CMS and Macfarlanes up junior lawyer pay as City duo confirm autumn trainee retention scores

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NQ salaries now sit at £70k and £80k

Corporate duo CMS and Macfarlanes have bumped the salaries of their newly-qualified (NQ) lawyers, as the City duo confirmed their autumn 2018 retention results.

First up, CMS. The global giant revealed London NQ pay now sits at £70,000, a boost of £2,500 or 4%, while trainee pay sits at £43,000 in year one, rising to £48,000 in year two — an extra £3,000.

There are rises in the regions too: NQs in Bristol will start on a salary of £50,000, while their Scottish counterparts will receive £40,000. Keeping on the theme of NQ pay uplifts, the firm’s Sheffield lot will earn £41,000 and those in Manchester will receive £42,000. CMS also chucked small pay increases at its regional trainees, a full breakdown of which can be found on CMS’ Most List profile.

Money aside, CMS also confirmed its autumn 2018 rookie retention score. Of the 72 trainees due to qualify next month, 57 received offers and 55 had put pen to paper on permanent deals. This hands the outfit a respectable autumn retention result of 76%.

CMS, which provides around 65 training positions annually, confirmed 36 newly qualified lawyers (NQs) will be based in London, six in Edinburgh, six in Sheffield, three in Aberdeen, while Glasgow and Bristol will gain two junior lawyers each. Today’s result is in line with CMS’ spring 2018 retention score of 75%. On that occasion it kept hold of 30 of its 40 NQs.

The 2018 Firms Most List

Next up, Macfarlanes. The outfit confirmed its NQ salary band now sits at £80,000 (a 6% increase on the previous £75,000 figure) with “potential for additional individual and firm-wide bonuses”. Legal Cheek’s Firms Most List shows year one trainee salaries currently sit at £44,000, rising to £49,000 in year two.

Turning to the silver circle outfit’s retention score, Macfarlanes confirmed 21 of its 23 associates-to-be were staying put. This gives the single-office outfit an impressive autumn retention score of 91%. It did not disclose the departments its new recruits would be qualifying into.

Seán Lavin, head of graduate recruitment at Macfarlanes commented:

“We are pleased to have maintained our consistently high retention rates for our trainees qualifying this September. It is our objective each year to offer a role to every trainee on qualification and to retain this talent. Our trainees are the future of this firm and we recruit and train all our trainees with a view to offering them long-term careers at Macfarlanes.”

The 91% result marks a slight drop on the firm’s spring 2018 performance. Back then it posted a perfect retention score of 100%, albeit from a much smaller cohort of just six. Macfarlanes offers around 30 training contracts annually.

The firm was a solid performer in this year’s Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey. Securing an A* for its training, Macfarlanes racked up As for quality of work, peer support and social life. The results from the new 2018–19 survey will be revealed next month.

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Macs are now very competitive and easily the most interesting Silver Circle firm for Corporate work. Ashurst and BCLP are distinctly second-rate and no longer SC.


You know what I finally read an LC comment that I agreed with

This, actually.

Even though all Corporate work is dull as fuck.

Ashurst and BCLP are going down the KWM route of becoming irrelevant in all but one of their departments (Projects for Ashurst, RE for BCLP).



Can you please elaborate on why corporate work is dull



Because it mainly involves due diligence & amending standard form SPA/Shareholders’ agreements. There’s no law involved. Also, any interesting/complicated company law issues that do crop up are sent to counsel.


Corp Partner

Shit. Rumbled.


It falls into one of the following:

– shitty DD that’s gonna be automated and done by Kira or Luminance within a few years
– shitty arguments back and forth between counsel about this or that clause in the SPA that ultimately won’t be tested and about which no one will care about in a year’s time
– shitty side letters that are only added because a client remembered something stupid at the last minute and the laywers couldn’t talk them out of it

+ a whole lot of garbage on the trainee side, like:

– endless checklists
– endless board minutes/special resolutions/CH filings that are probably next in line for automation
– endless Excel docs (where appropriate) that you don’t even get to create – you’re just handed a previous doc, and told to empty and repopulate it

tl;dr Corporate work is garbage.


