Linklaters takes trainee pay honours for English firms — just days after Hogan Lovells shot to top spot

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Magic circle firm also boosts cash for qualifying solicitors but this time falls short of transatlantic rivals and Slaughter and May


Magic circle firm Linklaters has shot to the top of the English firms trainee solicitor pay table only days after Hogan Lovells had claimed top spot, triggering suggestions of rocketing salary inflation at the top of the UK legal profession.

The global giant with around 2,600 lawyers is also boosting pay rates for newly-qualified solicitors by nearly 5.5% to £68,500.

The £3,500 rise will make Links’ NQs the second highest paid at domestic City firms. It will still fall short of magic circle rivals Slaughter and May and transatlantic giant Hogan Lovells, which in the last few days have whacked up NQ pay to £70,000.

However, Linklaters’ move today means the firm will now outpace another magic circle rival, Canary Wharf denizen Clifford Chance, by a smooth grand.

Linklaters’ NQ wedge will even surpass by £500 the pay scale of counterparts at the London office of US firm Dechert. But Linklaters is still some way behind the next US firm on the ladder, New Yorkers White & Case, which are currently shelling out £72,000 to freshly minted solicitors.

And Links still has a long way to go before challenging the biggest of moneybags US firms in the City. Akin Gump, Davis Polk and Sullivan & Cromwell all chuck £100k at their English NQs.

The Silk Street mob has also flashed some cash at trainees, boosting first-year pay by 5% — or £2,000 — to £42,000.

That move takes Linklaters to the top of the domestic firm pay table — overtaking Hogan Lovells by £1,000, and putting it in amongst the Yanks.

Indeed, Linklaters now matches first-year trainee pay at Dechert, Latham & Watkins and Skadden; However, it still trails Davis Polk and Sullivan & Cromwell at the top of the trainee table by £8,000.

Linklaters went the extra mile today by releasing its enhanced pay scale for lawyers of up to three years’ post-qualification experience.

After clocking up a full year of toiling away at the firm — and presuming they haven’t locked senior partner Robert Elliott in the executive lavatories for a laugh — junior solicitors will move up to £74,000.

At two years PQE, they bag £88,000, and if they are still alive at their third anniversary, they will be rewarded with an annual whack of £98,000 — or just £2k short of where NQs at those three top Yank firms start.

With the Bank of England reporting that the UK slipped into deflation earlier this week for the first time in 55 years, how are firms justifying such large wage increases for lawyers just out of their nappies?

Answer: in Links’ case it doesn’t; instead the firm wheeled out graduate recruitment partner Simon Branigan simply to crow:

“This year, salaries among our NQ level to 3.5 year PQE associates have risen by 7.5% on average.

“Coupled with strong performance-related bonuses — which we pay across all levels — and which for a significant majority have, in percentage terms, been in double figures on a scale that can realistically reach 35% of salary, we believe that our compensation [note the US terminology to illustrate global awareness and perhaps try to attract those bright sparks that otherwise might be tempted by the Square Mile’s Uncle Sam contingent] is extremely competitive and an important factor in attracting and retaining some of the brightest and best talent in the market.”

Let’s face it, anyone capable of working out what Branigan meant by all that deserves a wheelbarrow of cash.



Hogan Lovells boosts trainee and NQ wedge to join Slaughters at top of English pay table [Legal Cheek]

Slaughter and May leaps to top of magic circle newly-qualified pay pile [Legal Cheek]


Merit based pay

Freshfields don’t pay one rate, the NQ rate you mentioned is the very lowest possible : NQ is between £67,500 and £77,500.
and that is for last year.



CC, &O and FBD haven’t released their new figures yet


Lord of all justice and laws

Why people feel the need to throw 65K at 24 yr olds is beyond me. They don’t even know what they are doing! What happened to the good old days of climbing your way up the ladder? These salaries are a joke.



Oooh bitter! They obviously get taxed and have to pay to live in London and then pay back their fees? And they do work hours and hours on end, but emphasis shouldn’t be on the money! Which is why this article is very superficial- money is one thing but it is not everything, sadly commercial law seems to shout that you at every opportunity… More to life, try happiness first



Erm…student debt?!


