A little something to tide them over.
HSF CEO Justin D'Agostino said Herbert Smith Freehills has been "performing well so far this year", and as a result management has decided to hand staff the second tranche of their bonus in October, two months earlier than planned.
But the big money will remain locked up. HSF froze salaries when Covid hit and, because the global economic outlook remains "uncertain", it will continue holding its lawyers' pay at their current level. "Like all businesses, we have taken some prudent measures in order to protect our business", said D'Agostino.
"We remain committed to being competitive in every market in which we work and so we will keep this under review", said the heavyweight firm's CEO.
Given that plenty of other firms have also paused their salary reviews, it is entirely possible for HSF to remain competitive with much of the market. Although it does require ignoring those bullish US firms which have not just unfrozen salaries during the pandemic, but raised them. Earlier this month White & Case increased pay for its NQs to £130,000. However, it is practically a tradition for UK firms to gloss over the existence of the highest-paying US firms in London, and in these troubled times it's almost comforting to see the old ways surviving.
HSF has taken several measures to ward off the financial impact of the virus, several of which have affected its junior solicitors. After offering incoming trainees £8k to defer their training contract by six months, the firm retained just 66% of its qualifying trainees on a permanent basis this autumn, blaming the "unprecedented uncertainty".
Charles Russell Speechlys is working from the same playbook. This week the firm confirmed to staff that it will honour their 2019/20 bonuses, but their pay freeze will remain in place with no salary reviews before the end of the financial year in 2021. An oddity of the freeze means 1PQEs will be stuck on the same salary as NQs.
Grumbles reached RollOnFriday that the news was preceded by a video message shared by CRS's Managing Partner in which staff were congratulated for exceeding budget and giving the firm its "best September ever", said a source.
But, like HSF, the firm pointed to future uncertainty for its caution around pay rises. "We have to balance our good performance against our budget to date alongside the fact that we now know there will be further disruption for the rest of this financial year", said a spokesperson for CRS. "This means we have taken an approach which balances fair reward with careful cost management, which includes maintaining a reduction in partner drawings for the remainder of the financial year".