Ay (2)

yes I did write ‘about’ twice in that sentence, well done for spotting it, now keep it to yourself you party pooper


Why do corporate lawyers have so much swagger then?

Danny Zuko

It’s all about impressions mate. And powder. Lots and lots of it.

Ay (3)

to compensate for the fact that they

a) don’t practice law
b) tend to be lonely (corporate has the worst hours, along with b&f)

and yes they do tend to make the most money within a firm but fuck them anyway


Brutal, but true. As an associate at one of these firms it pains me to say it but the market view of my firm and the firm’s perception of itself are vastly at odds. Too much time being wasted on management consultant navel-gazing. Rearranging the deckchairs on the titanic springs to mind…



£80K no longer cuts the mustard in London.



Horsec*ck, you’re still living it up miles better than millions on £70k. Pull your head out of your arse and smell the coffee you delusional cretin.



Why Macfarlanes are paying 10k more than CMS, the 6th largest firm in the world, beggars belief.



CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang*****************************************




Size means f all. Macfarlanes is a decent outfit and CMS is a battery farm.









Because they are a better firm by virtually every metric, except for maybe: world’s most poorly named and branded law firm. Although LLP still lost that accolade to Womble Bond Dickinson



£70k, hefty.






Agreed, Fieldfisher is one of many firms in the City (Ince, Clydes) that’s having a laugh in supposedly “paying market-rate salaries” by chucking £63k at NQs. PEP for all the nonperforming deadwood equity keeps rising and the fee earners get the shaft.


Irwin Mitchell B!TCH

The bank refuses to accept my digestives.


Slaughters B!TCH

I heard that prestige is no longer accepted as Coutts as a substitute for money.



What’s the merit-based pay like at RPC? What can an NQ realistically be getting? £60k?








Disappointed associate

Pathetic that the market moved to the mid-high £70k figure and morbidly obese Penny Warne at CMS thinks the firm will stay competitive by throwing a measly £2.5k at NQ pay.



Can’t put a price on prestige.






Bit harsh



Nah mate CMS is just a shet boiler room



I’m voting for Jeremy Corbyn to put a stop to this greed!

Young folks in their twenties only need about £30k or so!

Redistribute this through socialism to those most in need – refugees from war torn Africa and Palestine, and hard working nurses and teachers!

Raise taxes NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Where would be the incentive to work 80 hour weeks, idiot?



How do you know what other people need?



What about SPB? The current rates are laughable.



SPB is notoriously tight lipped about pay, and no one knows what it currently is. People will vote with their feet and leave if it continues this way.


Charlie the mailroom boy

Eversheds upped pay to £72k LC.

Also Mayer Brown on £78k, BCLP on £75k, Links on £81.5k.

Cooley reportedly now moved up to £120k.


Seasoned mailroom veteran

alright take your essex accent and your skinny TM lewin suit and bugger off somewhere else



What are Clyde & Co’s reputation?

I’ve heard from a long-qualified senior associate there that it’s not a happy ship, and he advised against looking to move there (at NQ or 1PQE), but they appear have a good reputation for disputes work, and they’re also quite large, so presumably gaps appear more often.

More broadly, what firms – if any – do look for lateral hires into Disputes at NQ/1PQE?



Clyde & Co = dogshit



£40k for a Scottish NQ – is that correct? Very decent wedge compared to the rest of Scotland from what I hear.



It is correct, but you’ll work quasi-London hours (and same targets) so you have to look at it from that perspective.



Thanks for this. Does pay stagnate at 1PQE, 2PQE, 3PQE for associates there in Scotland or does it climb up at decent intervals?



50k for an NQ in Bristol is decent. Must be level with Simmons and Burges salmon there now



Yeh it’s on par with Burges, Simmons and Osbornes


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