News

Freshfields raises newly qualified solicitor pay to £100,000

By on
140

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…

For a weekly round-up of news, plus jobs and latest event info

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Newsletter

140 Comments

Anonymous

This is a new salary war.

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.

Anonymous

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

Anonymous

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

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.

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.

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

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!

THICC

DICKSON POON

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.”

Anonymous

Found the regional guys

US Firm NQ

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

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?

Anonymous

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

Anonymous

You sad, sad little boy.

Anonymous

Suck on my meaty choad you cuck

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.

Spbslave

When will SPB raise salary?!?!

Spbslave2

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

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’?…

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.

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

Anonymous

Big if true.

THICC

DICKSON POON

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.

Anonymous

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

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.

Anonymous

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

Anonymous

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

Anonymous

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

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…

Links 1pqe

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

Anonymous

Mind telling the rates for 1-3 pqe?

THICC

DICKSON POON

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.

Anonymous

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

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.

Anonymous

LOL!!!

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

Anonymous

Tbf, name another motivation

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.

Anonymous

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

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.

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?

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”.

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.

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.

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)

Anonymous

I only see reference to point one..

Anonymous

Are you blind?

Anonymous

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

UN

Good salary for no life

Anonymous

Any info on 1-3 PQE?

Anonymagic

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

MC1Q

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

Anonymous

That’s pitiful

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.

Anonymous

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

Anonymous

Very true.

It’s all soul destroying.

US NQ

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

Anonymous

:3

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.

Anonymous

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

Anonymous

CMS Bradford office?

Anonymous

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

Anonymous

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

Anonymous

Keoghs, absolute top

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

Anonymous

FAT US DOLLA

Kirkland Incoming Trainee

HOW DID I NOT APPLY TO THIS FIRM FUARRKKKKK

KIRKLAND DIG BICK

FAAARRRRKKKKK SO MUCH FAT US DOLLAAAAAAAA

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.

Anonymous

BuT tHe aLlurE oF ThE mAgIC CiRcLe gUYsSs

Anonymous

This reeks of overly-keen first year law student

Revolt Against Clown World

Bunch of parasites. What do they actually do that is of any worth to any real human being?

Anonymous

Seriously? You dumb cunt, go start an icecream business, get your first employee when the demand starts overreaching your personal abilities, then hire another 100. Borrow some more, expand some more, get some franchises, merge with a local competitor, disrupt B&J. Then you’ll see how damn useful a big law firm like Freshfields with its high-earning and hard-working lawyers can be to you and your entire company, without them you’d get eaten alive by the bigger fish in the market. Blind fools like with no understanding of business are what all young corbynists stick to like flies to manure, just because you cant see the value in something doesnt mean it isnt there. You’ll just likely never reach the stage where its relevant to you or those like you, cos youre by and large all worthless cunts with no vision or ambition for the future.

Fuck you.

Anonymous

U high blud ?

Anonymous

NO.

Anonymous

Hmm, written at 3.09am.

Either a first year law student sweating over his revision notes or a Freshfields gimp blozzing over documents?

Anonymous

Or written in another time zone.

Anonymous

Doubt [X].

Anonymous

Only first year law students are still awake late at night? No other explanation? Also look up “What’s the time in New York” and you might find an answer to your question.

Harwey

Yea ok fresher, now suck my balls

anon

freshfields looking like fresh fields with all that green £££ 🤪

anon

“Exclusive: MoneyLaw reaches the magic circle”

If this article is exclusive, why did The Lawyer report this before LegalCheek?

#OnlyLegalCheekThings…

Anonymous

Is it likely we could see US firms further increasing?

Anonymous

Let the salary game of wars commence

Anonymous

I reckon there will be one US law firm that will pay NQs 200k in 5 years no cap

Anonymous

CC will be pissed

Anonymous

Considering the infrastructure it has with re outsourcing ect that money is pretty excellent.

