Freshfields angel b

And the Freshfields angel said unto the NQs: "Behold, this is more than the rest of the Magic Circle pays." 

Freshfields has boosted NQ base pay to £125k, setting a new benchmark for the Magic Circle.

Freshfields' NQs were previously on a base salary of £100,000, but the firm has now raised the figure to £125,000, effective from 1 May. Freshfields leapfrogs the rest of the Magic Circle's NQ wage of £107,500, although surely it is just a matter of time before the others follow suit.

A Freshfields insider told RollOnFriday there has also been a "huge overhaul of the bonus structure" which is "pretty substantial".

"We remain focused on attracting and rewarding the highest quality talent to deliver excellence for our clients," said Claire Wills, the firm's London managing partner. "We believe that our package of financial and non-financial incentives, including paid qualification leave and career development opportunities, underpinned by effective work allocation and an inclusive working environment, offers a truly market-leading proposition.”

The rise still puts Freshfields beneath the highest paying US firms in the City, such as Gibson Dunn, Goodwin Proctor, Fried Frank and Davis Polk which spray their NQs with a base salary of £160k+. Kirkland & Ellis and several more US firms are understood to pay in the same region.

DWF's CEO, Sir Nigel Knowles, recently warned that "offering more and more money to young people is only a sticking plaster", and that massive hikes are "not a sincere, sustainable or healthy solution for anyone".

Meanwhile, Hogan Lovells is increasing NQ salary in London from £100,000 to £107,500, effective from 1 May 2022, putting them on a par with the Magic Circle (save for Freshfields). HogLove's NQs will also be eligible for performance related bonuses of up to 35% of their salary.

Addleshaw Goddard has announced it will increase NQ base salary from £82,000 to £95,000 in London; from £50,000 to £62,000 in Leeds and Manchester, and from £47,500 to £56,000 in Scotland. Although its a long run up until the new rates actually kick in, as they don't come into effect until September 2022.

"To be a destination business for talented, ambitious people we need and want to remain really competitive on pay and will therefore increase salaries again this year across our business," said Addleshaws' managing partner, John Joyce. He added that salary "is only one important part of the equation" along with "supporting people to be the best they can be in a flexible, collaborative environment, with interesting work."

RPC is increasing its NQ salaries in London, from £70,000 to £85,000 for those in the commercial group; and from £70,000 to £80,000 for the insurance group. The firm is also raising NQ pay in Bristol from £49,000 to £56,000.

"As a firm we remain committed to continue to support our people and clients achieve their ambitions," said RPC's managing partner, James Miller. "Providing a competitive pay coupled with our people-centric culture which includes enhanced wellbeing and supporting career progression will enable us to retain and attract top talent to deliver against our ambitious growth plans."

Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 08 April 22 08:45

Don’t be fooled. Nobody is getting more money over the term of their careers. 

What’s happening here is juniors get paid more at the expense of directors and junior partners.  The fat cats remain fat. 

Unless, the senior staff start to push back on this arrangement, demanding their equivalent pay increases in line with the salary increases of NQs… 

DushaneTopBoy 08 April 22 09:07

Why does the Nigel Knowles comment from 2020 need to be included in every single article about pay? His point of view is irrelevant, as is his firm. 

Rodney Plonker 08 April 22 09:12

I heard AG were planning to go to 55k in the regions this year, and then clearly shit themselves when DLA/Eversheds made their move.  You love to see it.

Anon in the regions 08 April 22 09:27

There are now obvious tiers opening up in the regions, whereas before there wasn’t much of a spread.  

I’m at a mid-market national firm which is still trying to get away with paying NQs sub-50k, instead touting its great culture as a reason to work here.  It does rank consistently highly in ROF polls etc. 

However, as a senior associate I’m now paid significantly less than many NQs in the same city, in firms and teams doing comparable work. 

Whereas before, the slight increase in pay didn’t make a move worth it, the balance has now clearly swung in favour of moving and I have started talking to recruiters.  Other SAs have also jumped ship recently.

