Cash office

An NQ gets ready to celebrate with their cash (after sanitising the wad)

Slaughter and May has hiked salaries for its newly-qualified solicitors to £100,000.

It means the firm has caught up with Magic Circle peers Clifford ChanceFreshfields and Linklaters, which have all recently raised their base pay at £100k - as has Hogan Lovells

Allen & Overy is also paying its NQs £100k - but only when a bonus is included.

The raise actually takes Slaughters NQs from £90,500 to over £100k if they also receive a discretionary bonus. Effective from 1 July, all other PQE bands are also seeing raises. "Quite surprising not gonna lie", a Slaughter and May lawyer told RollOnFriday this morning when the news was relayed to staff.

"The review is part of our established pay approach, in which we keep our lawyers' total cash position (salary plus year end discretionary bonus) under review, allowing us to adjust salaries when appropriate to do so", Executive Partner Paul Stacey told the firm's London employees in an email.

In other NQ pay news, Travers Smith has upped NQ base pay from £85,000 to £90,000, with the possibility of NQs pocketing six-figures when bonuses are included.

"With the firm-wide bonus and other discretionary payments, a newly qualified lawyer now has the potential to receive a total annual remuneration between £100,000 and £117,000," a Travers Smith spokesman confirmed to RollOnFriday. 

Travers Smith's NQs will be on a level-pegging as their peers at Macfarlanes and Ashurst, which are also paying their NQs £90k, plus a bonus.

Other firms in the same ballpark include DLA Piper and BCLP - where NQs have had a recent uplift to £88k plus a bonus. NQs at Herbert Smith Freehills can pocket from £105k to £107k, consisting of salary and a performance bonus.

Osborne Clarke has also announced this week that it has raised its NQ pay from £71k to £80k in London, while those in Reading will be paid £65k (up from £54k) and Bristol NQs will pocket £60k (up from £52k). 

An Osborne Clarke spokeswoman confirmed that the firm was also dishing out higher bonuses: "In light of the extraordinary year we've experienced, we've increased our bonus awards, changing from 5%, 7% and 10% to 5%,10% and 20%, and we've rewarded substantially more people with a bonus this year", she said.

The rise at OC puts the firm in a similar bracket to CMS and Eversheds Sutherland with both firms paying their London NQs a base salary of £82,000 (plus bonus). 

As the City pay war continues, tiers have emerged. In the next salary rung down, Gowling WLG is paying its London NQs £75,750, with those in Birmingham on £48k. A Gowling WLG spokesman confirmed that the firm was also offering a firm-wide bonus.  

In the same ballpark is RPC (£70k) and Trowers & Hamlins in London (£72,500). Regional NQs at Trowers in Manchester, Exeter and Birmingham are on a salary of £44,000.

Up in the stratosphere, US firms such as Kirkland & Ellis, Debevoise & Plimpton, Vinson & Elkins et al are spraying their NQs with base salaries in excess of £140,000 - and that's not including the eye-watering bonuses.

Meanwhile, Withers is the latest firm to offer an additional bonus of US$5k (or the local currency equivalent) as “a thank you to staff” for their work during the pandemic “and a way for everyone to share in the firm's success this year."

NQs and other associates: please get in touch to spill the beans on your salary rises and bonuses. 

Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 23 July 21 09:01

Wombles staff will be furious watching all these rises… 

Another day another resignation 23 July 21 09:03

Firms keep raising NQ pay, meanwhile the greedy Northerners at SPB hold the purse strings tight as ever. When will management wake up to the fact that they will soon have no one left at the firm as resignations keep flooding in? Several teams have had ~50% of their fee earners leave in the past 18 months, the Corporate group might as well install a revolving door to assist the inflow-outflow of staff. 

Anonymous 23 July 21 09:04

Good for the NQs but mid associate to senior associate remains stagnant

somertonian 23 July 21 09:23

Wonder if Burges Salmon will match that from Osborne Clarke. Not a great sign if they don't. Anyone know when they're set to announce their pay review? 

