Senior lawyers blame salary bunching on the NQ pay war - and the resentment is turning inwards.

The sky-high pay of newly-qualified solicitors is fuelling significant resentment around salaries in private practice, RollOnFriday’s Best Law Firms to Work At 2024 has revealed.

‘NQ NV’ was by far and away the dominant gripe among the thousands of solicitors who took part in the survey, although it didn’t prevent US firms from yet again dominating the top of the rankings for satisfaction with pay.


Comments poured in: take a run through the goldmines and dustbowls with ROF.

1st Debevoise & Plimpton, Paul Hastings: 80%

“Bonuses are pretty great and not tied to hours billed”, said a junior solicitor at D&P. “Most importantly, it's been nice being able to afford a flat with a walk-in closet right after qualification”.

Colleagues agreed that hefty lockstep pay with a no-hours threshold for bonus entitlement “means there's no fighting come year end for hours”, which was “very different from other U.S. firms”.

A junior solicitor said he “Really cannot complain since we don't have formal billable hours targets; I often pinch myself that I make as much as I do”.

It wasn’t a gripe-free result: “The traditional deal was that UK associates get slightly less than the spot FX conversion of the USD associate salary, but we were expected to do 1800 hours versus their 2000”, said one Debs lawyer.  “It seems we are expected to do 2000 hours now”, they said – “but that's very do-able”.

“Solid bees and honey”, summarised a senior lawyer at Paul Hastings. “I make £300k base as a 7PQE plus about £90k guaranteed bonus if I make my 2000 hour target which is quite easy to achieve”.

It was “Hard not to be very happy with the pay given the immense amounts of cash (and giving the full 13.5% ENIC saving on pension salary sacrifice)”, said a junior colleague, “but downlevelling laterals by a year sometimes leaves a bitter taste when compared with the market. A 2PQE could join in September and be paid like an NQ until the annual class bumps come early in the next calendar year”.

3rd Kirkland & Ellis, Weil, Goodwin Procter: 79%

Kirkland & Ellis is the go-to example of US pay for lawyers at other firms, and it narrowly missed out on the top spot for pay satisfaction. “Good pay… in exchange for zero autonomy over your life. That’s the deal!” summed up an associate.

That’s true of several US firms. “Goodwin pays well, but you are expected to be at the firm's beck and call 24/7. You are essentially selling your soul”, said a GP lawyer.

“I make just under £300K base with a $100K bonus so I guess I get by”, said a senior Goodwin colleague.

But, “Considering we need to bill 1950 hours and are all doing above that, relatively speaking it's pretty poor”, suggested a colleague.

A senior solicitor at Goodwin Procter admitted ,“I am paid obscene amounts of cash to be the most average lawyer in the City. Management throw money at you constantly. I assume they do this to make up for the other faults with the firm”.

It’s “More than enough” said a peer at Weil “(but I would like more)”.

6th Burges Salmon: 77%

At the Best Law Firm to Work At 2024, “The pay seems fair for the work/life balance, expectations, etc, but there's not enough of a gap between the NQ pay (i.e. the headline one that gets published in the press) and the associate/senior associate pay (which is kept pretty confidential outside the firm)”. It’s the qualification that cropped up everywhere this year.

“You can never have enough pay - but the balance with the intangibles is key to a happy life at Burges.  Not perfect, definitely, but very very good”, was the majority view.

8th Taylor Wessing: 73%

At Taylor Wessing the pay is “Very decent although salary bunching is real”.

“NQs are juniors are vastly overpaid (across the market) relative to their value add”, said a colleague. “This means that seniors are not adequately compensated for the value they bring and additional pressures/responsibilities they deal with”.

10th Bird & Bird, Forsters: 72%

Second Best Law Firm to Work At 2024 Bird & Bird’s pay “is not the highest in the market but work life balance and firm culture make up for it, also the bonus structure is based on % of salary so it is much higher than base, usually”.

Apparently there were two “extraordinary - referring to timings being unusual, not quantum of raise - pay rises last year to adjust to changing market conditions. This was decent of the firm”.

A senior solicitor at Forsters couldn’t believe his luck. “I am paid maybe £10k less after tax than jobs that come up at the lower-paying US firms (with equally poor reputations for work) and my peers who stayed at my old City firm. Astonishing… it is slightly unreal given the massive difference in hours”.

12th Birketts, Mills & Reeve: 71%

A senior solicitor at Birketts was also grateful: “It really winds me up when people get on their soapbox about pay. You have it all at Birketts: great work/life balance and non-psychopathic management. If you don't like it, leave”.