Unfortunately I can’t enter ‘great culture’ into the mortgage calculator…

I hate the office. I hate WFH. I hate everything. 08 April 22 09:28

It is vile and offensive to pay NQs so much, IMHO

Pudding Mill 08 April 22 09:33

What’s being missed out about Freshfields (beyond the headline rate increase) is the mass jump in bonuses - with standard bonuses (at 1800 chargeable and normal ratings) creating a total comp equal to Cravath base pay at levels from 2PE onwards.

There’s scope to go slightly or below this for billing more or less, or out or underperformance, but if you don’t want to slog trying to meet some US firm’s 1950 hour bonus requirement, you’d get more or less the same as at Freshfields and at a Cravath scale firm.

This is absolutely huge and very well done to Freshfields.

AG lifer 08 April 22 10:07

Real story at AG is that everyone above NQ is still in the dark. Management haven't decided yet apparently (I.e. they're waiting to see what they can get away with..)

Anonymous 08 April 22 10:10

Great news for Magic Circle associates. They'll all grudgingly match or come close to £125k (even Slaughters by 2042).

For those who fancy some more $, it's generally good to stay at the firm you trained at for 6-12 months as an NQ (at least) so you're not getting to grips with both being an associate and a new firm at the same time.

The UK firms are doing all they can to make their NQ rates look good but, by 3PQE, you'll be earning around £100k more as a US associate (on Cravath scale) than an MC associate (£260k including bonus vs what, £150-160k max). Jump to a US firm after a year or two

Ex DWFer 08 April 22 10:12

Please stop quoting Snige in every article about NQ pay rises. The Gazette did the same the other day. Any more exposure is only going to create another article talking about using bandages instead of plasters next.

Practically Here 08 April 22 10:24

God this is depressing (for the rest of us). Should never have left private practice!

PSA!! PSA!! PSA!! 08 April 22 10:55

We need to get more transparency on this and stop these law firms from just flashing and flexing with 1 figure for NQ. Would be good to get as close as possible to the transparency standard in the American BigLaw market. 

RollonSaturday 08 April 22 11:13

Joining AG as 3 PQE in June, will be 4 PQE by the time these changes are implemented and have no idea what my salary will be in September and neither does my recruiter!!

alan on post 08 April 22 11:52

When I qualified just under a decade ago we couldn't believe how little the NQs were being paid ten years before. Now i can't believe how much they're being paid now. 

Still, if it's working for the clients, the partners and the NQs then I suppose it's okay. 

NQ Moves 08 April 22 12:04

@Anonymous, 10:10 - The accepted wisdom of staying at a firm you want to leave for 6-12 months post qualification is just nonsense.

In most cases you are moving for slightly different work, so every month you spend at your existing firm is a month where the knowledge gap is opening up between you and the people who joined the firm you would like to move to at NQ.

If you’re a trainee qualifying in September and have decided you want to move, now is the time to start looking. My team (K&E banking) has been interviewing prospective September NQs for a few weeks now.

You wouldn’t tell an athlete that wants to specialise in the high jump to do another year training for the 100m.

My name 08 April 22 12:23

I guarantee you the NQs we have are worth 125k and are better than the salty regional supermarket car park planning lawyers and other nobodies chatting shit in the comments. 

Anonymous 08 April 22 12:27

"You wouldn’t tell an athlete that wants to specialise in the high jump to do another year training for the 100m"

You wouldn't tell a plumber who was going on holiday to Bali not to eat citrus fruit either, would you?

Great insights bro.

Anonymous 08 April 22 12:29

NQs simply are not worth these fees.  The bubble being created here is ridiculous.  Are any of them really going to last the pace in their legal careers given how hard they're going to be flogged to justify this investment? It's highly detrimental short-termism.

ello lads 08 April 22 12:42

When you think about it, £125,000 rising to £200,000 (before tax) isn't a great deal for clocking in 9am to 9pm everyday, and working most weekends and birthdays, in your 20's and 30's. Average time till Partner at Freshfields is well over a decade at this point.

People will say those hours I've stated are too long, but they aren't. Those are the hours you need to be doing for a decade to make Partner. Otherwise it's up and out for you, and thank you for your service. 

That is not a good deal. 

