Post-Brexit jitters: Berwin Leighton Paisner freezes pay amid ‘political and financial uncertainty’

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By Thomas Connelly on

But money is up at Travers Smith


International law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) has opted to err on the side of caution and suspend pay increases for its London-based lawyers, citing “political and financial uncertainty” created by the EU referendum result.

BLP managing partner Lisa Mayhew — who was given the tricky task of breaking the bad news — fired an email off to UK staff earlier this week, in which she explained that after “much thought and consideration” the firm had opted to “defer” salary reviews for a period of four months.

Continuing, Mayhew — who joined the BLP ranks back in 2010 — described the decision to freeze pay as the “responsible and prudent thing to do”. Referencing “political and financial uncertainty” post-Brexit, BLP’s top lawyer reassured UK staff that partners were doing all they could to “drive revenues” and “minimise the financial impact” of the referendum fallout.

The leaked email (in full below) — first acquired by legal blog RollonFriday — concluded by thanking staff for their continued “commitment and support”. Good luck trying to spend that.


First year trainees at BLP currently pocket £40,000, meanwhile those a year ahead take home £45,000. A newly qualified (NQ) lawyer at the firm walks away with £66,000. Check out the Legal Cheek Firms Most List for all the latest pay comparisons.

A spokesperson for BLP told Legal Cheek:

BLP has deferred its salary review process for UK-based staff for a period of four months from 1 July to 1 November 2016. BLP’s normal salary review date is 1 July. However, following market uncertainties arising out of the recent EU Referendum vote, BLP has decided that the responsible and prudent thing to do is to defer making UK salary decisions for a further four months. Employees who have been promoted will still receive related salary raises and bonuses referable to the prior financial year will also be paid.

Lawyers at silver circle outfit Travers Smith appear to have had a little more financial luck.

Having undertaken a salary review pre-referendum, Travers agreed a modest pay increase for its NQ talent. Upping pay packets from £70,000 to £71,500 — an increase of just over 2% — the lucky lawyers at Travers appear to have dodged the Brexit bullet.

Associates have also had some good financial fortune chucked their way.

Lawyers with one year post-qualification experience (PQE) will walk away with £79,000, up from £75,500. Two years PQE will pocket £91,100, up from £85,000, and those with three years PQE under their belts will now take home a cool £100,000, up from £86,000.

According to Legal Cheek’s Most List, and presuming Travers doesn’t ask for the money back, an NQ at the firm now walks away with the same as his counterpart over at elite magic circle outfit Slaughter and May. Meanwhile a three years PQE at Travers will pocket £250 more than the same lawyer at Slaughters.

Despite BLP’s cautious approach, other firms have been brave enough to wave two fingers at Brexit “uncertainty” and up lawyer pay.

Yesterday Legal Cheek exclusively revealed that international giant King & Wood Mallesons had upped the salaries of its London-based NQs by £6,000, equating to a rise of just over 9%. The freshly minted lawyers now earn £70,000, up from £64,000.

Meanwhile single-office outfit Macfarlanes confirmed rumours — that first appeared on Legal Cheek — that NQ pay packets were rising to £71,000, up from £70,000.

Associates will also benefit from the post-Brexit pay rise.

One year PQEs will now take home between £77,000-£79,000, two year PQEs will pocket a figure of around £80,000-£88,000 and those with three years PQE will walk away with between £85,000-£98,000. These improved pay packets do not include performance related bonuses, which lawyers will received on top.

Last, but by no means least, NQ solicitors at Herbert Smith Freehills were handed an improved pay package — including bonus — earlier this month, that could see them walk away with as much £90,000. Previously NQs’ salaries stood at £69,000.

Herbies also chucked extra cash at its rookie talent. Those in year one of their training will now walk away with £44,000, up from £42,000 — an increase of almost 5%. Meanwhile those a year ahead will now pocket £48,000, up from £46,000 — an increase of just over 4%.