Their people are pretty happy, generally (maybe not the guy at the back).
Staff at 25 firms in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2021 index fell into the mid-table rankings for pay, rating themselves from satisfied to neutral. Not bursting with joy, but not sobbing at the price of Ocado home delivery, either.
Trowers & Hamlins (74%) missed out on the premier league despite an altruistic lawyer commenting that "it's not the best money, but I'm not here for the money". Another said that "continuingly being on the other side of deals to lawyers at the likes of Linklaters and A&O" meant it "often feels that, as lawyers, we deserve more to reflect our ability".
Pay at at RPC (73%) was "decent, given the work/life balance", said several lawyers, though there was a touch of MC envy there, too, with a lawyer saying it was "depressing to be opposite US and Magic circle firms on big commercial cases and to be doing the same hours, but to be receiving only about half or two thirds of the pay".
"We have been given pay rises this year", noted a lawyer at colleague at Mishcon de Reya (70%), "which of course was far from certain given the circumstances". The frustration at doing battle with Magic Circle lawyers cropped up at Mishcon as well. "How can it be that you can be on the other side of US/MC firms all the time on corp deals, RE sales and lit but get paid the lowest of all the Silver Circle firms?" asked a solicitor.
Shoosmiths (70%) came joint 19th, with a rueful partner musing that "Nominal PEP might be publicised as £465,000, but typically our (or at least my) drawings are only a small fraction of that". "Without fail since joining Shoosmiths I have enjoyed a pay increase annually", said a senior associate. "The firm still pays below market rate, but the culture, training, quality of work and reputation of the firm makes up for it".
"10% Senior Partner Group pay cut due to Covid", said a partner at Plexus Law (69%). "If it's not reinstated on 1st April and the junior Partners don't get a rise there will be blood on the carpet". "For the hours I work", claimed another junior solicitor, "it's about £1-£1.50 above the minimum. Basically I'd earn more as a manager at Tesco". "£80k in the regions", said a senior solicitor. "I'm happy".
Pay at TLT (66%) was "not terrible, but not great. I'm 5PQE and earn between £45-50k. I'm not a London lawyer but still..." The wage was "realistic for a firm of TLT's size and ethos", said another solicitor. "Better work life balance for probably a little less pay than elsewhere, but it's all about the balance".
"I actually think lawyers are paid way too much money for just moving wealth around rather than creating it", said a lawyer at Baker McKenzie (65%). "And I think it is a massively entitled profession. Having said that, my salary at BM is great because my private life is respected". As if conjured by her remarks, a colleague commented, "I am still working till 3am on the regular. What recession? And where's my remuneration?"
"As pleasant as it is here, my self-esteem takes a kicking every time I realise that the clueless NQ on the other side is being paid more than me", said a junior solicitor at Irwin Mitchell (65%). “But, said others, "the pay here is generally fair - just".
"No pay cuts this year but no pay rises either", said a senior solicitor at Addleshaw Goddard (63%). "Seems fair in the grand scheme of things but hopefully pay rises next year given the firm is flying in some areas". And at least they were let off the computer occasionally: "It's not K&E but then again I know what a weekend is", said a colleague.
Bird & Bird (63%) lawyers were also relatively sanguine about their pay freeze. "I'd rather have a job and pay a year behind", said one, "but obviously it would be nice to have reassurance that the pay will increase".
Allen & Overy and Linklaters were top of the Magic Circle for pay satisfaction with 59%. A&O pay was "Comparatively average, but very high in the scheme of things", said a solicitor there. "The US firms create the welcome upward pressure and the MC firms are realising that failing to keep up hurts their brand", she added. "Many have been busier than ever recently", said a another junior solicitor. "...When they unfroze our pay would it have killed them to backdate it?", she added.
"In the grand scheme of things, we are objectively well-paid", said a Linklaters senior associate. "However, the gap between our pay and the pay at the likes of Latham and Kirkland is pretty enormous". And yet "junior partners here get paid much more than junior partners at either of those firms, so I guess it's about maintaining that carrot - but it would be nice if the partners even just acknowledged the gap (they still, somehow, maintain that it's not really a big difference)". A senior solicitor at Links explained their satisfaction: "I've been paid more than my parents ever were from my first day as a trainee, and more than any of my housemates from uni. So, I could get paid more if I went to Kirkland or Latham - but that would mean working at Kirkland or Latham..."
Pay was the "Achilles Heel" of DWF (58%), said a senior solicitor. "If it is to make the jump to become the new DLA Piper then pay needs to rise", he added. Pay "could be more competitive", suggested a colleague "- especially as partnership is likely to become far more restrictive as Sir Nigel applies the methods he honed at DLA".
"They have always been fair with pay rises", said a senior solicitor at Pinsent Masons (58%), and although there was a pay freeze, "I know that it will be made up when times are better". One lawyer would probably be better off not returning to the office: "We're told that salary is commensurate with expectations which is why we are not paid as much as other law firms", he said. "I'm always told this at 2am as I look across at the offices of DLA, Eversheds and Gowlings which stand in complete darkness".
"Slightly disheartening at 4.5PQE and being paid less than an NQ at a US firm", said a lawyer at Clifford Chance (54%), "but I'd rather not work 70 hours a week for less than double the pay". "Let's be honest, I am remarkably well paid, and got a chunky bonus to boot", said another CC solicitor. "I am not going to complain, 'Oh I don't get paid as much as someone at Lathams!' as that's a specious complaint. However, what I would complain about is every associate at a given level gets paid the same, regardless of billable hours/appraisals etc. The differentiation is apparently in the bonus, but when you lose 60% of your bonus to tax, it doesn't seem so high".
The verdict on pay at CMS (54%) was "Competitive but could be better", "OK but not generous", and "Decent but not spectacular". They "froze our pay for the pandemic, then almost immediately started boasting about how well we were doing financially despite the pandemic. I mean it's great they didn't drop us down to a 4 day week and such. But read the room guys".
A similar issue was encountered at Herbert Smith Freehills (54%) where the continuation of the pay freeze was preceded by "the release of a very jubilant video" informing the firm that "financial performance had exceeded all expectations", said an HSF lawyer. Pah, said a senior HSF associate: the pay "meets market and most City lawyers are probably already paid too much. So no complaints".
"Received just a small bonus this year following COVID but grateful to be getting anything at all!!" said a lawyer at Eversheds Sutherland (50%). "It's not stellar but it could be a lot worse, especially at a time when people elsewhere are losing their jobs", agreed a junior solicitor. One lawyer was keener on encouraging battle. "Regional 1PQE on £46,250 is pretty underwhelming", he said, and "although I can appreciate that's explained in part by a difficult 2020", a "regional pay war is the order of the day!"
Gowling WLG (50%) avoided the relegation zone with 50%, even though a junior solicitor "honestly just can't even make a joke about how bad the pay is". It's £58k for a senior associate in Birmingham, said a lawyer fitting that bill, who said it was "pretty dire considering some of the City hours and, supposedly, City level work that comes in. Why I haven't packed my bags for a City firm, I don't know".