To the regions 08 April 22 12:51

Look at all the salty in-house and regional people here - why not come to a City firm and earn your well-deserved money if you think NQs are paid too much and your experience adds so much value? With WFH policies you don't even need to uproot from where you're at and pay a higher mortgage / rent! It's a win-win!

Genuine challenge - let's see how well you do / how long you last.

Mid market slave 08 April 22 12:56

Agree with Anon in the regions, we’re competing with dla for work, against them in a number of matters and charge the same however, their nqs are paid more than us at SA level. That can’t be right. 


Dirty Leeds 08 April 22 13:20

£62k has long been senior associate money in Leeds so this is a bit of a shift.

Mid market 10 peekers on less than NQs will shake up the market 

Anon 08 April 22 13:26

@Mid market slave

I’m 5PQE in the regions, also paid less than DLA/AG/Eversheds NQs.  Also on the other side of those kind of firms regularly.  I will bill well above 5x my salary this year.  I suspect that I am being royally shafted.  


Lord Lester 08 April 22 13:26

Complete madness, don't know how they justify it.

Back in my day you'd have been happy with 50p, a green apple, and a slap on the bum to say thank you.

Pablo v Dushane Hill 08 April 22 13:29

Right, regional outfits are taking associates for a real ride. If the likes of CMS, SPB, PM, don't do more to bridge the gap between their London offices then I'm moving to work in the City. I'll keep my spacious pad in the North and get myself a first class seat commuting a couple of days a month.

Agreee 08 April 22 13:32

@To the regions - completely agree. I'm a regional lawyer and despite my firm being one of the higher paying ones, I am looking to make a move to the City like quite a few people in my firm already have done.

Ultimately, if you don't like it then you just have to move. 

Anon 08 April 22 13:43

@to the regions


I think the regional lawyers in this thread are talking about the disparity in regional salaries across comparable teams/firms in the same cities.  I don’t think they are moaning about their pay compared to London rates.  The article covers both topics.

But having worked in both city firms and national firms, the capability and intellect of your average lawyer was broadly comparable at each.  

You really aren’t ‘special’ because you’re in the square mile.  You just have more money, less free time and a smaller house.


Anon 08 April 22 13:49

@ Pablo

I ran the figures when considering a hybrid City role, and the ridiculous costs of trains in this country would make it largely pointless (at least if you’re talking about commuting from Leeds or Manchester).  Even doing a couple of days every other week would eat up most of your post-tax increase.  And I doubt you would be in line for promotion any time soon if you’re only physically present once a fortnite.

Leeds Newbie 08 April 22 14:26

Top 6 in Leeds were paying circa £50k for NQs. Now up to £58k - £65k - pretty much overnight.

The hope is this puts upward pressure on the other firms in Leeds dealing with comparable matters - after all, the top 6 don't deal exclusively with each other on their matters.

So the question to the folks taking issue with high NQ salaries is, what should NQ rates be, if not north of £55k?

Ex DWF person (our secret) 08 April 22 15:41

Awww DWF again criticizing those firms it honestly believes are its competitors - (!) - whilst not being able to/ choosing not to increase salaries... Bless its cotton socks.

Bravo to those who will benefit from the pay increase. Shame on firms that do not want to reward good staff.

El Capitan Anonymousio 08 April 22 17:19

Raise your hand if you really dont GAF what DWF's CEO, Sir Nigel Knowles, has to say on the matter.

Anonymous 08 April 22 17:35

"Senior associate in Scotland here.  Paid £68k."

At an estate agents, I assume?

What's the higher end of the market like?

Wonckworth 08 April 22 21:51

Surprising.  There'll have been quite a bit of dissent about this in the partnership.

Genuine question for US firm-ers 08 April 22 23:46

 it seems like US firms are high intensity with less focus on training/hand holding when compared to say MC firms.

Friends at US firms have said that you essentially get an advance on salary but risk coming out with less experience compared to your peers at other non-US firms. Is that right?


Give me freedom, or give me £125k pa! 09 April 22 16:54

@anon.777 08 April 22 09:12 - Hardly slavery if one volunteers to whittle away the best part of your 20s for £125k pa, and if you're good, and can take it, then hop up to equity after a brief 19 years, plus the remaining 20 to 25 years on that wodge. Even counting the cost of the inevitable divorce, your hip replacement will be the talk of the Cote d'Azur!

