Clifford Chance ups trainee pay packets by 3.5%

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By Thomas Connelly on

Despite generous pay boost for NQs, there is no guarantee they will receive it


Elite Canary Wharf-based outfit Clifford Chance has finally revealed its 2016 pay increases, upping trainee pay packets by a modest 3.5%.

Young lawyers in the first-year of their training contract will now walk away with £43,500, up from £42,000, while those a year ahead will take home £49,000, up from £47,300.

However, the corporate giant, who offer around 100 training contracts annually, is remaining silent on whether base salaries for newly qualified (NQ) lawyers, which currently stand at £70,000, are to be upped.

Instead, the firm revealed that fixed bonuses, which the “vast majority” of its junior lawyer talent would receive, will be upped, taking NQ pay packets to a very competitive £85,000. In short, the bonus boost by Clifford Chance may appear generous but there is no guarantee that their lawyers will actually receive it.

Those with one year post-qualification experience (PQE) will now walk away with up to £95,000 including bonus, up from £75,500 without bonus. “Good” performing two PQEs will pocket an average of £100,000, and “excellent” ones — who presumably never leave the office — will earn an average of £119,000.

London managing partner David Bickerton said:

In the ‘early years’ (NQ and PQE1) we expect our lawyers to work hard to develop the skills and good habits of an exceptional lawyer so their contribution is assessed on the basis of whether or not they are acquiring these skills and habits. At these levels, lawyers receive a salary and a binary bonus. If the lawyer is developing the skills and habits they will require they will receive the binary bonus, so the vast majority of junior lawyers will receive it.

Pub bragging rights are now firmly with the trainees of Clifford Chance.

The modest pay increase sees those in their first year leap above their Anglo-German counterparts at Freshfields by a full £500, taking them to the top of the magic circle pay league table. The same goes for those in their second year who are now pocketing £49,000 — a full £1000 more than nearest rivals Freshfields — and are consequently the best paid trainees at their level within the magic circle.

Last month Freshfields revealed a staggering NQ salary increase of 26% to £85,000, and earlier this year fellow magic circle outfit Linklaters upped pay for its junior lawyer talent to £81,000. Yet to announce a 2016 pay increase, Allen & Overy NQs currently pocket £78,500. Meanwhile, Slaughter and May revealed a muted pay increase of just 2% to £71,500 last month.