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2020 was a great year for everyone, but lawyers in private practice are hoping 2021 will be even better.

An early peek at RollOnFriday Firm of the Year Survey responses (don't worry, there's still time to enter at the bottom of the page) reveals an expectation that pay rises, bonuses and eager calls from legal recruiters will all make a triumphant return in the coming months.

A senior solicitor at former FOTY winner Burges Salmon said things were already looking up as, "in a pleasant surprise", pay reviews were scheduled for 1st Jan. 

Clifford Chance paid bonuses and increased salaries in November, said a solicitor at the Magic Circle firm, and salaries were set to be reviewed again in May. 

Others registered their frustration at the prospect of delays. "Pay wasn't great to begin with", said a junior lawyer at last year's FOTY victor, Mills & Reeve, "but salary reviews were recently deferred again", until May, "even though the firm is outperforming last year's pandemic-free figures by all key metrics".

The same concern was echoed at Dentons, where a junior lawyer said reviews due in January 2021 had been postponed to July, "and yet some partners choose to harp on about much certain other partners earn".

A 2020 freeze "seems fair in the grand scheme of things", said an Addleshaw Goddard lawyer, but "hopefully" there will be pay rises in 2021 "given the firm is flying in some areas".

Once a nuisance, the legal recruiter's cold call is now a dream to certain solicitors. The pandemic "turbophucked recruitment for roles in my area across the City" said a junior lawyer at Squire Patton Boggs, "otherwise I would've run ages ago. Perhaps in 2021..." 

At Womble Bond Dickinson, second year trainees are also looking for light at the end of the tunnel after their contracts were extended by six months. "The firm has claimed that this is only a delay to the ordinary recruitment process, and that the NQ process will instead take place in March 2021", said one of them. "A sceptic might doubt how many roles will be available given the fee earner redundancies." 

2020 set the bar so low, even crammed tubes and traffic jams look fun to a few. "The worst thing about work used to be the hour-each-way commute", said a lawyer at Burges Salmon. "Come 2021 I think I will actually enjoy the commute when we return to the office (for a while)."

Although plenty of lawyers are hopeful, even more are reserving judgment, and some are downright pessimistic.

"Career development?" exclaimed a business services employee at reigning Golden Turd Slater and Gordon. "How can you have a career at a firm that wont be in business next year?"

"We have no idea if the business will be here next week, never mind next year", wrote a colleague. "Constant management changes, closing of offices and this was before the pandemic...It is stressful".

Others are trying to embrace the smaller lives they have been forced to lead, and pause to smell the roses. "I have taken myself to task this year", said a Keystone partner in late 2020, "and am aiming to be more 'life' focussed in 2021". As for one Pinsent Masons trainee, thoughts of pay, pandemic, health and lifestyle are fripperies. The real concern, and the reason they would leave their firm, is "the possibility of ending up in a property or infrastructure seat in 2021". Harsh.

Enter the survey here.

Tip Off ROF


Anon 08 January 21 09:29

A load of spoilt whinging.  People are dying in hospital and being made redundant, and lawyers are whinging about their salaries and bonuses.  The only people I sympathise with are trainees, who may end up with nothing at the end of their training contracts.

Sometimes I think my fellow associates live on a different planet.

Anon 08 January 21 09:44

Give it a rest.  With all that is happening right now - the millions who are facing hardship and uncertainty and the thousands who are dying or seriously ill - perhaps the profession (and ROF) could just keep its collective mouth shut about money and greed.  

Nonny 08 January 21 10:15

Give it a rest oh you puritans. I can recognise  that people have it harder than me and I’m lucky to be alive and want a pay rise at the same time 


I don’t have to wear a hair shirt. I can wear a nice silk one 

Anonymous 08 January 21 11:00

I read RoF to hear that other people are having a worse time than me (Schadenfreude junkie, but I'm trying hard to quit - just one more hit and I'm clean).

Hearing magic circle schoolkids get massive bonuses just reminds me that I work at firm named after people who make footwear (co-incidentally, we get leathered, stitched-up and put back in our box by the "Boss" on a frequent basis).

Anon 08 January 21 11:06

“I don’t have to wear a hair shirt. I can wear a nice silk one”. 

Well done.  You’ve just summed up the selfish attitude of many in the profession and also missed the point entirely. It’s fine to think it.  But why articulate it given what is going on?   Nurses are in tears and hospitals are collapsing and you’re gloating about your “silk” shirt.  It shows zero self awareness, or compassion or empathy.  