Maybe the senior solicitor who complained that “I only earn £10k more than the NQs” will do just that.

Mills & Reeve “used to be criticised for poor pay but masked it with 'culture' and not being a sausage factory”, said a lawyer. That was “not great as we work just as hard as any other lawyer and should be paid as such. These days the salaries have caught up with the market however I'm pleased to report. And it is still a really good place to work”.

Others said it was still “Nowhere near market pay but this is somewhat made up for by the lovely culture, supportive partners and decent work/life balance”.

“It’s fine”, said another senior solicitor, “ - nothing to rave about but it gives me a good life in London and funds a decent online shopping addiction”.

14th Trowers & Hamlins: 70%

“Considering the amazing culture and work life balance, I think we are paid very well. Especially in the regions”, said a senior Trowers solicitor. For others, the NQ issue was magnified by London weighting: “Do not feel great about being paid the same as an NQ in London when you are a senior associate with over 6 years PQE in the regions” said one.

15th Travers Smith, Horwich Farrelly, Russell-Cooke: 69%

“£50k and I’m happy” said a junior solicitor at Horwich Farrelly. “Based up North. I own a 4 bed house. I’m 34. Says it all” said a similarly content colleague.

“I am paid a very high salary (by any normal standard) - my friends at US firms get paid more, but they also work much longer hours”, said a Travers lawyer keeping things in proportion.

Pay was “fine”, agreed a colleague, but there has been “severe bunching of the pay bands at higher PQE to offset the frankly absurd NQ salaries”, which was particularly galling “given the average junior is poor”. Ouch.

18th Addleshaw Goddard, Allen & Overy, Osborne Clarke: 68%

The same point was made more diplomatically by an AG lawyer. “As with many other firms, when I see my pay and compare it to what NQs get paid it feels like a bit of a slap in the face, particularly in technical departments where it takes a long time for juniors to become of much use”, she said. “But if I were to ignore NQ/junior pay and just consider my salary alongside the other advantages of my job and working at AG, I feel less hard done by”.

It's benefited some. “Can't complain”, said a senior AG solicitor. “The pay war in Manchester re NQ salary hikes means my pay has risen by over £30k in 5 years. I rarely work past 7pm and I get my weekends so I am generally happy”.  And, “although the 4-6% pay rises this year didn't go down well with the masses, I got a 25% pay rise the last two years running (thanks DLA) so again, ain't nobody getting our their tiny violins for us!”

Allen & Overy came top of the Magic Circle for pay satisfaction, where one junior solicitor said they were “Less concerned about pay, more concerned about working for human partners and senior associates, and having trainees available”. Nonetheless, they also “Made approx £153k including bonus last year as a 2.5PQE which whilst not on a US level is still an incredible amount of money”.

Not everyone was as satisfied: “Still can't get around the fact that I work 80-90% as hard as US counterparts while receiving 50-60% as much”, said a maths-minded colleague.

At Osborne Clarke, pay is “very competitive for the Bristol market albeit nobody ever likes hearing that a London based NQ at the same firm is earning more”. The jump from NQ to 3PQE “is about £8k”, said a less happy colleague, while another noted that while Pay rises were “meagre” in 2023 they “followed a bumper pay rise” the year before.

“Seeing the NQ pay being re-evaluated every year while higher up the % of increase barely covers for the cost of living increase is frustrating”, said a senior Hogan lovells lawyer. “Senior associates will soon be paid almost the same as NQs even though NQs can't do shit…”

For others, the pay:workload ratio “feels right for me most of the time - clearly I could go elsewhere and earn much more but for me the increase wouldn't be worth it, given the pay-off on workload, and expectations around working on holidays and weekends”.

22nd Baker McKenzie, DLA Piper, Herbert Smith Freehills, Penningtons Manches: 66%

“Can't complain” said a 6PQE Bakers lawyer: “£150k base, bonus last year around £60k”.

“Objectively, £155k is a good salary”, agreed a contemporary. “But when you realise that is £10k more than someone 5 years your junior who leaves the office at 6pm whilst you run billion dollar deals, the pay bunching starts to grate…”

Salary bunching “is very prevalent. £2k between NQ and 1PQE and then £2k between 1PQE and 2PQE”, said another Bakers lawyer. It “does not reflect the difference in charge out rate or difference in experience/responsibility”.

DLA Piper won plaudits for having “massively increased pay in the regions a few years ago. One or two firms have since matched this [see the AG lawyer above], but the vast majority seem unable to compete”.

Also at other national firms, it pains some DLA Piper lawyers in the regions when they see what NQs in the London office are earning: “I'm based in Leeds and at 6PQE I am still paid considerably less than a London NQ”, said one.

