Clifford Chance unfreezing staff in its Magic Circle kingdom

In another good indication that the big City firms are pulling through the pandemic, Clifford Chance is ending its salary freeze with effect from November 2020.

At the end of April this year, as was common in the City, Clifford Chance paused salary reviews along with other measures in response to the pandemic. At the time, the Magic Circle firm committed to revisiting the position in November. 

A source told RollOnFriday that lawyers will now receive any pay raises they were due to get in May 2020, when the freeze was introduced. It is understood that the raise will not be retroactive. A source close to management confirmed that CC has now resumed progression of salary reviews. A spokesman for the firm declined to comment. 

There are positive signs that, so far, many of the big City firms are relatively unscathed by this year's events. A number are starting to lift temporary salary restrictions that were put in place earlier this year. Hogan Lovells reversed its pay cuts for associates, Herbert Smith Freehills and Charles Russll Speechlys have paid out bonuses (although they have kept salaries frozen for now), White & Case shrugged off Covid by increasing wages for its NQs to £130k, and Akin Gump is paying out special bonuses.

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Anonymous 23 October 20 08:43

Linklaters did this a few months ago, but also made the salary rises retroactive to May. Bit weak of CC to not make the change retroactive if they are doing fine from a financial perspective.

Business Services 23 October 20 09:40

Business Services staff are NOT benefiting from this. Their salaries are still frozen apart from a “select few” who will be contacted individually. CC is also not allowing staff to buy extra holiday for 2021 (only allowed to sell) which is ironic given the messaging around how important it is for staff to take holidays for the benefit of their mental health.  

Agree with Anon at 08:43 - weak. Unfair to Business Services who are working very hard and are still expected to provide the same level of service to the firm. 

Thomas Benjamin Wild 23 October 20 10:33

I did a quick look in the toilets and it was empty - I definitely have no shits left to give about Magic Circle and US firm lawyers, their 6-figure salaries and their bonuses. 

Ronny d 23 October 20 10:46

I agree with wild. Stop going on about London salaries nobody cares. Week by week the topics get more and more boring.

Frozen 23 October 20 10:46

Anon 8.43: are you saying Links has lifted the freeze? It was indeed introduced in spring but to my knowledge the pay freeze has NOT been lifted, yet.

Peregrine 23 October 20 10:52

Ronny, there are lots of other stories that aren’t about London salaries. Why did you click and comment on this one? Rof is read by lots of City lawyers who are interested in who gets paid what.

Messi 23 October 20 11:14

“City lawyers who are interested in who gets paid what”

that’s an embarrassing statement, grow up. There are more important things than money. 

Benjamins 23 October 20 11:32

It...really isn’t embarrassing to want to know how much your peers are being paid in your industry. It’s wise to want to know if you’re being recompensed appropriately. It also allows you to get an idea of the financial health of your own firm, by making comparisons. And thereby asses your job security. Is that important? Many would say yes. 
No-one said there weren’t more important things than money - but money is important, no? I’m happy you don’t have money worries, but for the rest of us, these are uncertain times. Money is how we feed, shelter and clothe ourselves and our families. It’s also why a lot of us are in this game. If you’re ashamed to earn money, fine, but don’t be so high and mighty as to insult the rest of us for wanting to mention it. Fascist. 

Anonymous 23 October 20 12:17

LOL @ the people commenting who are annoyed about this story. Are you all feeling envious that you don't get paid as much?

Anonymous 23 October 20 12:39

@Peregrine 10:52.  

No, you mean "Rof is WRITTEN by lots of City lawyers who are interested in who gets paid what".  

Arche 23 October 20 12:39

I totally agree with Benjamin, also let face it, the compensation for work is money... you are not lending your workforce for nothing. I really value having some insight about other law firms' salary package. 

I hope other MC and SC firms will follow. We should not be ashamed of working for money, this is how the world works anyhow... Working for free is called either slavery or pro bono

Anonymous 23 October 20 13:27


For whatever reason the unfreezing didn't seem to be picked up in the press, but it has happened. 

Anonymous 23 October 20 14:11

Any news about the other MCs? If CC and LL have unfreeze the salary (with retroactive effect for LL) one could expect the other MCs to follow shortly... 



Anonoymous 23 October 20 15:07

@Business Services 23 October 20 09:40. If it makes you feel any better, Linklaters didn't unfreeze business services pay when they unfroze lawyer pay. "One team" only goes so far despite many of us working harder than ever to keep things running remotely.

Ronny D 23 October 20 15:50

Some big bites out there. The fact that you refer to yourselves as “city lawyers” cracks me up, I love it. Happy Friday!!!

Frozen 23 October 20 16:22

Anon 13.27: Wow that's interesting. They haven't in their German offices. Guess that leaves their German lawyers pretty shafted. But as was rightly said: "one team" only goes so far...

Anon 23 October 20 22:46

Yes the LL one team propaganda machine is laughable:

- the "unfreeze" was only from 1-5 pqe for fee earners in London to bring them into line with the rest of the MC i.e LL were paying bottom of the market so the retroactive raises were just to bring them in line with market.

- as others have said it did not apply to any other fee earners, offices or non-fee earning staff

- it also did not apply to September NQs who were docked 5k from the previous NQ base figure

Anonymous 26 October 20 02:16

Ronny D why would it crack you up that lawyers who work in the City of London refer to themselves as City lawyers? There must be something hilarious that I'm missing. 

Ronny D 27 October 20 11:46

It cracks me up because lawyers in every other city/town just refer to themselves as lawyers. Only in London do lawyers think they are that important that they refer to themselves as “city lawyers”. It’s embarrassing for the profession. 

Realist 28 October 20 21:13

My brother left school 25 years ago with a few GCSEs. He now earns £7m a year running his computer business. I am a lawyer earning a decent salary. So what. Morale: if you are in it for the cash be a client not a lawyer. 

Ronny is right 28 October 20 21:16

Ronny is so right. I once met a chap who did Personal Injury at a city firm and he called himself a city lawyer. I laughed so hard I nearly bought a pint. He’s a PI gimp like the rest of us. Just didn’t realise. Poor sod. Probably still aiming for that elusive Partnership and some cash. 

Anon 29 October 20 10:00

Re the Business Services comments here. I am in a MC firm and have to admit that I never realised what some of these people did behind the scenes and fell into the "fee earners vs fee burners" view of the world. Having seen them mobilise to help us transition to new ways of working I have a new appreciation and hoping my firm isn't going to raise lawyers salaries but freeze business services.

Stingy MC 29 October 20 11:46

Still no news from other MC firms? They were the first to follow the freeze decided by SCs and now that some of them are resuming their salary review (with retroactive effet) nothing is happening to resume salary raise... 

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