An MC lawyer going for that bonus.
As your last chance approaches to propel your firm towards the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2021 trophy or the Golden Turd, the competition is neck and neck in the Magic Circle.
Respondents at all five elite firms agree their pay lags behind peers at US firms, but it has its benefits, says a junior solicitor at Allen & Overy. Their American cousins "create the welcome upward pressure, and the MC firms are realising that failing to keep up hurts their brand".
"Let's be honest, I am remarkably well paid, and got a chunky bonus to boot", says a Clifford Chance junior solicitor. Moaning "'Oh I don't get paid as much as someone at Lathams!'" is "a specious complaint", he says.
But while there is an understanding that covid may have justified freezes, the sympathy is wearing off. "They might think they are paying enough to retain us", says a senior solicitor at Linklaters, "and in this market they are probably right, but I have certainly taken my foot off the gas as a direct result. You get what you pay for, after all".
She adds, "Now that it's clear that we've stayed extremely busy the whole time, and the partners will still earn their millions this year, there is a bit of a feeling (following US pay rises) that they've used it as an excuse to pause the pay war amongst the MC, started by Freshfields, that they didn't want to be a part of anyway".
Slaughter and May is "Liverpool paying like Everton" says a solicitor there. "Not progressing people through the pay bands when their PQE increases, I could live with on a temporary basis when the cash crunch of last spring hit the firm", says another Slaughters solicitor, but not "locking that in for a full year", particularly given "Some unguarded conversations between partners hinting at the fact that this year is looking like we are breaking records - and they have topped that off with increased profit margins on their workforce".
Although another Slaughter and May lawyer concedes that "getting paid 100k with a good bonus for no hourly hours target is a pretty sweet deal".
There is also common ground around the perilous Magic Circle partnership track. "I've got more chance of getting free tango classes off the Taliban than I have of making partner", says a Slaughters senior solicitor.
"True progression (I.e. how to get the p-badge) is still shrouded in opaque mystery, like a less exciting, but more valuable, version of Merlin's woollen winter cloak", agrees a senior solicitor at Clifford Chance.
But lawyers in the MC are also agreed on big positives about their firms, and praise the standard of their work.
A Freshfields trainee says it is all as advertised, and the associates are "so continually shafted that they are desperate to give as much responsibility out as soon as they find a half-competent trainee, so you can end up with a fair amount of varied work".
"The quality of work I have access to is spectacular", says a junior solicitor at Clifford Chance, while another at Links chimes in that the training is "excellent, and the work is second to none".
On work life balance, "We work hard", but, "We do not play hard because there is not much time to play", says a Clifford Chance lawyer. And while the "pandemic has been brutally busy", at least "If I have a particularly grim week or two, I'll sometimes get given a day off in lieu, or a case of wine".
In fact a cigarette paper can't slip between the firms at the moment. So if you're at one of them - or want to get your firm in front of them - vote below.