In Response

Not all NQ’s are 24. In fact the minimum age and NQ can probably be is around 24:
Graduate – 21
Finish LPC – 22
Finish TC – 24
That’s if they’re lucky enough to get hired in their second year of university. I’d say most NQ’s are slightly older.
However regardless of age, they do have a degree and loans to pay off, they work longer hours than the average worker/most graduate schemes, and they have to live and work in London which is one of the world’s most expensive cities. £65k after tax, NI, loans, rent etc does not lead to the champagne and limousine lifestyle that may come across.



Quite. I’m a magic circle trainee and I’ll be almost 30 when I qualify, as will a great number of my cohort. People are doing different things before entering city law these days, and are significantly better for it, but then want to be able to catch up with our uni friends who went straight out of bachelors as quickly as possible.



Can see the benefit of doing something else if you’re undecided/killing time.

If not, I’d much rather be a document monkey in my early/mid twenties than late twenties and onwards. Early/mid twenties are the time when you probably have the least responsibilities during your Adult life.

hours are pretty grim across the major firms, but probably the worst at trainee level. I wouldn’t like to be a 31-35 trainee with a young family



Having fewer responsibilities in you early/mid twenties also means that it’s the time when you have the most opportunities. Throwing that away is something that many people regret.



To reply to both of you, people ARE doing other things. I had a blast travelling around the world and doing internships and other paid work at various overseas law firms and international organisations. I did an LLM which I enjoyed tremendously. THAT is taking advantage of your early/mid twenties. Grinding away at a photocopier is not. Once you hit 25/26 then it is about time to settle in and get a ‘proper’ permanent job, with the benefit of all that extra experience to know what you are getting yourself into.

One of the reasons (I think) that long term commercial law attrition rates are so terrible is that the vast majority of trainees walk out of university without really a clue as to what the job involves, qualify for the sake of it, and then go off to do something else once they have paid off their student loan. That’s fine, but they have wasted their entire twenties at that point on something that they didn’t really want to be doing at all.

What I have noticed from my age bracket after moving into city law is that we are a little bit more cynical, tend to know much more about what the industry is, how it works, and what we will be doing, and have actually made an informed decision to get into it. The only way to get that, generally, is to go abroad and work in countries where the idea of starting a permanent job at a law firm before the age of 25 is seen as ludicrous. That, incidentally, describes almost every other country in the world.



Meet: the Free Market.



Try the criminal Bar, where the workload and debts etc are much the same and you will be rewarded with a cool £15,000, if you are lucky.



Branigan calling it compensation seems about right. Part of definition of compensation is making up for “loss, damage, or injury”. Just about sums up a career at a City firm.



Wow, how cheap are Links. Second-best performing firm in the Magic Circle and they can’t even match the new de facto sum.



To be fair, they take the most trainees of any firm in the UK, so I’m sure that the overall wage bill is higher. They also don’t

The fact that they’re anywhere near the U.S. wages is definitely a good sign. This is especially the case considering a lot of the talent they train jumps ship after 4-5 years to chase larger pay packets.



*they also don’t need to really use money to attract people to the firm, as they’ll still get the best grads.



Also, horses for courses of course but I have found that the people at links are generally much nicer and easy-going than at the rest of the MC. CC is great if you are a public school alumnus, A&O is great if you are an over-achiever who is obsessed with work, FF is great if you are a super sharp cookie, S&M is for if you went to Oxbridge and could have been an academic. Links has the most ‘down to earth’ feel in my opinion. I chose it originally because the people were all just easier to get on with than the other MC lawyers I met, and would probably have chosen it even if they were paying 38k (I hope Branigan doesn’t read this).

The pay is superb at all of the MC compared to practically every profession except banking. You just have to make sure that you do genuinely like being at a firm, otherwise the whole thing is terrible. There are sociopaths who don’t care about anything but money, but when you are working 100 hour weeks with a bunch of other sociopaths at a US firm, the monthly pay check isn’t going to make your life better. Equally, if you hate it at an MC firm then you may as well hate it for more money at a US firm, or go to a smaller shop.



While CC is great if you’re (i) are a religious extremist who hates the West; (ii) or a complete douche who says on camera that he wants to fuck people over for money.
CC has always been the least fussy about trainees.



