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Freshfields raises newly qualified solicitor pay to £100,000

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Exclusive: MoneyLaw reaches the magic circle

Magic circle player Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has upped the pay packets of its newly qualified (NQ) solicitors by a whopping £15,000.

Until recently, those qualifying into the firm’s plush London headquarters enjoyed a sizeable £85,000 pay cheque. Now, the Anglo-German giant has bumped this figure by 18% and will be paying its newbie associates £100,000 a year, Legal Cheek can reveal. Freshies confirmed its junior lot will also be eligible for a discretionary bonus on top of their staggering six-figure salaries. The rise is effective from 1 May 2019.

News of today’s BIG money move means Freshfields has leapfrogged its fellow magic circle rivals in the NQ pay league. As it stands, NQs at Clifford Chance earn £91,000 (bonus included), while their counterparts at Allen & Overy, Linklaters and Slaughter and May receive £83,000 respectively. It’s worth noting NQ pay over at Links can reach anywhere up to £90,000 (base salary and performance bonus combined).

Having whizzed past all four of the elite quintet, Freshfields now pays its junior associates the same levels of cash as those at Covington & Burling (£100,000) and sits behind US stalwart Sullivan & Cromwell (£101,500). You can check out what all the top firms pay on Legal Cheek’s Firms Most List.

Commenting on the uplift, a spokesperson for Freshfields, said:

“We have increased associate salaries with effect from 1 May. Our pay offering is a critical part of our talent strategy and reflects our continued commitment to attracting and retaining the very best talent in the legal market. We regularly review our compensation and benefits across the firm with this in mind.”

Freshfields — which offers 80 training contracts each year — confirmed trainee solicitor pay remains unchanged. Trainees earn £45,000 in their first year, rising to £51,000 in their second year.

Aside from the very enviable salaries, what’s it like working at Freshfields? The Fleet Street firm (which is set to relocate to Bishopsgate next year) performed well in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2019, scoring an A* for its lavish perks which include no less than an on-site doctor, masseuse and sushi chef, and As for its training, quality of work, peer support and social life. It could only muster Bs for its partner approachability, office and canteen, and Cs for its work/life balance and tech.

The magic circle are facing increased competition from US rivals, which are bulking up their presence in the City of London. It’s a move which has sparked the MoneyLaw trend which has seen junior lawyer pay swell to as much as £145,000 ($190,000). English-qualified rookies at the London offices of US firms including Akin Gump, Debovoise & Plimpton, Kirkland & Ellis and Latham & Watkins earn a dollar-pegged salary of £145,000 ‘straight outta’ their training contracts. It remains to be seen whether the rest of the magic circle follow suit…

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140 Comments

Anonymous

This is a new salary war.

(66)(1)

NQ

Bore off. Most people really like it here.

(6)(0)

Craig Ross

It sounds like an absolute bucketload of dough, but when you think about the rate they charge the solicitors out at, the number of hours they’ll have to bill and the low marginal cost of employing an extra solicitor, it’s probably good business. What does it cost to employ you, when they’ve already got an HR department, a chef (!), a licensing agreement from Microsoft, Westlaw and the like, professional indemnity insurance….Your total cost to them won’t be that much more than the £100,000. What’s the charge out rate per hour? £150? More? At £150 and six billable hours a day that’s £900, which – in 200 days – is £180,000.

(21)(6)

Anonymous

£150?! Their paralegals will be charged out more than that

(61)(0)

Anonymous

Agree. It will be more like north of £400.

(28)(4)

Anonymous

I reckon it’s probably higher than that. When my brother trained at an MC firm he reckoned as a trainee he had made the firm roughly £300-400k over the course of his training contract alone. Linklaters has 100 trainees at any one time. It’s easy to see how affordable this is for them.

(17)(0)

Anonymous

Probably closer to £1m. I worked out mine at about £800k over my TC. But everyone is forgetting pensions, insurances and other benefits which can easily double the cost of employing someone. £100k frankly seems a lot – must be due to FBD’s recent cost cutting which has made the place much worse to work at than it used to be. They need to pass on some of the profit to the ones suffering from it.

(2)(1)

Craig Ross

If I was an employer – and I know it’s more complicated in the UK now – I’d offer no benefits but increase the salary. It seems to be all that people look at. Oil companies do that. It puts you at the top of the league table, benefits are hard to cost out, people tend to underestimate their value (especially pensions)…

Anonymous

It’s illegal not to provide a workplace pension now, and lots of the other stuff is the firm’s benefit. I got injured once and with the firm’s private insurance was back in the office in 2 weeks rather than the 2 months I’d have had to wait on the NHS. If your flight is cancelled you need travel insurance to get back home quickly and into the office.

Also, people do actually expect these things now that they’re so ubiquitous and they’re much more expensive and annoying to organise for yourself than if you’re on a firmwide plan.