US Legal Recruiter

An interesting and much-needed move. For those who care to read here is my perspective, as a legal recruiter that has placed various candidates into corporate jobs at US and English firms:

You will not see US firms increasing above £145k as the top paying US firms peg their salaries to the dollar. For these firms, it is the legal market in the US which determines their pay, which currently is at $190,000 for a first year associate. If, however, the top US firms (Cravath, Kirkland, Skadden, STB etc.) raise their US salaries to $200,000, which may well happen this summer and if not, inevitably in summer 2020, then yes you will see their London offices raising salaries in line with this.

Therefore, I would not be surprised if you see US firm salaries hit £150,000 at the NQ level – this is pre-bonus by the way, which if you incorporate it into the total compensation would actually take the total to around £160,000 with the first year bonus.

For the US firms who pay below £130,000, I would not be surprised if they raise their salaries this summer to take them closer to the £135 – £145,000 range.

Separately, this is a great move by Freshfields and about time. Though I would be hesitant to read much into the discretionary bonus figures given the notoriously low bonuses that English firms pay. All this silly stuff about ‘exceptional’ associates being given X% bonus etc. is nonsense. If you are at a US firm it is pretty simple: hit your billable targets, get 100% bonus – there is no grey area with these unlike for the magic circle firms who use the odd exception to inflate their figures.

I imagine that the other magic circle firms will follow this move by Freshfields and that you will see salaries remain at this level for a few years, with very small incremental increases to around the £110-115,000 mark. It is probably enough to stop the average associate at these firms from trying to escape to a high-paying US firm, but ultimately for those associates attracted to higher salaries this will not keep them at their firm, irrespective of whether they pay £85k or £100k.

Overall, as mentioned, a good move for all lawyers at the top English firms!

Anonymous

STB and Skadden pay nowhere near £145k at NQ in London you retard, more like £125k.

Are you even a recruiter or just some fresher having a ferocious wank fantasising about US law firms before his May exams come up?

US Legal Recruiter

I can confirm that both Skadden and STB pay higher than £130,000 at the NQ level.

But sure, you keep relying on the out of date information on Chambers, Legal Cheek, etc.

Anonymous

Fight me bitch.

Anonymous

Tell us something we don’t already know

Anonymous

You’re a dickhead? Oh sorry, something we don’t know. There’s so many things you don’t know, I’m not sure what to choose.

Anonymous

Any insights on current NQ total compensation at Cleary, SullCrom, Gibson Dunn and Davis Polk?

Anonymous

130-140

Anonymous

Cleary is currently on £120k base, same-ish for Gibson Dunn. Davis Polk and SullCrom likely on £130-140 base as per OP.

Anonymous

All at 130k base or above.

US 2PQE

I’ve got this confirmed this week:

Cleary: £120K
Davis: £120K
SullCrom: £143K
Gibson: havent got this confirmed myself, but according to CS: £120K

There are 3 salary tiers w/ US firms:

1) the ones paying NY rate (depending on exchange rate between £140-147k): Kirkland, Akin, Milbank, STB, Debevoise, Skadden, SullCrom, Latham, etc.

2) the ones still severely out-paying the magic circle (£120-130K bracket): Quinn Emanuel, Gibson Dunn, Cleary, Ropes, Weil, etc.

3) the ones who will suffer most from Freshfields raise and the magic circle creeping closer (£100-115K bracket): White & Case, Covington, Shearman, etc.

Anonymous

Debevoise pays full NY whack?

MC 2PQE

Spot on. All confirmed to me recently when making a move.

Anonymous

The other important fact to remember is that bonuses in US firms are pretty consistently paid to nearly all associates at the top / headline figure. As an NQ this is around £10k for the Christmas bonus (depending on the conversion used) but the bonus figures rise steeply one the 2-3 year PQE mark is reached and end up being a sizable portion (c. 1/4 to 1/3) of overall compensation.

In case of interest the standard USD bonus scale adopted by all major US firms last Christmas is set out below.

Class of 2018 — $15,000 (pro-rated)
Class of 2017 — $15,000
Class of 2016 — $25,000
Class of 2015 — $50,000
Class of 2014 — $65,000
Class of 2013 — $80,000
Class of 2012 — $90,000
Class of 2011+ — $100,000

In addition, last year, summer bonuses were paid (ranging from $5-25k).