Anon 23 July 21 09:25

Everyone is waiting for Clydes to hit £100k for NQs…..

Anon 23 July 21 09:26

Have NRF raised from 85k this year?

Anonymous 23 July 21 09:48

It will be interesting to see how firms outside London -- particularly those working opposite SC/MC/US firms frequently -- respond to this shrewd move by Osborne Clarke. Hybrid working is opening new doors and puts the regional pay model at odds with talent retention. In fact, you have to wonder how long Osborne Clarke can get away with paying some mid-level lawyers less than their 'London-based' NQs. 

SM 23 July 21 09:53

Slaughters only raised as forced to in order to avoid been seen as inferior to Macs and Travers. Embarrassing - goes to show how much they care about their juniors. 

Anonymous 23 July 21 09:58

Pains me how many NQs earn 20-30k more than me in London at 10pqe in the regions. All that money to photocopy and scan documents before copy-and-pasting content from PLC.

@ 09:58 23 July 21 10:20

I’m not sure London NQs do that these days, sounds more like a first seat trainee task. If you don’t know this that’s probably why you’re paid 70k.

Anon 23 July 21 10:21

Anon 0958 - they do more than that, but it’s also partly about the pressure and expectations which are far higher than in the regions, both internally and from clients.  

Really though the reason for paying these sums is that firms want to get hold of the best graduate talent from the outset because for every 50 NQs, there will be a few future stars.  If you lose out at NQ on these people the risk is you don’t get them back in the future and they go to rivals.   The rest of the NQs are then binned when they get to about 5-6pqe and it’s obvious they won’t be made up.  That’s the model.  It’s about reserving future stars, so the firm can monitor and groom, not about their legal ability at age 25 which is far less than yours because they haven’t had any real experience.  

Anon 23 July 21 10:24

Good culture at Withers atm, everyone feels valued - but salary increases from NQ would be nice given the rest of the market has increased a lot. 

Anonymous 23 July 21 10:31

Anon @ 9.04 - hit the nail on the head. Thought my (OC) pay review was ok until they announced the NQ salary. They may as well have given me a  freddo and a pat on the head. 

Anonymous 23 July 21 10:50

ROF - genuine question/suggestion. Could you do a thing looking at the average working hours at each firm, average post-tax income, and work out the hourly rates? 

Anonymous 23 July 21 10:56

Watson Farley & Williams's absence from all these NQ salary increase stories must be fun for everyone there. Wonder why its mid and junior associates are leaving?  

Anon 23 July 21 11:10

worked at Gowling in Birmingham a few years back.  Pretty brutal hours for pretty poor pay.  Was in a notorious part of the real estate group.


Anonymous 23 July 21 11:37

@10:56 Take it from me that WFW would remain a miserable place to work even if they boosted salaries.

Doing crap work for crap people will remain a crap experience even if it stopped being for crap money.

Anonymous 23 July 21 11:51

Whats the going rate for senior associates in the regions - say a top 25 firm? 

Dingle 23 July 21 13:01

Burges Salmon better be close to matching that OC Bristol pay if they want to stay top of the market, and if they don't it will look pretty bad.

Anon 23 July 21 13:37

Senior Associate pay - there is no “going rate” because “the regions” means the whole country out of London.  In the south east - say, MK or Reading, at a city firm with a regional office (like Osborne Clarke or Dentons) you’d be looking to max out around 80-90k in banking / corporate and slightly less in litigation.  Salaries are higher due to the pull of London.   

in regional centres such as Bristol, the def insurance market is well represented which means hourly rates were set years ago and you’d be lucky to max out around 70k, but realistically around 65k at a Clydes, DACB or similar and a bit more at CMS or Simmons.  For transactional work you’d be looking around 80k ish maybe more.  

In the north and midlands  - salaries are lower generally but so are living costs.  At somewhere like AG in Leeds £60-65k as an SA goes a lot further than in the south. 