“Considering that Fri evenings and weekends are generally respected and I get 27 days annual leave, it's a very solid pay to effort ratio”, said a Herbert Smith Freehills lawyer, although another complained that “Magic Circle friends in my intake are on base salaries of £30k+ more per year”.

26th Clifford Chance, Dechert, Fieldfisher, Harbottle & Lewis, Macfarlanes: 65%

"I make an unreal amount of money - combined salary and bonus around £280k” said a 7 PQE at Clifford Chance.

“The only problem is US firm lawyers making an even more unreal amount of money.  The grass is always greener, however, and some of the stories I've heard coming out of those sorts of firms makes my work-life balance seem positively excellent."

“We get paid £50k despite having no experience or anything of value to offer’, said a self-deprecating CC trainee. “It's significantly more than a lot of my friends in other industries”.

“It’s still slightly less than the King’s ransom paid to US firm associates”, said a senior Clifford Chance solicitor, “but if you meet your bonus target the total comes in close. OK, so a 96% nominal maximum bonus is unachievable, but you don’t have to work anywhere near US hours to get to 80%”.

“Decent if you score well in performance reviews”, was the general verdict of Macs, although “Increases aren't as chunky as you get further up the PQE scale”.

The pay bands for associates “are incredibly squashed” said a colleague. “However, the pay is generally reasonable, until you look at the partners and see they get 25 times as much as you do”.

31st Ropes & Gray, White & Case: 64%

At US firm Ropes & Gray, pay is “Cravath equivalent if you hit 1900 hours” and get the bonus, while White & Case “Should be Cravath scale”. instead it’s “at the bottom end of the prestigious US law firms (both for base salary and bonus), but the quid pro quo is I seem to work fewer hours than peers at other US firms”, said a junior solicitor.

“Couldn't be much higher for the work some of the teams do”, ventured a catty colleague.

33rd Freshfields, HFW: 63%

“It's on the high end for London firms - a lot less than US firms but I think the trade-off is better culture / work-life balance”, judged a Freshfields lawyer, while several said the bonus was “excellent”.

Although another Freshfielder complained that he was “chronically underpaid compared to our colleagues at American firms. The firm continues to refer to a necessary pay rise that happened nearly two years ago as if it was last month, when in reality 15% of our earnings have inflated away since then” and “we could be paid double elsewhere”.

HFW ”has made real effort to compete on pay. We used to be a very long way behind, but have had some pretty generous pay rises”.

“The main negative is that the bonus structure is convoluted and out of step with competitors - technically our target is 1500 hours, but the first bonus threshold kicks in if we get 1600 billable hours AND 150 value hours (for PD, pro bono and such). 1,750 hours is magic circle targets, without magic circle pay”.

35th Hill Dickinson, Irwin Mitchell, Linklaters: 62%

Where else do Irwin Mitchell    and Linklaters share a berth?    "We get less than other firms on the basis work life balance is better, but mine is terrible”, said an IM lawyer. “The gap between NQ and associates around 10PQE is an icky £15k".

At Links, “£190k for a managing associate is good pay, no doubt”. It’s “Not the top of the market”, said another senior lawyer, and “there's always the temptation to jump for double the cash at a US firm, but I hear absolute horror stories from some of the colleagues who did the same. Would struggle to deal with the lack of professionalism, mostly.”

39th BCLP, Watson Farley & Williams: 60%

The salary is “probably about right for my level but paying NQs over £100k still feels a bit strange”, said a senior BCLP solicitor. Quite a few at the firm were looking around for benchmarks. “Yes, we are paid less than the likes of Addleshaws, Eversheds and Dentons but the firm also isn’t as profitable as those outfits”. It’s “fine if your competitors are Simmons & Simmons etc. It’s not if they’re A&O”, said another.

Look, pointed out a BCLP lawyer, “A friend of mine who works for a magic circle firm had only two free weekends over the period of one year. So if one compares the annual pay at such firms to the actual amount of hours, then BCLP actually wins”.

There was also some peeking around at Watson Farley & Williams: “Osborne Clarke get the same pay for 1350 billables whereas WFW have 1700 hours target”, said an envious WFW lawyer. And some peeking within: “Good for my level, but I do take issue with the fact that current NQs and juniors are paid as highly as they are when they add little value to the deal or to the firm”, said an unforgiving colleague.

41st CMS, DAC Beachcroft, Gowling WLG: 59%

“NQs and mid level associates are paid well. The difference between seniors and juniors is laughable as NQ salaries just keep being bumped – crazy”, said a CMS lawyer.

