City pay war latest: Herbert Smith Freehills ups NQ package to £105,000

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New six-figure sum includes bonus

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has become the latest big legal player to join the City’s junior lawyer pay war.

The global outfit confirmed this afternoon that its newbie associates will be eligible to receive a “total compensation package” of up to £105,000 including bonus. The move comes almost exactly a year after HSF bumped junior lawyer pay by 13% to £93,000, again including bonus. This means today’s move equates to an increase of roughly 13%, based on the figures made public by the firm.

HSF said the new pay structure places greater emphasis on lawyers’ performance and contributions to the firm and less on post qualification experience (PQE). Legal Cheek‘s Firms Most List shows trainees receive £44,000 in year one, rising to £48,000 in year two.

The 2019 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

Ian Cox, executive partner, UK and EMEA, said:

“It is important that we continue to attract and retain the best talent to deliver the service our clients expect and deserve. Newly qualified associates — along with all our junior associates — represent a key pool of talent and the future of the firm. We are determined to nurture their talents and help them realise their full potential at HSF, and to reward them competitively whilst doing so.”

Drawing comparisons in terms of pay between the City elite is becoming increasingly more difficult, with many firms now opting to combine base salaries and bonuses.

For example, Linklaters announced yesterday that its NQ pay package now sits at £100,000 including bonus. This followed similar announcements (salaries combined with bonuses) by Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy. Slaughter and May and Freshfields, however, did disclose new base rates of £92,000 and £100,000 respectively but stressed performance bonuses would likely take NQ earnings over and above these figures.

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Nice wedge. Very cool.

Kirkland NQ

Maybe if you’re homeless, yeah!

Big Digs Higgs

You tell em minion!

A. Mags gets all the shags

That’s it my man


Shut up Adrian

Stevie LuLu

Play nicely chaps


How is like working in kikland?

Tommy tank

Lmao kikland

LLB Student

Other than HSF, I’m wondering which UK firms are well-renowned for litigation/dispute resolution and have the most NQ vacancies in those practice areas?

Any comments would be appreciated.


A&O, CC, Freshfields, Linklaters and Slaughters are all better.

Hogans are decent, Ashurst is good.

Real question is why UK? Debevoise and Quinn Emanuel are very good (and 143 NQ). Three Crowns also fantastic.


Be very careful about wanting to go into disputes from the get-go. Nothing wrong with it, but exit opportunities are limited and there aren’t always very many NQ jobs either.

LLB Student

is there a particular reason exit opportunities are limited for disputes?


Very few in-house litigation roles, especially if you end up doing niche litigation.


I’m fairly sure Three Crowns is just a local village pub.


Good luck with 3C. you’ll be sucking the psychotic partner’s taints in no time


In disputes, HSF wipes the floor with A&O, CC, Links and Slaughters. Only Freshfields is arguably superior

Hogan Lovells is very good at disputes, but most would place HSF over it. Ashurst is nonexistent in disputes – have no idea where the above commentator got the idea that it was any good.

Debevoise and Three Crowns are superior to HSF in international arbitration but HSF is superior in traditional litigation. Quinn Emmanuel are obvs very strong but the work it does from HSF is a bit different (Quinn is big in plantiff side cases). In any case, Quinn doesnt offer TCs so if u want to go there, u cant go wrong with starting at HSF


Broadly agree with this.

I wanted to be a disputes lawyer from the get go, but I think there is some value in going to a generally good firm on the off chance that you like another department more. In which case, you’re as good going to the MC firms above as you are HSF – you can always move laterally if you want to at a later stage.

Go to US firms if you want the money, but the environment/working hours expectations is going to be different.

Not sure why you’d want to start off somewhere like Three Crowns unless you’re absolutely sure that’s all you want to do.

While it’s changing – look at the make up of US firms and somewhere like TC – lots of laterals from other firms listed above.


Need to get to a US firm ASAP. Particularly BAKER BOTTS or SPB


If you want to do disputes work, become a barrister. Otherwise, you’ll spend your time paper-shuffling and sitting behind counsel in court.

City trainee

HSF aren’t actually particularly good at disputes. What they ARE good at is sending incredibly aggressive and intimidating letters to put people off disputing things in the first place.