Anonymous

Unlikely – hours billed does not equal amount paid by client. After you factor client discounts/agreed rates and write-offs, that 300-400k is more like 150k

(1)(1)

MC Trainee

As a 2nd year trainee i bill out at around £250 +VAT. NQs are nearer the £400 mentioned and are certainly expected to bill more than 6 hours per day!

(19)(0)

THICC

DICKSON POON

(4)(3)

Anonymous

“Hello, is that Satan?”

“Yes.”

“I’d like to sell my soul please.”

“Whose affections do you wish me to manipulate so as to return your overwhelming and all-consuming love? Or is it an extraordinary skill you wish to possess?”

“Oh, nothing like that. I just want a high salary in return for the sorry and pointless activity of being a city lawyer.”

“OK. Here’s a US firm’s TC. No friends, free time, independent thought or interesting personality for you.”

(45)(45)

Anonymous

Found the regional guys

(73)(6)

US Firm NQ

Want some vinegar to go with that big chip on your shoulder mate?

(87)(5)

Anonymous

“OK. Here’s a US firm’s TC. No friends, free time, independent thought or interesting personality for you.”

No independent thought? You high mate?

(38)(6)

Anonymous

Stfu betacuck. You either handle US shops or you don’t

(10)(7)

Anonymous

You sad, sad little boy.

(3)(11)

Anonymous

Suck on my meaty choad you cuck

(22)(2)

Anonymous

Get off the internet and back to that revision. You don’t want to go into the second year with bad marks now, do you?

Anonymous

Let the games begin.

(28)(0)

Spbslave

When will SPB raise salary?!?!

(4)(0)

Spbslave2

Raised NQ salary to £73k. Still not enough IMO.

(0)(1)
(1)(1)

Anonymous

Rofl top whack

Anonymous

They are finally trying to keep people on qualification. Well done! It’s probably not the solution to all retention problems, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.
Selfishly, I hope this becomes the industry standard.

Ps: ‘plush headquarters’?…

(16)(0)

Anonymous

S&C pays about 140 plus bonus of about 15-20k.

Stop lying. Just because you haven’t updated their salary for 4 years doesn’t mean it is the same.

(15)(1)

Anonymous

Hear hear, as if S&C would pay just £101.5k (wtf such a random number). Fu*k you up the pooter LC, can’t even do your own research

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Big if true.

(1)(4)

THICC

DICKSON POON

(2)(5)

Anonymous

All well and good the doomsday predictors saying the end of biglaw is coming for 20 years now, but all the evidence proves otherwise. It’s a good time to get into law if you’re good enough.

(16)(0)

Anonymous

Considering how much gimp work NQs at Freshfields get to do, this is a phenomenal wedge

(20)(0)

Anonymous

The Most list is so outdated, US firms pay way more than LC report in addition to US firms paying both Summer and end of year bonuses.

(16)(0)

Anonymous

They definitely take their pound of flesh in return, though!

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Heard Links have some similar, but nothing on CC or A&O yet

(0)(9)

Anonymous

Doubt A&O will go for it now that they’re mulling the O’Melveny tie-up

(2)(4)

Anonymous

A&O should go for it . Otherwise, they would have a two tier compensation system (legacy A&O associates vs OMM associates) in London and other parts of the world. Wouldn’t that be a major source of friction post-merger?

Still waiting to hear from A&O, CC, S&M and HSF…

(1)(0)

Links 1pqe

Similar pay rise at links but not quite as high at NQ

(0)(11)

Anonymous

Mind telling the rates for 1-3 pqe?

(2)(0)

THICC

DICKSON POON

(11)(5)

Anonymous

It will be interesting to see how far this spreads. One would assume the MC will all rush to match (apart from Slaughters probably, who seem to have opted for the prestige/better benefits strategy), as will be better Silver Circle firms like Macfarlanes and Travers Smith.

Could be a real disaster for some of the mid market firms though who don’t have the means to support substantial pay rises without a hefty cut to PEP, but are already losing a lot of associates to better paying competitors.

(10)(0)

Anonymous

Yep, this is the end for the Pinsents and SPBs of the City

(6)(1)

Random passer-by

You know, not every person who works in City law is solely or substantially motivated to earn the most money they can.

(6)(37)

Anonymous

LOL!!!

Seriously mate, get back to your revision. Only a student would say that.

(25)(2)

Anonymous

Tbf, name another motivation

(1)(0)

Anonymous

I call bullshit on that one – I don’t work in the City, but if that were to change, it would purely be for monetary reasons.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

Doubt Travers or Macs will care about FBD’s NQ rate. They’re not even remotely comparable firms.

(9)(1)

Anonymous

Bizarre comment. Both of their corporate and lit teams broadly compete (albeit selectively) with the magic circle. It’s been a feature of the lateral sales pitch for each that they are the “smart alternative to the magic circle” for years and their pay has broadly tracked the MC for ages. If the MC all up their pay in some form, firms like Macs, Travers and Herbies will have to do something.