One “pretty jammy” CMS solicitor had a different perspective: “There are a lot of teams (mine) who don't even have 4 hours of billable work to do a day so, if you think about hourly rate, we are better paid than the US firms. I am gonna find it very hard to match the comparably killer pay packet I have here.”

No such luck at DAC Beachcroft, where “It’s galling as a 10+PQE to know that there are NQs in the same city on nearly as much as you”, Then again, “you’ll never make mega bucks doing insurance work and the flexible working policies go some (but not all!) the way to making up for the less competitive pay”.

NQ pay rises and pay bunching are of course closely connected issues, and while Gowling WLG’s leaders “are trying to keep up with the market on NQ salaries” they “are not increasing salaries higher up, such that senior associates of +8 PQE are paid just £10k more than NQs”.

44th Blake Morgan, Howard Kennedy, Stephenson Harwood: 58%

A Howard Kennedy on “£91,500 pa and bonus of c. 10% of base salary” marked herself as pretty happy, but a trainee complained that ther pay “doesn't pay a London rent in a bloody flatshare”.

“They should rename the appraisals process ‘give me a list of things I can pick apart so that, however we'll you're doing, we can find the reason to mark you down and not give you a pay rise’”, grumbled another HK solicitor.

47th Freeths, Norton Rose Fulbright: 57%

“£125k for 3PQE” was “objectively good at the start of the year, but now it’s looking behind peers. Management has committed to maintain competitiveness...let’s see…” said a Norton Rose Fulbright lawyer.

“To give the firm credit, they are very good at keeping pay rises to a minimum after qualification and subsequent promotions, ensuring that there is terrible bunching of salaries”, joked a colleague.

49th DWF, Mayer Brown: 56%

“Hopefully the delisting will lead to the purse strings being loosened”, said DWF lawyers: “Wages continue to be a source of contention…we’ll see what the pay review brings but at least they can’t fob us off with shares this time”.

Mayer Brown landed surprisingly low on the pay satisfaction table this year, and there were content voices. “I'm paid stupidly well even though I do not make anything like Cravath / Kirkland levels of money.  Those guys & gals sell their souls for it.  It's probably why they subsequently think they're worth it”, said an MB senior solicitor.

51st Reed Smith, RPC, Shakespeare Martineau, Shoosmiths, Squire Patton Boggs: 55%

The same applied at Reed Smith: “All in (pay/bonus/pension) I get paid about 1/3 of the cash received for my hours last year, which is pretty fair in the grand scheme of things”, calculated a solicitor there.

“£64k in Bristol at Associate level seems okay”, said an RPC solicitor. “Nothing to jump for joy about, but also not low enough to make me answer recruiter cold calls - yet.”

At Shakespeare Martineau, pay "is the number one thing raised at all firm wide meetings”, said a solicitor. “We are constantly told we are at market rate, but how does that work when we can go three doors down the road and get paid 20% more?”

“The most annoying thing is that they tell me it’s in line with other firms when it is not - as if we don’t talk to friends and peers in other firms?!” agreed a colleague.

“I'm based in a regional office and pay is perfectly fine relative to the market here”, said a Shoosmiths lawyer. Unfortunately they’re cursed with ability to see further afield. “The looming spectre is London though; where we have colleagues working on the same files for similar hours and reporting similar billables on a circa 50% higher salary. A London weighting is absolutely expected but the scale of the gap seems unjustified”.

“Normally I would say it is fine, but seeing what NQs earn in our London office is an absolute joke. There are junior associates there I trained who earn better than me!” exclaimed an exasperated colleague.

“5PQE (earning less than £60K)  and seeing newly qualified solicitors starting on significantly more than this is beyond damaging to morale”, agreed another.

The same issues were evident at Squire Patton Boggs where a senior solicitor based in Leeds said they were “Very well paid for what we do compared to others in the region”, but the London weighting “does grate”. A 3PQE is on “between £3-£5k more p/a than an NQ”, said a colleague.

56th Slaughter and May: 54%

Those commenting on the pay at Slaughter and May were largely positive. “£158k for 4PQE is a lot of money by any metric”, said one. “We're clearly miles off from BigLaw, but we've broadly kept up with the Magic Circle, and I'm glad not to be working for an American M&A factory (even if the hours probably aren't wildly different during the crunch times)”.

“Objectively no-one sensible can complain (though many do), but for a loaded firm to always be the last to increase pay takes away any feeling of being valued”, countered a junior solicitor at the Magic Circle firm.

