparison.   A mid level associate at a large corporate city firm will bill at around £600 an hour. Partners nearer £1000.   That says it all.  Of course, partners in insurance firms could decide to take a hit on drawings and invest that in their people, and they maybe doing that to some extent already, but it’s not attractive to give money away if you’re in your 50s and know you’ve got to get a pension in place before you’re out at about 60.  

Anon 11 February 22 09:43

No one at CRS expects to be paid US/Magic Circle salaries. What they do expect is not to be treated like idiots by management and to be paid on par with firms of a similar calibre - something that hasn't been the case for years and is now only getting worse. People are leaving for higher salaries and management brush this off as a stupid reason to leave. There's not much to keep people at the firm anymore let alone attract new talent.

Anonymous 11 February 22 11:10

Each time I read these types of figures as a regional senior associate I die a little inside!  NQ idiots inside the M25 being paid more than senior associates in Bristol and Manchester.

Before you tell me to move, I can't - carer responsibilities. 


Anonymous 11 February 22 11:21

"PEP at mid-market firms is hitting a million quid. It would be absurd not to share this with the engine room, especially when there's a shortage of talent"

But there isn't a shortage.

You're still there, toiling away diligently in the engine room. 

Sure, you harumph a bit about salary around the water cooler, and online on a Friday morning, but PEP continues to rise in spite of your mild mannered complaints. Every year a new wave of trainees joins you in the bowels to crank more documents.

It only becomes 'absurd' of the equity to refrain from 'sharing' their spoils with you if their failure to do so will have a notable impact on their ability to keep generating them.

At the moment their biggest issue is that it takes slightly longer to lateral junior associates. So they're hardly about to start bunging fistfuls of dosh at cantankerous lifers as a way to solve it. There's jsut no value in it.

Pls stop increasing salaries :( 11 February 22 11:40

Nice, another firm admitting publicly that they are unable to compete. 



Real Tee 11 February 22 11:44

The good associates at these types of firms move to richer pastures. The ones left behind, gripe about pay then clock off at 6.30.

Anon 11 February 22 11:47

CRS will have no associates left, it’s so behind the curve on pay, despite having a record profit year last year. 

Anon 11 February 22 12:33

I used to work for Charles Russell before their merger. Average firm, average work and tight as a duck's ***. They cancelled a 150 quid xmas bonus for support staff once because the average partner salary dropped below 450k... so, they excel at PR too... 

Casual Pay War Observer 11 February 22 12:54

Anonymous @ 11.21 You're either deliberately missing the point, or you fundamentally misunderstand what's going on. It's not about me, and as far as I can see nobody is complaining. The partners already are "sharing their spoils". That's literally all this pay war is. All I'm saying is that the salary rises we're seeing are totally sustainable and show the market is working.

Anonymous 11 February 22 13:34

65k up north will certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons !!! Loads of snr associates at my firm won’t be on that 

Anonymous 11 February 22 13:34

CRS is a genuinely great place to work with a lot of lovely people.  Just saying something nice.

Also, I didn’t read anything above suggesting they’re not revising salaries - it just says they’re not doing it in February, they’ll do it in May.  If people still feel disgruntled in May with what that looks like and fancy going elsewhere, more power to them.

Anon 11 February 22 18:13

"Our approach has been not to make knee jerk reaction changes" says the MP of CRS, switching off the lights on his way out the building as everyone else has already left the firm

Lying lo 12 February 22 01:35

Fighting talk from a firm that has appeared so consistently in the bottom quartile in almost every ROFL worst/best survey recently published…

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