(10)(1)

Anonymous

How is the comment bizarre? It’s just saying that Macs or Travers won’t break the bank to pay their NQs more just because FBD raised salaries. HSF is a different story.

Also absolute lol @ Macs being “smart alternative to MC”, what shit have you been smoking lately?

(7)(2)

Law tech innovator and hustler

“Smart alternative to the magic circle” is pitch-speak for “We’re cheaper than the Magic Circle”. That is not a business strategy that is going to lead to associate pay rises for people at those sorts of firms, nor is it compatible with their general recruitment strategy of “hey everyone you don’t need to work as hard or smart here as at those big, bad sweatshops”.

(7)(2)

Kronos

Well, this leaves us with no other choice. Greenberg Glusker LLP proudly announce that from September 2019, our top, top titans will receive an increased NQ rate of 200,000 rupees per lunar year.

(27)(9)

Greenberg Glusker Future Trainee

Rumours have it the associate summer bonus will now pay out 500,000 Bangladeshi taka, in addition to a further 100,000 Mongolian tögrögs if the fee earner manages to belt several melodious verses by way of traditional throat singing.

(22)(8)

Anonymous

Yawn. Lacking imagination. Covers same points as all over posts:

1. Mentions obscure currency – Check.
2. Uses word “top” more than once – Check
3. Refers to “titans” – Check.

1/10 (and the 1 is a pity point)

(7)(8)

Anonymous

I only see reference to point one..

(0)(2)

Anonymous

Are you blind?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

How are the US firms going to stay apart from the pack? All US firms to full spot in London this summer?

(7)(1)

UN

Good salary for no life

(7)(1)

Anonymous

Any info on 1-3 PQE?

(5)(0)

Anonymagic

It’s usually a 10-15k increase p.a. the first 3-4 years.

(0)(0)

MC1Q

More like 6-8k until 4Q, then 3-4k from there onwards. At least at SandM.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

That’s pitiful

(0)(0)

Anonymagic

Doesn’t seem right.

Even firms like HSF have a steady 10-15k increase each year. Also, after 4PQE there should be a considerable “bump” in salary when a lawyer becomes a “senior associate”.

Salary increase needs to get more meaningful each year as people become more senior.

Woteva

DWF will be distraught. Andrew Leatherstring was in talks with Freshfields in Manchester for a potential merger. He planned for DWF‘s associates to do all the Freshfields paralegal work, in return he would get to rename DWF to DWFreshfields.

The salary increase here is too large for DWF to restructure its own salaries in line. It looks like associates at DWF will have to stay on the living wage.

DWF still had enough money to find the upper management‘s narcissistic lifestyles though.

Bummer.

(19)(1)

Anonymous

Who actually cares? Life is dreadful at all of these places. What is the point?

(9)(6)

Anonymous

Very true.

It’s all soul destroying.

(2)(1)

US NQ

More like wallet-destroying – as in I can’t physically contain the cash.

(40)(2)

Anonymous

:3

(0)(0)

Anonymous

*accused of a drunken consensual sexual encounter where the only potential issue is the retrospective regret of one party.

(1)(0)

Soon to be NQ

Question for readers: Would you stay at a top 50 regional firm that pays it’s NQ’s £32,000 – £34,000 a year (without a salary increase for the first 3 years post qualifying)? If no, what if you got on very well with your colleagues.

Not naming the firm.

(1)(10)

Anonymous

RUN FOR THE F*CKING HILLS AND NEVER TURN BACK!!!

(26)(0)

Anonymous

CMS Bradford office?

(4)(1)

Anonymous

depends on your prospects of getting hired at a city firm.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

if you’re at somewhere like Keoghs or Freeths your prospects of moving to a city firm are not good.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

Keoghs, absolute top

(1)(0)

Anonymous

That’s a nasty keogh you have there, you should get it seen to.

Anonymous

Getting close to V10 US firms then in terms of pay, but most people see NY inevitably going to $200k and beyond anyways

(9)(0)

Anonymous

FAT US DOLLA

(2)(2)

Kirkland Incoming Trainee

HOW DID I NOT APPLY TO THIS FIRM FUARRKKKKK

(6)(2)

KIRKLAND DIG BICK

FAAARRRRKKKKK SO MUCH FAT US DOLLAAAAAAAA

(2)(2)

Anonymous

The MC is still clearly viewed as a gold standard in the industry, and rightly so. But it’s tough to choose it over US firms that specialise in your particular area of interest.

Finance/PE people will always choose Kirkland/SullCrom over MC, just like Litigation lawyers will go Skadden/Gibson Dunn/Latham if they want to be at the top of the market for prestige/money/exit-opps.

(15)(26)

Anonymous

BuT tHe aLlurE oF ThE mAgIC CiRcLe gUYsSs

(16)(3)

Anonymous

This reeks of overly-keen first year law student

(26)(1)

Comments are closed.

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