A little something to tide them over.

Herbert Smith Freehills has warmed up its lawyers with the second instalment of their delayed 2019/20 bonus, but will keep salaries frozen. Charles Russell Speechlys is taking the same approach.

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".

Tip Off ROF


Anon 16 October 20 09:06

Compare this to the US firms in London who are paying up to £30k extra on top of the annual bonus, to their associates in London as a special “Covid” bonus. Why people continue to get beasted at firms like HSF and don’t move to a US firm is beyond me. 

Anon 16 October 20 09:48

Realistically anyone who is on full pay and getting any sort of bonus is fortunate given the millions who are facing unemployment and destitution. Get some perspective.  It makes lawyers look like the stereotypical selfish, greedy and aloof types that are hated. 

Old Fart 16 October 20 10:01

@09:06 Perhaps it's not that easy to get a job at a US firm - their London operations are quite small compared with the magic / silver circle.

Anonymous 16 October 20 10:48

Yeah I think that is now the reality - 10 or even 5 years ago it was relatively easy to leave the MC or a firm such as HSF and join a US firm. Now as the pay gap has widened and US firms have established themselves as serious operators with a long term view in London its not so easy to ''just move to a US firm''. 

CRS Prisoner 16 October 20 13:46

Pay freezes on top of an already mediocre pay scale *smallest violin joined by equally small orchestra*

Anonymous 16 October 20 13:52

""Selfish, greedy and aloof".

I think that was the name of my old firm."

The Law Society used to sell a brilliant Christmas card, depicting a man and his solicitor sitting either side of a desk.  The name of the firm was on the wall behind the solicitor: Bastard, Bastard, Bastard & Smith.  The client is saying to the solicitor 'No offence Mr Smith, but coudn't one of the other partners act for me?'

Anon 16 October 20 18:38

When I was at Charles Russell, the bonus was nothing to write home about. It would maybe get you a couple of bags of Walkers crisps and a Mars bar.

Anonymous 16 October 20 21:52

Bonuses are decent at CRS for people that work hard. Salaries are rubbish in comparison to competitors. Most people at CRS just coast and wait for partnership.

Anon SCouse 20 October 20 09:49

Never received a bonus in 18 years until I set up on my own.. even in firms who claim transparency you only get the figures THEY choose to show you

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