Anonymous 08 January 21 12:19

Those nurses need to pull themselves together and stop whining. 

If they want a glimpse of how hard life can really be then they should try being a female junior associate in a magic circle firm. That's what hardship and oppression really looks like.

Toiling away on a mere £100k+ a year, and all in the knowledge that someone called Tarquin has a marginally higher (but still slim) chance of becoming a partner than you do - cruelly damning you to a life in the top 3% of earners rather than the top 1%.

No clapping for them on a Thursday though, eh?

Paul 08 January 21 12:39

"It shows zero self awareness, or compassion or empathy".

Congratulations, you'll make an excellent lawyer.

Anonymous 08 January 21 13:05

Why are people so against those who want a pay rise?

You can still help your community, feel sorry for those with COVID-19, and be overall a great person while still wanting to be sufficiently paid for hard work which is still going on in the legal profession.

One of my friends has spent a large amount of time doing food deliveries for those unable to leave their house but is also pushing for a promotion with a salary increase. Does the latter cancel out the good of the former?

MC Slave 08 January 21 13:09

I fully appreciate that I am in a fortunate position to have a job at this difficult time.

However, my firm is very busy and is making a lot of money off me working harder than ever during the past few months. The fees we are charging are going somewhere and it is not to charity, so it is in this context that I am keen to see something flow down from the partners

Anonymous 08 January 21 13:28

MC Slave makes an excellent point. Where targets are being met and people are working hard why should it solely be the partners who benefit? At my firm we were persuaded/misled to accept a pay cut for the greater good only for the partners to pay themselves a bonus the following month whilst we work at over 130% target and our lowest paid staff take a 10% hit. It’s all relative....

Silk shirt nonnie 08 January 21 14:20

If me not getting a pay rise improved the lot of nurses or anyone else you might have a point but it doesn’t. It only benefits the partners who  make more at my expense. 

It is in fact a socially aware, down with the bosses attitude, looking to be rewarded for my hard work. Up the workers! 


MC Slave 08 January 21 14:35

I should add that as well as wanting to see some more of the profits filter down to lawyers, I also hope that our business services (many of whom have worked their nuts off this past year to keep things going) are not overlooked

Anonymous 08 January 21 14:37

It's not the greed of the associates, it's that of the partners. Associates are expected to be available 24/7 as their home is their office and are frequently told about profits being "x% higher than last year" (last year being the best financial performance in the firm's history). 

Yet when it comes to discussing pay, the only explanation offered is "uncertain times". Such uncertainty is held above you as a whip to further increase productivity for fear of losing your job, whilst those at the top count their money. 

To really rub salt in the wound, new hires are paid more than their counterparts as they are not bound by the pay freezes. A great way to motivate the troops!

what is it with the comments always getting political? 08 January 21 15:46

You work for money. When you think the work you are doing is not worth the money you get, you want more money to make that work you put in worthwhile. That isn't a crime or an indication of the person you are - it is normal!!!

At the moment, associates are working harder than ever with partners feeling more comfortable interrupting evenings, bank holidays and weekends because 'it isn't like you are doing anything else'. This scope creep is then coupled with pay deductions, bonus cancellations and delayed salary review. It isn't on.

Stop politicising the thread with stories about our 'poor doctors and nurses who are in tears'. Cold fact, the majority of doctors worth their salt disagree with the mass hysteria around the virus and if the NHS cannot deal with it, then it isn't fit for purpose. My mum is a GP and dad is a surgeon before you all kick off xoxox


Anonymous 08 January 21 17:46

BLM published its statutory accounts in December. They're publicly available. Just thought I'd let you all know.

Anonymous 09 January 21 13:31

I can't figure out why BLM's partners are giving my previous comment the thumbs down. They're numbers to be proud of. Falling revenues, shrinking member capital and eye-watering levels of debt. It's an achievement of sorts. And all this before the pandemic started. I can't wait to get out of here.

Anonymous 09 January 21 22:39

It was remiss of me not to mention that BLM's net profit almost halved, too. Yaaaaaaaaay. Wonder if I'll get a pay rise this year? 

Anonymous 09 January 21 22:43

I'm in no doubt whatsoever that this year's results (as well as future results) will be blamed on the pandemic and that, before long, we'll be forced to endure yet another hastily organised, marketing-heavy transformation plan. More yaaaaaaaaay!

Anon 11 January 21 13:15

"If you're commuting an hour each way to Burges salmon then you're doing it wrong."

Although considering Bristol traffic and parking...

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