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Clifford Chance boosts NQ pay to £87,300

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Exclusive: As trainees top magic circle pay table

Magic circle titan Clifford Chance has become the latest corporate law firm to up the pay packets of its rookie lawyers, Legal Cheek can reveal.

Newly qualified (NQ) wedge at the Canary Wharf-based outfit now stands at an impressive £87,300. Given the complex performance-related bonus schemes now adopted by many top City firms, it’s somewhat difficult to calculate what this increase is in percentage terms.

Last summer, Clifford Chance — which provides around 80 training contracts each year — bumped NQ pay packets to £85,000. However, this figure included a fixed bonus that, in the firm’s words, the “vast majority” of its junior talent would receive.

At the time, the magic circler remained silent on whether NQ base salaries (then £70,000) had been upped. So, based on the assumption that most NQs did receive £85,000, today’s pay boost equates to a modest rise of 3% for most of its fresh faced talent.

Moreover, it’s worth noting that the new £87,300 figure is described by the firm as “total compensation”. Legal Cheek understands that this improved salary still includes a performance-related bonus.

Trainee remuneration at Clifford Chance has also been increased. Those in the first year of their training contract will now earn £44,800, up from £43,500, while those a year ahead will earn £50,500, up from £49,000. This equates to increases of 3% across the board.

The move puts its year one rookies £1,800 ahead of their peers at Freshfields (£43,000), Linklaters (£43,000), Slaughter and May (£43,000), and £2,800 better off than their opposite numbers at Allen & Overy (£42,000).

The same can be said for year two trainees. They now earn £1,500 more than their Linklaters counterparts (£49,000) and £2,500 more than those sharpening their lawyer skills over at Freshfields (£48,000) and Slaughter and May (£48,000). Year two trainees at Allen & Overy currently earn £47,000.

But how does Clifford Chances’ NQ pay stack up against its magic circle rivals? Again, given the bonus set-up, it’s become increasingly difficult to draw comparisons.

Last month, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer confirmed that pay — which was upped to £85,000 last year — would remain unchanged. The firm is believed not to offer a substantial NQ bonus. This contrasts with Linklaters, which Linklaters bumped junior lawyer pay to £78,500 in June, but stressed that “high performers” could pull in northwards of £90,000.

Elsewhere, Slaughter and May, which confirmed it had frozen pay this summer, boosted NQ salaries to £78,000 late last year, but revealed financial sweeteners of between 9% and 16% of annual salaries were up for grabs. Finally, Allen & Overy upped pay back in 2015 to £78,500, exclusive of bonuses.

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51 Comments

Anonymous

The lack of transparency creeping into these pay figures is worrying.

Anonymous

Pay is usually completely confidential. It is something of an anomaly in law that people have any expectation whatsoever of knowing each other’s salaries.

Anonymous

It is a disappointing way forward to fudge the figures in this way. Suppose it helps with grad recruitment but looks disingenuous really.

Anonymous

The US firms normally exclude bonuses from salary figures – why are MC firms incorporating them?

Big Dolla

Because MC firms can’t compete otherwise.

Anonymous

to make the numbers bigger obvs.

Next: pension contribution, gym subsidy and yearly cost of stationery allowance to be added.

Anonymous

A&O has updated compensation for trainees and NQs.

Beasted Burden

Confirmed – A&O NQ rate now £81,000.

Anonymous

Is that inclusive of bonus?

US Firm NQ

How adorable.

Anonymous

Is pay at K&E really $190,000 plus bonus for an NQ? A recruiter reached out with those numbers and I just thought – no way!

Insider

$180,000 actually, but yes, it is. The bonus is pro rata first year, assuming you join in September, then annually paid out in December.

Anonymous

that’s absolutely astonishing. but aren’t you fired pretty quickly if the partner thinks you’re rubbish?

Anonymous

Stop it. If you were offered a job at Freshfields you would take it in a heartbeat. The narcissistic supply of its prestige alone is worth it. Otherwise, you’re clearly not insecure enough to thrive there, in which case, take the US firm, you wouldn’t have lasted in the MC anyway.

Anonymous

Pay is usually completely confidential. It is something of an anomaly in law that people have any expectation whatsoever of knowing each other’s salaries.

Anonymous

I wonder what KK gets paid.

Anonymous

She gets paid for writing that shit?

Anonymous

She has nice fingers

Anonymous

You would still be an absolute fool to work for an MC firm. The US firms offer way more money for the same work/hours, almost all other firms offer better hours, prestige is an irrelevant factor and culture of MC firms is extremely abundant in snobbishness

MC future trainee

The culture in US firms is notoriously cut throat and considering the time difference factor, the hours are much longer almost all the time.
Also, training at MC firms is definitely better.
The prestige of working for an MC firm will never die out – it’s something that you can take with you anywhere in the world.

Yes, the money can be improved and fingers crossed it will (overtime) but I would rather train at an MC firm, at least.

Anonymous

… tells self in mirror the 100th time whilst wiping away the tears.

Anonymous

Good point about the cut throat culture mate.

In my MC corporate team, every morning we have a group hug and sing Kumbaya.

Here’s the deal: the partners hate each other for drawing equity they could have; you hate the partners for beasting you; you hate your fellow associates for standing between you and partnership; your fellow associates hate you for the same reasons you hate them. Everyone will shaft everyone else at the first possible opportunity. The whole thing is kept going by mutual dependence.