Good litigators go to better shops than HSF. HSF is for those people who stood behind the bully at school shouting “YEAH!” after every sentence.


Can’t reply to City trainee directly and without wanting to impugn his (it’s always his) extensive experience in the subject, what they’ve said is just nonsense on so many grounds:
1. HSF are no more aggressive in a Disputes context than anyone else, and I’d argue far less aggressive than the Claimant firms.
2. Even if you’re right, being aggressive enough to stop claims taking place (if you rep the Defendant) is a pretty good skill to have.
3. Not all Disputes involves any sort of oppositional letter writing. Investigations and regulatory departments (i.e. one of the biggest areas in modern disputes) do work which involves being as calm and pleasant as you can be while being very firm about the relevant facts.
4. Which shops do they go to, City Trainee? I am sure the MC litigation depts have lawyers as good or better than many HSF lawyers, but the fact is that HSF is top tier in Disputes, has better scale than most firms, and gets some of the most interesting cases.

LLB Student

Thanks for the detailed response. US firms seem to have much longer hours and less training. Whilst MC hours are also long, the training seems to be much more extensive.


Training /may/ be better at MC. No guarantees. Unless you work at K&E the hours won’t be worse.


They will be. Look at hours worked or RPL at HSF vs CC vs Links vs most US firms. It’s a straight upward line.

I’ve worked at two of the above and have close friends at the others, there is a difference in expectation of hours worked and actual hours worked in each.

Obviously a super conscientious/hard working lawyer is likely to work similar hours at HSF vs Latham or Quinn but they are outliers at HSF.


No idea where the LC myth comes from that US hours are the same as MC. I actually work at an MC and know many at US firms and the expectations and reality are dramatically different. Not every US firm etc etc, but on average there is definitely a difference.


Addleshaws and BCLP foo





Tommy tank

Baker Butts?


It’s your choice to include bonuses.

Every other industry and news outlet would state base salary.

Could you explain the reasoning why you include bonus? Instead of deleting this comment, respond as to whether you are paid by law firms to post favourable content/ inflate salaries, in order to generate goodwill from graduates.

Not at HSF (honest)

Many leading UK City firms no longer disclose base rates (A&O, Links, CC, Macs) It’s their way of (artificially) closing the gap between themselves and the genuinely top paying US firms.

Show me where HSF’s new base rate has been reported?


Macs did. £85,000.


a bit misleading when 50% will not be eligible for the bonus


Can anyone disclose the base NQ salary?




You’d have to guess it’ll be c. 85k.

That assumes any NQs are getting 20k bonus – I’d imagine that is extremely rare but could be possible in one or two cases.

HSF trainee

It’s 90

trainee number 1

Next up at bat is Baker McKenzie. The trainee-body is patiently waiting for the partnership is react.


The BM partners are wayyyy too cheap – I predict we’ll be way below the MC/SC. They’ll probably increase by £1k (up from £77k). The training partner will then send an email saying we should be grateful for the rise and that we’re better than other firms (apparently). We’ll also be told that people stay at the firm for the “friendly culture”, not the salary…


Poppycock. Bragging about how much a salary is when including the bonus is effectively irrelevant. This is simply fake news.



Thx for deleting my comment instead of giving a simple answer


Cool. Too bad I’ll get rejected for not being named Hugo Turnbull VII…


I’m not sure where you are getting the idea that HSF is more posh than any other major city firm…..


Legal Cheek and LinkedIn profiles brah


Let’s be honest, these articles are just the blogger ones with a different coat of paint.
That is to say they’re all pretty much the same.

LC Readership


What are the following up to these days?:

Lord Harley.

Charlotte Proudman.

Henry Hendron.


That bloke who rents high performance cars and markets himself as the best lawyer in the universe.



P Warne

LOL no.


Congratulations, LC. It has taken you three articles to finally phrase a statement that does not express that all NQs will receive the full package.

Good job you aren’t qualified. Those other two articles are equivalent to professional negligence-level claims.


God I love these stories. Legal Cheek feels like the only place I can show my unbridled greed on this earth.

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