Then you’ve got purely regional firms - one or two offices - where salaries for SAs could range from 40- 65k I’d say.  

The above is all anecdotal based on people I know and the market info I’ve been given by recruiters.  

Anon 23 July 21 13:52

The worst deal by far is being stuck in the middle at a regional office of a city firm or a wannabe city firm / you get hammered with many of the pressures without the reward.  Better to be in a proper regional firm where you do Ok but are out at 5.30.  

Anonon 23 July 21 14:27

Would be good if ROF reported on salaries at regional firms in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham etc. Would be interested to see how non-Londoners earn at NQ - 5 years PQE

Anonymous 23 July 21 15:01

What people still haven't woken up to is that Chinese firms in London are paying even higher rates than their US competitors.

A very small number of vacancies at the moment as they scale up (and obviously speaking Mandarin helps you to get them, but first class academics and legal knowledge remain a must) but even junior juniors here are all on salaries approaching £200k. No training contracts on offer yet, and very few true 'NQ' lawyers, but their salaries would be way over those at the US shops if they were at the same level as we're paying higher grade associates.

I'm speaking from experience, I'm a 5PQE Senior Associate in a sector-specific litigation department at the London office of a Chinese international firm and my base is just north of £270k, plus annual bonus. Came over from a Silver Circle firm and have never looked back.

Guarantee that in five years time these stories will all be about the exodus of MC lawyers (and US...) to Chinese firms that are increasingly taking over the UK and European market.

Anonymous 23 July 21 15:30

Anon @13:52 captures the mood at BS nicely. 

Uncle Clifford 23 July 21 16:35

@14:27 - reporting on such things would be futile. Few of the readership posses advanced mathematical qualifications sufficient to enable them to understand numbers that small. 

A phd in Hypothetically Tiny Fractions would be required for anything north of Watford.  



One would need a professorship beyond the Pennines. And a microscope roughly the size of the Hubble.

Anonymous 23 July 21 16:48

Anyone know a good in-house gig for a failed senior associate looking to use their basic litigation skills? Thanks.

Anonymous 23 July 21 17:58

Herbert smith hasn’t announced a salary increase and no NQ in the history of the firm has been able to get 100k because of moderation

Anonymous 23 July 21 18:57

So what's the deal at PQE levels then?

nonny 25 July 21 12:59

As OC's Bristol NQs pocket £60k, I'm wondering how Foot Anstey's Senior Associates will be feeling considering they are on mid £60s at best to begin with. 

Anon 26 July 21 07:50

Yes: lots of firms here are using the 100k figure with smoke and mirrors.  Where it is 100k (or more) but only with a discretionary bonus that is never paid or virtually impossible for an NQ to get because it requires an exceptional performance review that is never awarded, then it isn’t 100k. 

@15:01 aka Wumao 26 July 21 11:33

I appreciate the attempt to hype the few obscure Chinese shops (Grandall, Yingke or Fangda come to mind) that have a London office but surely even a skilful wumao like yourself will realise that no one believes such a porkie.

Name a single Chinese law firm in London that pays remotely close to MC/US firms mate, I’ll wait.

Xi, the Evil Wumao Psy-Ops Folk Devil 26 July 21 14:52

Hey, you don't want to believe me when I tell you what the payscale is like at Chinese firms? That's cool. I'm not forcing you.

Just dismiss it out of hand and keep telling yourself that they're still primitive foreigners that couldn't possibly compete with the burnished old-world names that you're already familiar with. Of course New York is paying more. It's the Centre Of The World don't you know?

I'm not going to out myself by telling you where I work (you already know my PQE, roughly my area of practice, and my background - and Chinese firms are still small outposts in 2021) and I don't feel a need to boost my self-esteem by knowing that I've convinced you.

But believe me when I say that the international firms from the world's largest, richest, fastest growing market are outpaying the incumbent competitors here in London in their bid to attract talent in one of their key target markets. They know that they can't offer name recognition or 'prestige', so they're just getting out the chequebook instead. They have the willingness and ability to win bidding wars, so that's the strategy.