57th Mishcon de Reya, Slater and Gordon, Womble Bond Dickinson: 53%

“Considering I can skip out at 1730-1800 most days and canteen food is decent and cheap, I suppose I should stop whining at £40k+...” said a Mishcon trainee. Older heads were less forgiving. “It’s not market rate for a 3PQE (£102k). For a firm that says it stays competitive against its silver circle rivals, I can tell you the salary certainly doesn’t.”

Womble Bond Dickinson’s recent NQ pay increases “are great news for the incoming lot but no use to us who have been there for a few years”. They’re “now only earning £2-3k more than the juniors” meaning that “Serious pay increases are needed across the board if they wish to keep their talent”.

60th Ashurst, Pinsent Masons: 51%

Ashurst NQs “keep eating my payrises” and “Bonuses are weak”: 2000+ hours “gets you maybe max 20% bonus”, said one lawyer. At Pinsent Masons, regional variations drove such discontent as there was. They “are an outrage”, said one senior solicitor: “I supervise London juniors with 12 years less experience who earn more than me”.

“Of course it is objectively good and I have three meals a day. But it is below market”, counselled a colleague.

63rd Gateley, TLT: 49%

Gateley “giveth and taketh away - after years of low pay they upped pay last year to something resembling comparitve firms”.

“But as a result of doing so it meant no one received a bonus as the ‘bonus pot’ had been depleted by the pay increases. Needless to say staff morale has taken a hit”. Management can’t win, although holding “no Christmas party last year as they spent the money on the Instagram firm party including paying Vernon Kay to DJ” was arguably an own goal.

Most of those who commented on TLT’s pay were fairly positive, despite its sub-50% score. Although pay for the TLT Bristol office “fails to compete with OC or Burges Salmon”, staff said the firm had “recently given staff a healthy pay rise to narrow the gap”.

It was “Not competing with the likes of Simmons - but worth the gap in terms of work/life balance and not working for mercenary bastards”, added another TLT lawyer.

65th Dentons: 48%

A Dentons junior solicitor said he was “Way underpaid given 2300 billable with 85%+ collection”, and although a colleague countered that in fact it was “Fairly generous in the market”, even they said “there is a problem with NQ pay being so high that there is nowhere to go following qualification”.

66th Charles Russell Speechlys, Kennedys, Keoghs: 47%

“It's uncanny”, said a Charles Russell Speechlys lawyer. “It's like they know the absolute minimum figure you'd accept, rather than start job hunting, and pay you that.  The ceiling cap for senior associates has not moved in many years despite rampant inflation.  Give it another few years and the NQs will not be far below the cap themselves.”

Sooner than that if one CRS trainee gets their way: NQ pay is “Below market at 85k”, they said, “particularly when you factor in that late nights and long hours are increasingly common firm-wide”.

Pay for senior fee earners at Kennedy is “a joke compared to the pay for NQs... how can NQs make more than some partners in regional offices?!” said one aggrieved insider.

“I had to threaten to resign to get a pay rise as did others”, said a senior solicitor at the firm. “They say they benchmark and the percentages are fixed. But if you threaten to resign over it, the percentages are soon forgotten”.

Keoghs suffers from “Famously poor pay, with entire teams struggling to manage an external hire as a consequence”, said a solicitor, although a trainee disagreed: “as an ex-Plex who was on minimum wage for several years, I’m very satisfied with the bump I’ve been given”.

69th Eversheds Sutherland: 46%

There was similar perspective at Eversheds Sutherland, where a junior solicitor observed that his pay was “£50k more than my partner, who is a nurse, earns for a much more (emotionally at least) demanding job”.

Others had a different, less forgiving perspective. “DLA pay substantially more for the same hours target and their office is closer to the station”, said one lawyer.

70th Clyde & Co, Knights: 40%

Pay at Clydes “has never been the selling point. We remain ludicrously overpaid in the grand scheme of things so it's hard to grumble”, said one lawyer. Not so, according to a colleague who claimed to have “Made more per hour working as security at clubs and festivals”.

A trainee said the pay was “Consistently under market”, but they “can hardly complain. Most people leave at 6pm”.

The pay rises at Knights this year “were not good, quite insulting actually, and it's been hinted that there will only be pay rises next year connected to promotions - KPMG style”, said a disgruntled lawyer at the Golden Turd.    

There had been only a “Marginal increase since being acquired”, said a lawyer in one of the legacy firms bought up by the listed business,  “despite ‘growth of firm’ and increasing profits. No real way of arguing for pay or promotions as its all wink wink nudge nudge”.

The sprawl of Knights saw a “Massive disparity between offices, and when you were recruited. New joiners are on miles more than those who have remained loyal and not moved around”, complained a lawyer. “For the work life balance, it is more than fair”, said others.

