Reed Smith and Trowers & Hamlins are cutting their NQ positions, as firms continue to react to the impact of Covid-19. Those qualifying at Linklaters face uncertainty over pay - and Herbert Smith Freehills has offered trainees £8,000 to defer.
Trowers & Hamlins is slashing around a third of its NQ positions, a source told RollOnFriday, understood to be at least 4 roles. An insider complained that the firm is only offering three NQ Real Estate roles across all its offices, despite Trowers being a "Top Real Estate firm", said the source.
However, a spokeswoman for the firm told RollOnFriday: "Final numbers have not yet been confirmed." She added "we are supporting our trainees through this process, which is still ongoing."
At least three of the 15 trainees at Reed Smith who are set to qualify, will have to leave the firm. A spokesman confirmed to RollOnFriday that "this year we are offering 12 NQ positions - 11 in London and one in Paris". An insider complained about the timing of the announcement as it was "sent to trainees at 2 minutes past midnight on a Thursday...great heart attack to wake up to."
Herbert Smith Freehills will defer eight trainees out of its September 2020 cohort of 28, for six months. The firm confirmed it would also be seeking six-month deferrals for its intakes in 2021 - 11 in March 2021 and 14 in September 2021" to "help balance the numbers of trainees over the next two years." With the deferred trainees being carried over, the 2021 intakes will balance out at 30/31 for each cohort. Herbies is seeking to reduce its annual trainee target in London from 65 to 60.
Herbies is making the deferrals as it will have more trainees than usual in London, since the firm will be suspending its international secondments running from September 2020 to March 2021.
As a silver-lining, Herbies will offer a payment of £8,000 to those being deferred. And the firm may contribute up to £1,000 towards an educational course that benefits a legal career "such as a language or coding course".
Stephen opted for a vital trainee skill and signed up to a photocopying course
“Our people, including our trainees, are very important to us," a spokeswoman for Herbert Smith Freehills told RollOnFriday. "This decision has not been taken lightly. We have only decided to take this step after careful consideration and as part of our wider prudent measures to keep our business resilient and protect our people in it.”
At Linklaters, there is uncertainty over NQ salary, as trainees set to qualify in September were informed by email that the firm had “decided to pause on announcing NQ salaries for September 2020" pending a review. One Linklaters trainee told RollOnFriday that this was despite the firm's HR team sending a qualification memo last month stating that the current NQ base salary of £95k would not be affected.
"Given the extraordinary economic circumstances created by the impact of Covid-19, we have not yet confirmed the salary level for this year’s NQs," a Linklaters spokesman told RollOnFriday.
The spokesman confirmed that "NQs will not be kept on their trainee salary," in response to concerns raised by some year 2 trainees that their salary of £52,500 would be frozen when they qualified.
It remains to be seen whether Linklaters will take the same approach as fellow Magic Circle firm Slaughter and May and decrease NQ pay.