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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

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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.

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Previously

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]