72nd Capsticks: 32%

Capsticks was one of the few firms where senior lawyers did not complain about rocketing NQ pay, but it came last for pay satisfaction. Instead, post-pandemic remote working arrangements were seen to have disproportionately benefitted the London office.

“Londoners get a higher salary, which ordinarily I’d be fine with, however since Covid a lot of Londoners now live in the regions and commute once a week/once a month”, said a Capsticks solicitor in the sticks. Others said their pay “consistently sits below the market” and “is too low for the hours expected”.

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Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 02 February 24 09:00

@ Dentons lawyer

If you're genuinely doing 2300 billables for Dentons money, you're a mug

BLM warrior 02 February 24 09:00

Clyde trainee needs to have a reality check.. imagine complaining about 45k when you start at 10am and finish before 6pm. Go become a recruiter.

Anonymous 02 February 24 09:04

Capsticks best to shut up shop now before the wolves really do start to circle. 

Anon. 02 February 24 09:05

Speaking of the top 5 US firms is the money worth it? What are the biggest regrets people have after joining one of these firms?

Anonymous 02 February 24 09:19

If you work for one of the toilet firms at the bottom you are either useless or you are a mug.  If the former, you can’t move.  If the latter, you are able to move but are too stupid or too lazy to do so.

Either way, it’s down to you and not the firm. 

Clydes 02 February 24 09:26

There is a massive disparity between Clydes and old BLM pay and no plan to change it.

Any reason ROF aren’t talking about the 14 EP? The Lawyer managed an article. 

Anonymous 02 February 24 09:43

The group of mid tier firms (waves at Bakers, among others) who have been pretending to be competitive on pay with top tier firms by hiking NQ pay for years without materially increasing pay for more senior lawyers  are simply running out of road. Once your salaries are almost completely bunched, you have nowhere left to go.

Mr Wise 02 February 24 09:53

Keoghs suffers from “Famously poor pay, with entire teams struggling to manage an external hire as a consequence”, said a solicitor, although a trainee disagreed: “as an ex-Plex who was on minimum wage for several years, I’m very satisfied with the bump I’ve been given”.


Doesn't mean you're properly paid at Keoghs, ex-Plex, just that they're slightly more generous at your level than Gavin & Stacey were. In time, you'll realise that Keoghs are as tight as a gnat's chuff.

Anonymous 02 February 24 09:54

"Speaking of the top 5 US firms is the money worth it? What are the biggest regrets people have after joining one of these firms?" 


Not buying larger undergarments to house my immense, to the point of impracticality on occasions, vascular member. I often find myself shifting uncomfortably in my ergonomic seat thinking "oh if only these trunks had more flex in the mid-thigh, I fear that blood flow is being impeded and I shall have to walk to the kitchenette to remedy it and let the old chap wiggle about more freely in my trouser leg for a few moments, all of which will delay the completion of this immense headline-making deal on which I am currently working". But apart from that I have few material issues.

DACB watcher 02 February 24 09:55

I’ve heard that a number of Partners at DACB in Leeds earn less than £100k including bonus. Some of these have been Partners for years. Not good enough, even on volume panel rates. 

The LLP wouldn’t allow that in that half of the business, so these must be in the insurance arm which is being prepared for sale. 

White Shoe Lawyer 02 February 24 10:03

"How can NQs make more than some partners in regional offices?!"

Simply: we work for US firms: we are smarter, work more efficiently, have better clients, are more profitable and eat better p*

Anonymous 02 February 24 10:20

If you don’t like how much you’re being paid, move to another firm.  It’s not hard. 

Anonymous 02 February 24 10:30

I know someone who made partner at Keoghs for 95k about 4 years ago. Not worth the hassle.

@White Shoe Lawyer 02 February 24 10:33

White and Case ain’t a ‘US firm’. By definition a US-based firm needs to pay NQ £170k+ to be considered a ‘US firm’. 

Clyde’s Trainee 02 February 24 10:34

@ BLM warrior 02 February 24 09:00

It’s ironic you mock trainees for leaving at 6, when every BLM staffer is bags-packed at 5pm. Then again, Trainee charge out rates in London are more than partners at BLM in Scotland. Says it all. 


Parting ways 02 February 24 10:35

DACB watcher 02 February 24 09:55

A large proportion of the Knights ‘partners’ earn substantially less than £100k, and the firm does not pay bonuses. The powers that be even appear to come off magnanimous when they give out insultingly low pay rises. 

TRUMP '24 MAGA BABBBBY!! 02 February 24 10:36

Soooo many people utterly ***blasted about this last week. Don't hate the playaz...