Gimme more 10 April 22 09:14

We couldn’t give a f@@k about culture, flexi, free fruit or any other baubles doled out in an effort to justify lower pay. If you don’t divvy up the right level of dosh then we will leave.  
Any tw@@ blaming Covid for no pay rises or poor pay rises deserves all that’s coming to them.

It’s a hot market for talent and we are in no mood to be pi@@ed about.  


Anonymous 10 April 22 19:10

Aberdeen NQs at AG getting 56k plus bonus...

56k plus bonus in Aberdeen......



Genuine question 10 April 22 19:47

How much is a 8pqe senior associate paid at Freshfields versus a senior associate at DLA/AG type firms?

Before these recent rises I'd have put FF at say 150-160 and AG/DLA at 120-130 but now have no idea 

Another NQ 11 April 22 10:11

Regional mid-market NQ here. I’ve had a decent year end and hit all my targets. Firm is remaining tight-lipped but if my summer pay bump isn’t to at least £55k I won’t be here in the Autumn. 

Blorg 11 April 22 10:37

A 5-6 PQE Freshfields senior associate is being paid Cravath base pay (assuming standard bonus at 1800 hours and normal performance reviews), so around 280k GBP.

So a 7-8 PQE or counsel will be paid above that.

Anonymous 11 April 22 11:44

Another Senior Associate in Scotland here. Under £52k.


That is a massive increase on what I'd been on at my last firm.


Absolute joke.

Anonymous 11 April 22 12:08

Really talk. I'm dual qualified in the regions and paid about £76k (including bonus) as a SA at a silver circle firm. All insurance and comm lit based so fairly knock around work. Am I better off approaching a London firm and asking for an NQ remote working role?

Curious 11 April 22 12:11

Do you guys think its better to become an MC NQ as you hit your 30s and instead enjoy your 20s in a normal job / doing something else or start young, earn money early and leave after you got your house etc  

Anonymous 11 April 22 14:25

@Curious - it all depends on whether you think you will pull more women in your 20's with a combination of your youthful good looks and trendy job, or in your early 30's with the appeal of sacks of cash counterbalancing the inevitable careworn looks that a decade of MC Law has begun to etch into your features. Figure that out and you've got the answer to your career dilemma right there.


Also, before you radfems even start, boohoo boohoo, how sexist of me to assume that Curious is a man. Obviously he is, or he wouldn't even be asking the question and would instead just be timing everything around the ticking timebomb of an internal biological clock with a view to cashing out on the biggest possible mat-leave wage on 'his' thirtieth birthday. Quick maths.

@12:08 11 April 22 14:44

What would you class as ‘silver circle’?  I can’t think of any SC firms with regional offices…

Anonymous 12 April 22 07:48

The comments that say it’s “offensive” to pay NQs highly have crab in the bucket vibes. The UK is already an underpaid nation compared to the US. Why on earth would people clamor for that to continue? 

Casual Pay War Enjoyer 12 April 22 09:57

@anonymous 11 April 12.08pm - Lots to unpack here. There's only 1 Silver Circle firm in the regions (unless you're talking about Herbies in Belfast?), so there's no need to be coy. However given BCLP doesn't do any com lit or insurance in Manchester my guess is that you're self-identifying as Silver Circle. Main question is why you would apply for an NQ role in the City. Why not apply for a senior associate role if you're a senior associate?

Steveb 13 April 22 15:13


I'd be amazed if an FBD 5 PQE is anywhere near 280k, given what I get paid at a rival MC firm at 5PQE. 


Blorg 13 April 22 23:21

There was a massive raise in bonuses (not base pay) this year concurrent with the £125k NQ salary. 

The reason it's not all over the press is because of a very clever ploy by FBD management not to raise salaries but fold it into a complicated bonus figure that is very hard to summarise.

Look, the news is going to leak eventually, if you don't believe me ask your recruiter (or a friend at FBD) to confidentially check for you.

I have nothing to gain here (besides a healthy desire for the other firms to catch up in pay).


Related News