Snap. Pay at all is awesome and anyone moaning about MC pay needs a reality check.

I turned down Linklaters for another MC firm: I wouldn’t say I found Linklaters down to earth: very type-A and very ruthless. They’re the best all rounder in the MC.

Freshfields and Slaughters are both Oxbridge obsessed sadly: trainees at S&M are often a bit one dimensional and the one’s who went there from my vac scheme often didn’t get TC offers elsewhere. I’d agree Freshies – in particular – is full of super smart types who also tend to be quite polite. Of-course A&O is the best of the bunch :p and has the hottest trainees by a mile (myself not included…)



I had a horrible interview experience at Freshies actually, so it really put me off, and while I have a few friends there they aren’t the type I would want to work with for fear of sharp elbows. Probably not universal though. I probably had a particularly dire partner.

A&O is fine if you like banking, banking and more banking. Oh, and being second best at everything after LL 😉

Can’t say I have got the ‘type A’ feel at LL. Maybe I am one and don’t know it. I find almost everyone to be pretty relaxed and general good fun. ‘All rounder’ is probably the most accurate phrase, you’re right.



Yeah, from what I’ve heard Linklaters is definitely more ruthless than friendly… That’s really interesting MrCityTC, what’s your experience/view on CC?



So here’s the thing with the ‘ruthless’ label on Links. Simon Davies’ business strategy is absolutely cut throat and he has led the firm to a ridiculous amount of success through the financial crisis. However, internally the firm is not ‘ruthless’ at all. Most of the people are genuinely lovely (obviously there are some psychopathic partners like at any firm) and they generally treat trainees with a lot of respect. They became aware of a somewhat harsh reputation a few years ago and have done a lot to try and make sure that people are looked after better. Links gets a dreadful reputation on ROF and LC, but most people in the firm just have a little chuckle at the notion that it is the most impersonal of the MC, or that it comes anywhere close to the brutality of somewhere like White & Case.



Most solicitors at US firms laugh at the rest of you – they don’t work more hours, sometimes they work less, and get paid a good 30K more… There isn’t one size fits all.



I didn’t get Freshfields but I’m really happy at A&O. Was super keen on corporate & I was told Freshies were literally the sh*t for corporate – like top in the UK & Europe M&A. Was probably a little too taken in by their whole “We’ve advised the Bank of England for 270 odd years” thing as well….
But tbh now I’m at A&O we do a crap load of top m&a too. None of them are slackers.



@ anonymous I don’t have a great amount of knowledge about CC. I know a few friends who were always a bit snobby about them but they always seemed ok to me. They’re definitely thought of as the least picky of the MC, and supposedly are considered a bit inferior by the likes of Freshfields, Links and S&M because they’re much younger and have heen a top form for a relatively short period of time – CC is only about 30 years old, while Freshies is over 270 years old. Unless you’re a complete prestige wh*re and have the luxury of multiple MC offers, I’m not sure any of that actually matters though.



It’s one of those things that people who are within the club care about, but that people who are outside do not. So SC/U.S. lawyers tend to see the MC as equal, even if they vary (a small amount) within.



These salaries are entirely justified. I can understand that somebody from outside the profession may look at the figures and think 70/80k for somebody in their mid twenties at the beginning of their career is outrageous but once you work in one of these firms you will understand why these salaries are entirely justified.

We work long hours. Far greater than the average person. I cannot remember the last time I finished work before 6:30pm. Large deals can involve all nighters and weekends. We are making incredibly important judgement calls in hugely stressful environments where lots of clients rely on us to get things right and of we don’t millions if not billions of pounds can be at stake. Clients are demanding and expect top quality advice in extremely tight turnaround times. We are not your average mid twentie year olds at the start of a career. This is why we have to train 7 years to even get to this point. We fully deserve this sort of salary.



I would add of course that 6:30pm is the absolute earliest one leaves. Getting out before 7/7:30 is seen as a good day in city law and if one has the chance to make some decent plans during the week well then one is doing very well. This is not normal in the real world but in city law it becomes the norm



There are many jobs where 7/7.30 is also seen as a good day for finishing, but also pay a lot less than City law.


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