Intrigued 02 February 24 10:50

What is going on at Ashurst? Seems to be a significant outlier - how are the bands there does anyone have any insight?

A colleague of mine was a Senior Associate and was at £129k in 2019 which seems low but salaries will have increased since then.

re 10:50 02 February 24 11:33

Ashurst salaries have gone up significantly since then. Generally very competitive across the bands. Very good bonuses as well that recognise contributions outside of billable hours.

Flo 02 February 24 11:45

The disdain these senior lawyers have at NQs rather than management is pathetic. Seems like most of these seniors just want NQs to be paid less, opposed to wanting more pay themselves. Rather than sneering at the 25 year olds getting paid 10k less than you, move. There are many other firms willing to pay you what you are worth. Crabs in the bucket mentality won’t pay the bills. Seems like what is preventing most is the “horror stories” they hear at US firms, which sounds more like convenient scaremongering.

Tunnocks Teacake 02 February 24 12:37

9 years PQE in Scotland, here. £72,500.  Before I go any further, it's important to make clear that this is more than double the average salary for all people in the UK, so right off the bat anyone complaining about earning substantially in excess of this needs to get a grip and realise that they're not the centre of the universe. There is not a violin tiny enough for you people. I encourage you to focus on the fact you are saturated in cash and to enjoy the extremely fortunate lives you have. I mean it. Have a bloody great time.


Anyway, on to my main point. My salary isn't even bad for the market here. It's not great, seeing as I'm sure a number of my contemporaries are doing a bit (likely not a lot) better, but I know people substantially senior to me doing a lot worse. Bearing that in mind, my impression is that pay is lower in this region than any of the others, although I'd welcome correction/enlightenment on that (for the sake of my mental health if nothing else).


If I am correct, I've never really been able to wrap my head around that one. Despite the inevitable odious sneering about the godlike superiority of London lawyers that this comment will attract, my experience tells me that lawyers in Scotland are not any less capable. The work we're doing does not require any less skill (and is often very similar). Outside of London, Edinburgh is one of the most expensive places to live in the UK. Why has comparatively low pay in Scotland become the norm?

Mama 02 February 24 13:23

@ Clydes 02 February 2024 09:24

Any further detail on the pay disparity between old BLM and Clyde? Makes sense in my opinion, some people doing huge arbitrations and litigation defences earning big bucks versus those doing small casualty and personal injury claims. Maybe this is why they’re culling the old BLM partners?

Jessica B 02 February 24 14:09

Pay rises at DLA?  Surely you mean for fee earners, not the lowly staff at the bottom?

Mishcon de Inequality 02 February 24 15:42

A 3PQE salary at Mishcon is meant to be £102k???

Someone should go and tell that to the multiple teams of associates who are on less than £80k. And yes, that’s in the London office.

SM 02 February 24 16:14

People at SM hate themselves because the partners make £3+ mil a year and don’t share. Pay is still seriously crunched among the ranks (£8k-ish pay rises per year of qualification) and senior associates, who run matters while the partners are off playing polo or doing other rich person shit, are barely making £180k. 

That said- getting your bonus split and paid half in summer and half at Christmas is a pretty good development. 

Anonymous 02 February 24 16:21

RPC seems overpaid?

Ease of work and hours to pay is quite good. 

Presume it gets bought in next few years and all change.

Anonymous 02 February 24 16:25

"senior associates, who run matters while the partners are off playing polo or doing other rich person shit, are barely making £180k." - A nation's hearts bleed as one, I'm sure.

Office Drone 02 February 24 17:18

@Tunnocks Teacake 02 February 24 12:37 

Scottish qualified lawyer here, left Scotland years ago as the expectation around hours and BD was the same to my mates who moved to Silver and Magic Circle firms, but I made maybe 40% of what they got. Raising this with my old firm only inspired wry smiles and the usual comments that "Our pay is competitive for the Scottish market."

Scotland's legal industry has a captive audience - there will always be plenty of bright Scots who want to be lawyers but don't want to leave Scotland. So the Scottish firms have no incentive to change their model and compete on pay. It's priced in that some of their best or ambitious ones move elsewhere but that's always great for BD and "City connections" and enough supply to replace them.

And yes, Edinburgh is extremely expensive - the salaries bear zero relationship to the costs of living there. In England you get a "London allowance" on pay, Scotland clearly doesn't bother - the stereotype of the tightfisted Scot is definitely played out in their law firms.


Anonymous 02 February 24 17:18

@15:42 - not surprised that Mishcons people are being paid so pitifully, the chap at 09:24 explained precisely what the issue with the firm is already.

