Why do City trainees who start in March earn less than those who start in September?

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‘There’s clearly a glitch in the system!’

In the latest instalment of our Career Conundrums series, one rookie lawyer wants to know why some City law firms pay trainees different salaries depending on what time of year they start.

“I am a trainee solicitor at large City law firm which splits its intake into two — March and September starters. I discovered recently that my colleagues who started in September (I didn’t, I was a March starter) actually earn more over the duration of their training contracts. This is because they are paid a first year salary for 12 months and a higher second year salary for 12 months, as it should be. But March starters get paid their first year salary for 14 months, and their higher second year salary for just 10 months. This, as I understand it, is something to do with the end of City law firms’ financial years falling in May. While I appreciate we are only talking about a few hundred pounds over the course of the two years, I still find it unfair that trainees can be left short-changed on account of when they started at the firm. Is this happening to others out there? There’s clearly a glitch in the system!”

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Is this true?



Suck it up



That’s what I tell my trainee all the time.



Because it’s like the kids who start school in September get to learn more because those who start in spring are still pooing their pants and stuff…



The difference will be negligible and you evidently started in March because it suited you. Honestly who cares




Evidently you didn’t learn anything in your LPC/masters course at ULaw



Can you please elaborate on how DCF applies to trainees?



Here you go you could have googled



discounted cash flow? on what planet does that have anything to do with the LPC



Really good point. This problem also crops up for March qualifiers if they move to a firm with only September qualifiers.

For example:
Imagine the target firm moves fee earners up a rung on the payscale in September (since this is the anniversary when their internal trainees turn 1PQE/2PQE etc.)

If somebody qualified in say March 2010 and joins the target firm on Feb 2011 they will be deemed NQ and sit on their NQ salary until September 2011 (some 18 months PQE). Similarly, if they wait until April 2011 before jumping ship they will be deemed 1PQE and move up to the 2PQE level when they are only 18 months qualified.

Recognise the flaw and use it to your advantage.



When will salary be linked to competency rather than PQE?


Russian Bot

^ Probably the best piece of advice on Legal Cheek (referring to the original comment).



This happens at my firm (not posting the name because LC will delete probably, but it’s a magic circle). We kicked up a big fuss and nothing happened except for getting patronising emails and in one case a trainee having their career prospects threatened for arguing about it.

It’s only a couple of grand over the two years but some of our cohort signed a two year rental contract with a lower rent in first year and a higher rent in second year (to spread the cost better), then got hammered for two months when their salary didn’t go up at the start of the second year.

It’s extremely misleading and arguably illegal that firms advertise “first year” and “second year” salaries but then don’t actually pay them in that way (and don’t actually tell you about it even once you’re at the firm – you have to find out from older intakes).

I thought ours was the only one because others I know at other firms don’t get this, but the system in the quoted post is described a bit differently to how ours works so presumably it’s not the same firm.

LC – this would be a big story and very beneficial to law students if you could find out which firms do it.



How bizarre. Our salaries change when move into our 3rd seat, completely independently of all other fee-earning and non-fee earning staff whose salaries change (or not) with the financial year. I agree that not being paid for doing the same work is not ok. I’d kick up sh*t as I know the rest of the trainee populace would.



This absolutely does not happen at either of the firms I have worked at (one silver circle, one magic circle).



Uh…all MC firms have March and September intakes?



The one with the swimming club?


CC Partner

Large toilet don’t you mean?



This is such a useless question,

The real one would be “wHY am I being paid the same as another trainee who leaves the office earlier than me? I know I contracted out of the 48 hour working regulations and break my back without any overtime pay and i still don’t know whether I’m hoping to be retained for a NQ role?” HELP ME plz



Or, assuming that there are no bonuses payable (to make things easier), why someone regularly billing 1700 billable hours/year is paid the same as someone who generally bills 1200 billable hours/year.

Do any firms have different associate locksteps for different departments?


fuck citylaw tbqh

They don’t, but bonuses may be staggered.

Only a few retarded firms (Bifford Bance) do binary bonuses.

And that’s only so that they can deprive people who billed 1999 hours of a bonus entirely – it’s not an act of generosity.

Meanwhile the partner is using that money to buy a boob job for their fifth trophy wife.



The answer is probably to do with income for the firm.

The real answer is “because the firm can get away with it”.



Trainees who start in March obviously lack the potential to become top, top titans of the legal profession and will never earn top dolla.


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