Slaughter and May increase newly qualified solicitor bonuses to £6,300

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By Thomas Connelly on

A nice Christmas present, but will there be time to spend it?


Magic circle outfit Slaughter and May has embraced the season of goodwill and boosted its newly qualified (NQ) lawyers’ pay packets by £6,300 — with a generous Christmas bonus.

The elite City firm — that offers around 80 training contracts annually — has upped NQ bonuses to 9% of salary, an increase of 1.5% on the firm’s 2014 Christmas handouts.

Today’s announcement means that fresh-faced lawyers at the firm — who earn £70,000 a year — will have walked away with a cool £76,300 by the end of 2015.

Christmas bonuses haven’t just been reserved for those who have qualified. First and second year trainees will both receive 4% cash boosts in recognition of all those late nights spent at the photocopier.

First year trainees — who are paid £41,000 a year — will take home an extra £1,640 this December. Trainees in their second year — who are paid £46,000 — will receive an extra £1,840.

Associates in excess of four and half years post-qualification experience at the firm will be in line to receive the largest bonuses. Up from 15% of salary last year, freshly minted lawyers at the magic circle outfit could receive as much as 16% of their annual salaries in bonuses.

In a school report-esque manner of performance evaluation, only associates who performed “good” or “exceptional” will receive cash rewards. Presumably those lawyers spotted leaving the office before 9pm will be receiving a lump of coal.

Who’s getting what aside, today’s announcement marks the third year in a row the magic circle outfit has increased its seasonal bonuses, following two years of cuts in 2011 and 2012. But the sums remain a long way off those which corporate lawyers in the US receive.

Across the pond, venerable New York headquartered firm Davis Polk revealed its annual Christmas bonuses for lawyers this week. In a announcement that may leave some Slaughter’s lawyers hard done by, Above the Law reported that NQs — or “class of 2015”, as they are referred to — would receive a bonus of $15,000 (£9,897).

This internal email — that was sent to Davis Polk lawyers in their US offices — revealed that those with four years post qualification experience (PQE) would receive a tidy $65,000 (£42,894).

Davis Polk Email

Incredibly, according to the US legal press this was deemed a disappointing round of bonuses for the US giant. One source close to the firm told Above the Law that they were left “not pleased” with this year’s cash boost.

But English law students dreaming of American riches, beware. Before rushing off to book tickets for that transatlantic flight with dreams of becoming the next Harvey Specter, note the stats showing that the average US-based wannabe lawyer leaves law school with a staggering $140,616 (£92,795) of debt.