It's not this bad tbh.
At the highest-scoring of the low-scoring, the salary review process at Squire Patton Boggs (49%) "is way too opaque with all decisions being made in the USA by people who don't know you", complained a senior SPB solicitor. It "doesn't pay market rates, and hasn't ever done so", said a junior solicitor, "but the differences sadly grew wider in recent years. On the other hand on most days I do absolute f-all...and I still bag £82k a year no sweat. Plus I've now been making phat money from day-trading Bitcoin so it's all good".
"I shouldn't complain too much", said a senior solicitor at BLM (46%). "I'm being paid for, what is in essence, old rope. I could easily be replaced by a spreadsheet". "Recently we hired a chump on not much less pay than me", said another senior solicitor, "and I manage the chumps. Made me feel great".
"Pay isn't great, let's be honest", said a BLM colleague. "But they have been fantastic throughout this covid episode. No pressure whatsoever to go into the office, flexible hours of working, plenty of work coming in. But given all competitors are doing the same, pay will definitely be the differentiator. BLM simply must improve salaries to stay relevant".
"Bit of a shame there's no pay rise this year", said a senior solicitor at Clyde & Co (44%) about 2020. "Then again, my salary is five figures higher than at my last firm, where I did pretty much the same job with longer hours, and I'd be willing to bet those poor sods aren't getting a pay rise this year either. Or possibly ever". A Clydes partner said their latest partner remuneration review had been an "eye-opener. Always motivational to see a colleague with same billing figures paid half a million more and those with half the billing figures paid double what I get. And no, I'm not a service partner".
Covid meant that 1PQEs at Charles Russell Speechlys (42%) were "being paid the same as NQs and we're already quite underpaid for the market anyway", said one. Others raised a recurrent complaint of firms with regional and London offices: "With work from home it's becoming more difficult to stomach the massive difference between London office pay and the other UK offices", said a CRS lawyer, adding that it was "Galling as a mid-senior lawyer bringing in work to be getting paid the same as an NQ".
Like CRS, lawyers at Capsticks (39%) said "There's a feel of unfairness that those in regional offices are so much lower paid than the London office - especially as we are remote working now and will be in future (we've been bought all the stuff we need to wfh...forever..?!)"
There were Freshfields (39%) respondents who said the pay was "excellent", and "solid" for trainees, and that there was a "Solid NQ salary if you stay on, too". But the feeling that "we work US hours in exchange for top English pay" was a frustration that some respondents from the Magic Circle firm couldn't tamp down, "particularly when I see trainees who were [not good at human interactions] here getting mega bucks at US firms". Plus, "Pay was frozen at the start of the pandemic, and reviewed later in the year... only to remain frozen (despite record numbers of hours across the firm)", leaving lawyers "watching our new neighbours at Kirkland and Latham take home their covid bonuses".
"Some people get a little salty when they compare their pay to the firms we often work against ("Magic"/"Silver" circle and Americans)", said a junior solicitor at Watson Farley Williams (39%), but "we definitely are not underpaid and our salaries match the firms around us in the rankings (by turnover)". Then again, "Ugh", said a WFW colleague: "*Googles synonyms for 'woeful'*"
At Fieldfisher (37%), pay was "Low given the firm's financial success" according to a junior lawyer, while at Womble Bond Dickinson (34%) a senior solicitor said there had been "An effective pay freeze of at least 2 years, pitiful pay increases in the years proceeding" and "bigger targets every year which appear to defy economic reality".
Slaughter and May (31%) arrived at the bottom of the Magic Circle for satisfaction with pay. "Whilst it was understandable for the firm to freeze pay temporarily in March when the initial cash flows froze for a while and there were liquidity issues, the firm is now profiting massively from its associate workforce", said a lawyer at the elite firm. "A number of groups, including the one where yours truly works, have seen record billings and everyone has been slammed for months on end. All associates who progressed through the pay bands were duly charged to clients at higher rates than previous, but their salaries remain frozen. It's somewhat galling when from one day to the next the clients have to pay £100 pa more than previously for your work, but you don't see even a penny of that money". Eh, was the view of some Slaughters colleagues. "Getting paid 100k with a good bonus for no hourly hours target is a pretty sweet deal", said a junior solicitor.
Knights, where the CEO recently sold some of his shares in the firm for £61 million, scored 27%, while Golden Turd 2021 Slater and Gordon scored 26%. But Dentons took last place for pay with 24%. "Perhaps understandably, they've delayed pay rises due to COVID", said a Dentons solicitor. "However, we were already behind the market (they haven't reviewed the pay bands in years) so they can't just blame the virus. There are plenty of NQs at US firms making double my salary despite having no idea what they're doing". A senior solicitor said he was "Not very happy about taking a 20% cut for six months, and then having to work 5 days a week anyway". But, like staff at other firms, some Dentons solicitors called for patience. "It really depends on the 2020 bonus (if any)", said one, "and whether 2021 base pay is increased".