A pay rise, now? It's not too late to purchase a terror Santa!
Baker McKenzie's NQs were on a base salary of £90k, with the possibility that a discretionary bonus would take them over six figures.
But then Macfarlanes announced in November that it was lifting its NQ salary from £90k to £100k, BCLP raised its NQ salary to £95k, and Herbert Smith Freehills moved its NQs up to £105k - prompting Bakers to leapfrog all of them.
The firm's new NQ salary of £105,000 will take effect in March 2022, and places Bakers' NQs just a couple of grand below their peers at Magic Circle firms Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy and Linklaters, who are on £107,500, and a smidge above NQs at Freshfields, who are on £100k.
Bakers is also raising its trainee salaries from £48,000 to £50,000 for first years and from £52,000 to £55,000 for second years, while a discretionary bonus will remain available to all fee earners, if they are deemed among the "highest performing individuals" at the firm.
Against the background of the war for junior talent, Baker McKenzie acknowledged that raising salaries in March rather than July was "a step away from its normal timetable" and an "unprecedented decision to advance its salary review for fee earners".
Ed Poulton, Baker McKenzie's London Managing Partner, said, "we remain committed to the attraction and retention of the very best talent".
Meanwhile, Slaughter and May has this morning dropped a big Christmas gift on its lawyers and increased NQ salaries to £107,500, matching CC, A&O and Links.
A source told RollOnFriday that it "generally bumped up all of our pay bands" and announced discretionary bonuses which "clocked in for me at around 20%".
Slaughter and May confirmed that the new salaries will be backdated to 1 November, and RollOnFriday understands that raises will apply across the PQEs and for Senior Counsel.
Gowling WLG has also increased its NQ salary in London to £85k from 1 Jan 2022, and has nudged the NQ salary in its Birmingham office up to £52k.
A solicitor at GWLG wondered when they would get their raise, telling ROF there was "no news yet as to what that means for us 2, 3, 4 and 5 PQE who are on that salary or very similar now".
The industry practice of publicising trainee and NQ salaries invites a pay battle at those levels. That's not the case for higher PQEs, where salaries fluctuate within pay bands which are rarely disclosed, removing much of the impetus for firms to rapidly out-pay their competitors by headline-grabbing amounts.
However, a spokesperson for Gowling WLG told RollOnFriday that "salary levels for associates, senior/principal associates and legal directors are also being increased for 2022".
He added, "We keep pay under regular review to ensure we remain competitive and to continue to reward and motivate high performance. We invested in one our largest salary rounds in recent years over the summer, and we are pleased to be in a position to increase lawyer salaries further from January 1".
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