The only reason not to take the dollar, literally, is because you want partner track. Otherwise, I don’t get why people are still here.

Anonymous

Are you at Freshfields?

Anonymous

Yeah, but friends who are or were at Links and Slaughters report much the same (unsurprisingly).

Anonymous

you must be in Team B. 🙂

Anonymous

Why are so many people so hung up on getting such a life ? It’s just terminal misery – ridiculous work hours, stress, being treated as a lackey by some contemptible grey-haired dickhead in an expensive suit with his own office (reasonably paid – though even then not even anywhere near the riches beyond one’s wildest dreams many think it is..)…

Don’t get it.

Anonymous

Because they are told that they would get challenging work, great training, international opportunities, supportive colleagues and mentorship from partners at law fairs, vac schemes, open days, workshops, work experience etc…

We get reprimanded if there is a trace of negativity in our comments to prospective students.

Anonymous

Refreshing to see some honesty, rather than the same spiel they repeat in the brochures.

Anonymous

How did you guess Freshfields? Is it that notoriously bad for being a sh*t culture compared to other MC firms?

Anonymous

Yes, made worse now that it’s slimming down to compete with US firms on profitability, even though it pretends to retain the collaborative culture of a lock-step firm. That place is toxic.

Anonymous

“Prestige of training at an MC firm is something you can take with you anywhere in the world”

…. except the USA where they literally will not have heard of Clifford Chance, A&O, etc.

Arguably the likes of Sull Crom, Skadden, Davis Polk, etc. are more prestigious globally than any of the MC.

Anonymous

“the likes of Sull Crom, Skadden, Davis Polk, etc. are more prestigious globally than any of the MC.”

THIS. A million times.
The “prestige of training at an MC firm”.
People in Britain have lost the plot. Pathetic.

Anonymous

Although the number of training contracts at all US firms is probably less than one MC firm alone. Not everyone, even at the top end of the market, can aim for a US firm in London given the small number of opportunities.

Anonymous

This is about 3 months too late LC?

Junior Criminal Tenant

Lucky them.

US Trainee

The Magic Circle only are able to still to propagate this rubbish about “better hours” and “more prestige/better training” because they have bigger marketing budgets and more employees to control the information flow and who feel the need to feed their delusions of self importance by distracting themselves from the fact that on qualification they are earning 50% less for doing *exactly the same work*. WAKE UP SHEEPLE!

Anonymous

“their delusions of self importance by distracting themselves from the fact that on qualification they are earning 50% less for doing *exactly the same work*. WAKE UP SHEEPLE!”

100% correct.

Anonymous

Anyone earning over £60k in London can have a comfortable enough existence aside from first world problems.

DWF 3PQE

This is true. If only I was earning as much…

Anonymous

DWF won’t pay you £60k+ in regions unless closer to PQE senior associate.

Ollie

The US v MC argument is getting really tiresome (and a lot less funny than a few commenters seem to think). It’s pretty simple:
MC: better training; better partnership prospects; worse pay; good career options; not always the best choice for would-be litigators (bar Freshfields)
US with big UK presence (Shearman, Lathams, White & Case): pay higher than MC but not US associate comparable; training pretty good; quality of work department-dependent; some departments as good as MC, but not the same broad range of consistently excellent; prestige less than MC but, again, NQ department dependent
US with small UK presence (Davis Polk, Kirkland etc.): hours can be totally brutal; absurd pay; partnership prospects bad; potentially v high class work at early stage, but also potential to be a glorified secretary

Ollie

which is to say: there’s no objective right or wrong option, it depends what you want

Anonymous

“US with small UK presence (Davis Polk, Kirkland etc.): hours can be totally brutal”

You don’t think the hours can be ‘totally brutal’ at the MC and other US firms? You’ll work as hard at Slaughters as you would at K&E, difference is the latter pays almost twice as much (and you’ll focus pretty much on private equity rather than general corporate/M&A).

Ollie

fewer trainees mean when things are really really busy (and smaller firms means fewer deals so less consistency) you are needed to work several all-nighters in a row, which I’ve never heard about at the MC – not denying it can be bad, but I don’t think it’s quite as up and down – plus PE is notorious which as that’s the sort of work you do more of…

Anonymous

Do you think the gap between MC and US will close? Or do you think the MC will increase next time round, but still not match?

Anonymous

Definitely not – MC partners still believe that the work and training you get at their firms outclass US firms. They’re quite happy for you to leave and join a US firm, as doing so makes you an exile from the prestigious club of elites to which they belong. It’s about the MC network – unbelievably powerful, and key to getting a book of business that paves the way for election to partnership.

Anonymous

That’s the official line. In reality though, MC firms are more worried about losing their high performing partners and so are focused on making up the PEP gap with US firms.

They would like to pay market leading rates (as it reflects on the prestige of the firm, its morale and how hard associates are willing to work) but at the moment they have bigger fish to fry.

Anonymous

One MC firm is only capable of increasing profitability by firing one third of their staff / fee earners across the board. They lack the imagination to break into more lucrative markets so instead they just slash and burn. Avoid like the plague.

Anonymous

They will ‘increase’ their profitability by one third in next year’s financial reporting: look, we fired all these people and our profitability went up!

Anonymous

Please let this be Anal and Ovaries !

Anonymous

Nope. Which MC firm got rid of one third of its trainees?

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