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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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