No UK firms pay bonuses in this way. Associates at US firms can generally view their salary as predictably including these (substantial) bonus amounts and, when viewed in this way, US firm remuneration far outstrips £100k at NQ level and far than any new MC equivalent once 2-3 years PQE is reached.

Anonymous

… but to give a full picture, on the flip side, a post-NQ salary increase usually takes a little longer at US firms, because they operate by class year rather than PQE level. So a September qualifier will generally have to wait 15 months (i.e. until the end of their first full year) before they move up to the next rung on the salary scale.

March qualifiers are generally treated the same as September qualifiers (so will have to wait 21 months for their salary increase), although I’ve heard anecdotally that at least one firm treats them as being from the previous class year (so they get their increase after 9 months).

£££

When you’re counting stacks like the lucky SOBs over at K&E, you don’t give a rats whether it takes 15 months or 21 months to move up the next rung bro.

Anonymous

Fake news – quite a few US firms bump march qualifiers to the year ahead.

Anonymous

As I said, I had heard anecdotally that at least one firm did this but from the people I have spoken to at a variety of US firms it seems the trend is to lump March qualifiers with September qualifiers.

Yes, of course people at the likes of K&E aren’t going to care all that much. The point was that at some firms (W&C etc) that pay around the £105-115k mark, the Freshfields increase takes them closer than it looks on paper (especially for March qualifiers who may have to wait nearly two years to get a pay rise).

As per my original post though, even with this taken into account, with bonuses included, US overall compensation blows this out of the water.

Anonymous

When you say top US firms may well increase to $200k this year and if not, inevitably in summer 2020, is this your own view or is it backed up by the market in NY? The first raises to $180k took nearly a decade to do back in summer 2016 but were long overdue whilst the raises to $190k last year took people by surprise. Are you basing your views on the last round of raises or are there firm sources? Curious to know as someone who works in a US law firm in London who peg pay to the NY rate.

Anonymous

Brothers! Sisters!

Jeremy Corbyn will tax this greed!

This salary is obscene! It needs to be appropriated for the many, not the few!!!

VOTE LABOUR FOR 75% TAX

Anonymous

Could insiders please share any insights on the morale of juniors at the firm? Is this to try and stop the exodus of juniors from Freshfields in the past couple of rounds?

Anonymous

Well, trying to silence the SRA by arguing jurisdiction points when a partner is accused by the regulator of sexually assaulting a drunk female junior colleague hardly goes well on the diversity front. Odd LC is so keen to sensor reports from its own stories…

Anonymous

There weren’t too many women partners promoted in the latest round either…

Anonymous

I think the word you’re looking for is “censor”…

Anonymous

When will LC provide a comprehensive, up to date list of NQ salaries?

Anonymous

Never. The US firms don’t sponsor this rag, so it’s not in LC interests to show they pay considerably more than the firms which do sponsor.

Anonymous

What do Fried Frank pay NQs?

Fried Wank victim

A broomstick where the sun don’t shine!

Fourth seat MC trainee

Good news indeed.

Anonymous

Fried Frank pay either 120k or 130k for NQs…don’t front.

Anonymous

Anyone know the NQ rate for Goodwin Proctor?

Sambo

About five fiddy five, top dollah

Anonymous

£115K

Anonymous

Well below market for a US firm.

Anonymous

DICKSON POON

Anonymous

Apparently Goodwin is a really great place to work.

Anonymous

White & Case only £105K

Anonymous

So based on 100 hours per week, that works out at £19 per hour. Well done.

Anonymagic

No one works an average of 100 hours per week, not even investment bankers in NY at Moelis & Company.

AVERAGE work hours are around 55-65 (depending on the department and the volume of work).

Rich dad

Focus on assets, not income.

Anonymous

But what’s nq rate at Goodwin?

Anonymous

Late to the party because I actually work.

Have a friend in the States who was involved with the famous AB InBev/SAB Miller buy. He called Freshfields’ London office without thinking about time difference to confirm something. The phone rang only once and some trainee picked it up. Trainee wasn’t able to do anything but confirmed it would be followed up on in a few hours. Turned out to be 4AM in London.

F*ck that.

Join the conversation

Related Stories