Which Magic Circle firm will be the next to budge?

Clifford Chance has matched Allen & Overy and Linklaters in raising the base salary for newly-qualified solicitors to £107,500.

CC confirmed it is increasing the base salary of its NQs to £107,500, up from £100,000, effective from 1 November 2021. The firm was unable to provide details of what bonus would be available on top of the salary.

Linklaters was the first Magic Circle firm to raise its NQ base salary to £107,500, at the start of October, with Allen & Overy copying the move within a couple of weeks.

The pay hikes by CC, A&O and Linklaters represent the second time this year the three firms have dished out raises to NQs. Slaughter and May and Freshfields are paying NQs a base salary of £100k, although it remains to be seen whether they will match their Magic Circle rivals, in order to keep up with the Joneses. 

Reed Smith is raising NQ base salary from £90,000 to £100,000. NQs that reach their target of 1700 billable hours will receive a pay package of £107,500. And total remuneration will increase up to £132,500 for those hitting 2000 hours.

The Pittsburgh headquartered firm is also raising trainee pay from £45,000 to £50,000 for new joiners, and from £49,000 to £55,000 for second year trainees.

As the pay wars continue, tiers have emerged, with the elite US firms dangling the biggest golden carrot to entice junior lawyers. US firms showering NQs with a base salary in the £140k+ bracket include White & Case, MoFo, ClearyShearman & Sterling, Debevoise & Plimpton, Latham & Watkins, Milbank, Akin Gump, Simpson Thacher, and Kirkland & Ellis. Of course they're all paupers compared to NQs at Vinson & Elkins, whose salaries were boosted in June from £147,500 to a remarkable £153,000. 

Meanwhile, regional NQs earning less than £50k may be at risk of developing green eyes when gazing on the sums offered to their peers at US firms in the City. Although some that value a decent work/life balance will be content to have avoided signing up to a Faustian pact. 

Money, money, money or moany, moany, moany? Take the survey below and let us know the deal with your salary.


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Holysmokesbatman 19 November 21 09:04

I’m surprised more middle of the road city firms like Dentons, CMS etc haven’t gone extinct yet. Not sure exactly what they’re offering to associates, especially in busy transactional teams. 

If work/life balance is your priority, then you quite frankly wouldn’t qualify into a transactional team or would consider moving to the regions. 

And if making as much money as possible was your priority then you would consider moving to a US firm or a better paying UK firm. 

Seems like you get the worst of both worlds at these middling firms. 


Anonymous 19 November 21 10:20

There are many downsides to working at a US firm though.

I often struggle to find places to put new money in my spacious central London abode. The third bedroom is already full. Of money.

You will struggle to empathise, I know. You cannot imagine owning an abode in central London. Still less an abode anywhere that has a third bedroom. Such is your self-imposed penury.

But one does begin to run out of things to do with it after a while. After the houses. The cars. The women. The solid gold cast of one's own member.

"What should I purchase next?" I sigh aloud to my gargantuan willy - which I very surely possess - as I lay naked atop a pile of coins, admiring the sculpted lines of my own body.

It does not reply.

Understandable one supposes. After all, what more could it want?

A second golden cast would be simply be vulgar.

Anonymous 19 November 21 11:31

As an outsider looking at in, surely there will be a moment when this all goes pop?

Anonymous 19 November 21 15:13

Slaughter and May will move - the senior partner and the executive partner have both written to the whole firm to confirm that they are reviewing salaries and will backdate salary increases to 1 November so they've asked people please not to resign just yet.

They've also launched another round of pointless consulting (if they stopped spending so much money on business services and consultants, they'd be able to double everyone's salaries...) with the same consultancy they used at the last pay review, which resulted in the consultants recommending an increase to our holiday entitlement to 30 days because that's a benefit which costs nothing to the partners since no one actually can take that amount of holidays, so I suspect they will come up with some other nonsensical "differentiation" but will still match pay to the MC.

Anonymous 19 November 21 15:14

CC did indeed increase NQ pay, but this was not reflected in the rest of the associates’ pay. 

Anon 19 November 21 19:39

Anyone who things you can buy a three bed house or flat on central London on £150k a year is happily delusional.  

Anon 19 November 21 19:41

The issue is how this seriously annoys the associates at  1-5 years PQE who don’t get equivalent increases on their current pay but who are doing more.  

SM Associate 19 November 21 20:04

That picture isn’t even accurate because Freshfields have significantly increased salaries up the scale. £130k at 1 pqe versus SM at a measly £106k!

Elemantary 22 November 21 13:53

@Holysmokesbatman 19 November 21 09:04

This has been the case for years and years and years. I really don't know how the transactional teams at, say, places like NRF have any staff at all. I think they survive on a combination of brainwashing, intransigence and a whole heap of "better the devil you know".

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