If you think that Chinese firms aren't already in the process of doing in the services sector what Chinese firms have already done in manufacturing, tech and (increasingly) media, then you deserve to be surprised by those headlines in five years' time.




*Also, if you are reading this and thinking it can't be true because you think China is a low wage economy whose firms couldn't possibly stretch to paying 'first world' wages - it may help to reorient your perspective a bit by understanding that Chinese lawyers at the Chinese equivalent of Silver/Magic circle firms will be earning more in their domestic market than most UK Lawyers at bronze/silver firms here, such is the enormity of income disparity in China between bottom and top. The gap between the home payscale and the London/New York/LA/Tokyo offices is not as big as you might think it is.

Anonymous 26 July 21 19:24

60k for a Bristol NQ is ridiculous.

There's senior associates earning less there.

Wumao squad 26 July 21 23:19

Lmao ok wumao, keep dreaming and keep pumping. I’ve actually many friends who are Australian attorneys fluent in Mandarin (and some in Cantonese/Hokkien) and they all sh*t on Chinese firms and the pay they offer. Unless you’re somehow privy to something magical that only you are aware of, we’ll just assume you’re a weak CCP troll.

Good luck with your fictitious six-figure Chinese firm salary either way, it sounds like a hoot.

solicitor who solicits 27 July 21 10:43

@15:01 the only Chinese law firm that has a bit of serious presence in the City is ZhongLun.  I doubt Xue Haibin is paying his associates that kind of money.  YingKe has (or had) a partnership with Memery Crystal. They have since merged with Rosenblatt. KWM is not paying anything like that at all.  Fangda and Grandall have no presence here in the UK, that I know of.  I cannot think of another Chinese firm here in the UK.  Certainly the offers I get for Chinese firms in Hong Kong, the money is pretty much similar to Silver Circle firms here, around £100K, but taxes are much better. Junhe, JTGC, Haiwen and any other red circle firms do not have offices in London.  So one can almost guess which firm you are talking about as there are so few of them.  I doubt any Chinese firm will pay £270k plus bonus for a 5pqe in London, unless his/her daddy is the senior partner back in Beijing, so to speak.  

MDR trainee 27 July 21 15:43

MDR NQ rise pls??

Fantastic firm but with the planned flotation and no mention of a rise (the board consider 72k the average for a city firm of the size and culture of MDR), I’ll be keeping my eyes open when it comes to qualifying.

BCLP looks tasty seeing as I’ll prob qualify into real estate.

Officious Bystander 27 July 21 15:44

These ludicrous salary figures can only be covered by charging out the same NQs at increasingly silly rates to clients -  rates which are well beyond what most such inexperienced lawyers can possibly be worth in terms of their professional skills/ value add.  It is inexplicable the firms’ clients should be foolish enough to pay over the odds in this way.  But evidently they are.  More fool them. 

Anon 29 July 21 12:24

@ officious - read above as your point has already been addressed.   They are billed out at a rate clients are willing to pay (often as part of a large fixed fee anyway where hourly rates are not really relevant) do that is evidence they are market rate.  Plus as above the real reason for the NQ salaries is to reserve the talent in an intake, of whom there will be a few future stars, and they are future of the firm.  

No name 29 July 21 16:44

The hikes in the regions from OC and Eversheds makes CMS look average. Eversheds are paying NQs £50k. A greater proportion of southern based firms are seeking talent from northern regions in specialist teams. This is cheaper than hiring from a rival London firm. It also gives the lawyer in the region a comfortable salary which is equivalent to a senior associate's pay. Partners often downplay this by stating lawyers (particularly junior lawyers) are better served being in the office, but southern regional firms are open to remote working for specialist talent. 

I'm predicting an exodus of lawyers from law firms like CMS, SPB, PM, Eversheds for firms down South without a northern presence (Ashurst, OC, US firms, etc). What's to lose? More money, same work pressures, remote working and flexibility. When will regional law firms wake up to this? 

Related News