Freshfields has raised NQ pay to £100,000.

Effective from 1 May, the firm has increased the £85,000 salary of its newly qualified lawyers by 18%. It means that fourth seat trainees, currently paid £51,000, will almost double their (gross) pay overnight.

Freshfields is the first Magic Circle firm to pay NQs a six figure salary, but the other four were tight-lipped when RollOnFriday asked if they would delight their trainees and NQs by matching it. At present, Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Linklaters and Slaughter and May all pay NQs around £83,000, with bonuses capable of taking them near the £90k mark. 

Some questions remain over Freshfields' pay bump. The firm employs a performance-based banding system called 'Career Milestones', the lowest rung of which, 'Career Milestones Foundation', covers both NQs and 1PQEs. The CMF band used to be £85,000 - £97,500, however the firm refused to state the new band. "All we can confirm is that we do still have salary bandings in place", said a spokesman, "and that £100k is the starting salary for all NQs - and is broadly the salary that they will be on for the first year". He also declined to confirm whether higher bands, such as 'CM1', which captures 2-3PQEs in a £105,000 - £115,000 bracket, will now be repositioned.

Freshfields‘ new six figure salary doesn’t reach the crackers heights of US firms like Kirkland & Ellis, which pays NQs £146,000 in London. But it makes the Magic Circle deal of quality work but hard hours a lot more attractive to new solicitors considering their options, and to top students considering their offers.

“Our pay offering is a critical part of our talent strategy", said a spokesman for Freshfields, "and reflects our continued commitment to attracting and retaining the very best talent in the legal market". Increasing the carrot by 18% should certainly make it a bit more sticky for trainees.

Earlier this year Freshfields scored 68% for salary satisfaction in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2019 survey, the highest in the Magic Circle. Although there were quibbles, the raise, particularly if it flows into higher bands, will have addressed a few of them. "You can't hide behind banded pay scales forever, guys", said a junior solicitor. "Trying to fob us off by not giving us a pay rise 'but you can have this shiny iPad' is laughable".

Before the world's smallest violin accompanies pay woes for Magic Circle lawyers, a junior at Slaughter and May gave some perspective,  explaining in the Firm of the Year survey that although the salary was "competitive but not amazing", it was "made up for by non-salary benefits" which, in the case of Slaughters, included 30 days' holiday a year and no billable hours targets. Though its NQs probably wouldn't say no to £100k.

Tip Off ROF


Anon 10 May 19 08:19

100k! That is quite a wedge for drafting board minuted and doing DD.... I can't wait to receive the 18% rise in hourly fees to match...

In-house 10 May 19 08:38

I received my first bill from a MC firm last week.  Suffice to say that when compared to the work done by normal city firms, it wasn't anywhere near worth it.  Will avoid like the plague in future.

Mountain 10 May 19 09:24

Speaking to one senior in-house counsel, his view was that the advantages of the Magic Circle are (a) Speed: they can amass resources, and work around the clock; (b) Resources - they have incomparably more resources; and (c) Risk mitigation - instructing a Magic Circle firm insulates companies from criticism. They suggested that a more cost-effective option was to use a Magic Circle firm for strategic advice, then use that advice to instruct a mid-tier firm with far lower charge-out rates.

Anonymous 10 May 19 09:47

That's hilarious. £100k for grinding out DD reports and drafting company minutes? I suppose the majority of it gets done at 3am and that's what your six figures are for. Rather them than me.  

Anonymagic 10 May 19 09:58

Could anyone with experience at any of these firms comment on what are the typical tasks a NQ would be expected to undertake? If possible, in relation to corporate and/or finance work.

I am aware that NQs at US firms, although paid more than their MC counterparts, are expected to be able to handle much more from the very moment they qualify. Is this generally true and also the main reason why US salaries are higher?

Anonymous 10 May 19 10:07

Ker-ching!!! Nice work if you can get it.


That's more than almost all of 10PQE lawyers earn in the regions. 

Anon-y-mous 10 May 19 15:05

Fixed the first line for you:

Freshfields has become the first Magic Circle firm to give its NQ's 100,000 reasons why they have no social life.

Associate person 10 May 19 20:38

Trainee at a magic circle firm:

- typically reviewing and preparing reliance letters for DD reports and reviewing DD reports for any red flags, co-ordinating signing on large deals with a high volume of documents and jurisdictions, preparing board minutes, research, compiling, making minor amendments which an associate has negotiated, breaking out duplicate docs based on an agreed form etc. Available at the drop of a hat no day/time off limits. 

US firms tend to farm a lot of the dull stuff out so the better work gets retained and juniors get to do more. They are also leaner so there is less supervision which means you can’t go running to your supervisor everyone a lawyer in the other side doesn’t agree with your point. You get paid a lot for (1) being able to make decisions and stick by them (2) being able to handle high pressure and produce excellent work in very tight timeframes (3) being ultra responsive and adding value

Gobblepig 11 May 19 09:14

At Associate person 10 May 20:38: so why are associates at US firms so often utterly ridiculous?

Anonymous 14 May 19 17:02

"For comparison would be interesting to know what the associates in FBD Manchester are getting."  They don't even get to work in Manchester.  They're over the river in Salford!

David Crawford 31 May 19 07:12

Associate person, were you at home or at work at 20.38 10/5/2019 (Friday) when you posted this comment please?

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