Tunnocks Teacake 02 February 24 17:34

@Office Drone


Good for you, and thanks for the constructive response. Did you move to London, or elsewhere? Has it been worth it? I presume you left at substantially less than my 9 years PQE?


The disparity with London is grating, but it's my perception that there's a disparity between Scotland and the other regions I'm curious about. I've worked at a few national firms now, and it was definitely the case at one of them that Scotland was the lowest-paid. I'm not sure about the others. 


I continue to be baffled by people in this thread earning salaries well over double mine. Like, that's absolutely befuddling, to me. My life is great and I'm pretty much out all the time. What do you all need the money for?!

Anonymous 02 February 24 22:50

Hey @ DACB watcher, what you’ve said isn’t true.  It’s true though at Knights and also a regional Capsticks partner. Sad for them. 

@ Tunnocks Teacake 02 February 24 23:00

I left Scotland at 2.5 PQE on 45k. I'm now 6.5 PQE and pulled in £262k last year. I'm not even at a US firk, where I would probably be on 350-400k including bonus. My mortgage is not much more than my dfriends still in Edinburgh.  Why are you still in Scotland?   

US slave 03 February 24 09:41

So Haul Pastings came first for pay satisfaction but 70th overall.  Says it all.  

womble shame 04 February 24 12:07

The six figure bonuses and rapid and undeserved promotions for those now running Wombles all off the back of Post Office Horizon is truely sickening.

Knight Rider 04 February 24 19:58

There are so many negative comments on here towards Knights (incl. from current employees). As a current employee, I really just don’t get it. It’s not a perfect business by any stretch of the imagination (and there are faults) but if you don’t like working here then why don’t you clear off. Stop moaning and go and find somewhere else where no doubt you also moan about anything and everything! As for pay, I got a double digit raise again last year -  the view that Knights pay badly and don’t reward good performers is a myth. 

Bbb 04 February 24 20:23

“The salary is “probably about right for my level but paying NQs over £100k still feels a bit strange”, said a senior BCLP solicitor. Quite a few at the firm were looking around for benchmarks. “Yes, we are paid less than the likes of Addleshaws, Eversheds and Dentons but the firm also isn’t as profitable as those outfits”.

Ermmm but BCLP pay more than Shed, Ads at NQ level? (Not sure why they do) so don’t really get the comment above. 

Anonymous 05 February 24 13:08

"As for pay, I got a double digit raise again last year" 

Wow! A raise of £10 - £99! 

Bet you painted the cobbles of Wolverhampton red that night. 

Then still had money for the bus.

Office Drone 05 February 24 16:34

@Tunnocks Teacake 02 February 24 17:34 

I left in 2016 as 1 PQE. I don't like London (fine as a tourist seeing friends but never fancied living there), so went offshore to Jersey for a couple of years first (decent money - I was on 65k year 1, 75k year 2, nice people), then spent another few years in Australia (I wouldn't recommend it - pretty US firm style but not US firm pay. $180,000 AUD is nice but Sydney is hellishly expensive too. The stereotype of the laid-back Aussi is definitely not true in their law firms, it's very 1980ies over there) and now in London working in-house for a bank, earning nicely at £125k. I still don't like living in London but have the option to move with my employer to MENA soon, which I'll probably take. for tax-free money I can do a few years playing in a glitzy sandbox...

Costs 06 February 24 10:40

Wait until Knight Rider hits the glass ceiling and is culled for being too expensive.  It’s only a matter of time.  

Shmanonymous 06 February 24 15:00

SHMA quite a bit down but surprised it's not even further. It's the main moan up and down the firm and one of the most cited reasons for people moving on.  

Yorkshire Dales Bolt Hole 07 February 24 20:00

The problems at SHMA are a lot more deep seated than just pay as am sure the comments in other categories which will be highlighted over future weeks will lay bare. 

Inside Sauce 08 February 24 16:50



"is not the highest in the market but work life balance and firm culture make up for it, also the bonus structure is based on % of salary so it is much higher than base, usually"


"Usually" doesn't come into it when it's the first year a bonus has ever been run at the firm and it hasn't been paid out yet. 


And two pay rises in a year? That's because pay was frozen during COVID and it was a catch up pay rise.


HR team at Forsters, perhaps focus on your job, rather than posting fake submissions to ROF 

Clearing Off 09 February 24 06:55

Knight Rider 04 February 24 19:58

Spoken like a true lateral hire! 

The offices are empty so that should indicate people are ‘clearing off’.

Enjoy your double digit pay rise - I’m sure £10 will go far in the regions. 

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