Open thread: What are magic circle firms REALLY paying their newly qualified lawyers?

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Help us fill the gaps by sharing your insider salary info below the line

It’s been another summer of hefty pay rises for junior lawyers across the City.

With Freshfields upping newly qualified (NQ) solicitor base rates to £100,000 back in May, it didn’t take long for the other members of the magic circle to splash the cash and seemingly match the Anglo-German giant’s big money move.

But who among the City’s elite fivesome is really paying the most?

Well, unfortunately, this question has become increasingly difficult to answer, with many City players (not just members of the magic circle) now preferring not to disclose their base rates, opting instead to provide a salary figure inclusive of bonus.

The 2019 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

Motivations for doing so aside, the new approach has not gone down well with Legal Cheek readers. One commenter wrote: “All firms should be obligated to advertise base salaries excluding any bonuses. The current trend of throwing in every bonus under the sun is very misleading.” Another chipped in: “The reality is that there is the ability to earn that amount, not a manifest right to it.”

By way of a reminder, here’s the salary information which has been made public:

Magic circle NQ money moves 2019

Firm New salary base rate Bonus
Allen & Overy Not given Sign-on bonus takes salary to £100,000
Clifford Chance Not given Discretionary bonus takes salary to £100,000
Freshfields £100,000 Discretionary bonus available on top of £100,000
Linklaters Not given Discretionary performance bonus takes salary to £100,000
Slaughter and May £92,000 Bonuses of around 8.5% take salary to over £100,000

So in a bid to shine a light on the fresh figures, we’re calling on our readers, many of whom will work for the firms in question, to share their insider knowledge in the Legal Cheek comments section below.

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CC base 92k
Binary Bonus guaranteed at 8k (unless you’re really shet)


Linklaterz trainee

Linklaters base – 95k
A&O – 93k
CC – 92k



FBD base is 100k for CMF (NQ), with a discretionary (but easily attainable) fixed bonus of £2.5k available on top.


Panicked graduate

Ive got offers from cleary gottlieb, CC, Links and Freshfields – where should i go??? I couldnt get into the bigger US firms so accept i will be poor. Just want good quality training now and a good time


TrollFarms Inc.

2/10 for effort, but must try harder



I did think this sort of insipid flaming had stopped 5 years ago. Even the least impressive of troll losers can do much better than that codswallop. The OP seems tragically devoid of wit. And that explains the punctuation too. Bit dim, thinks he is funny.



I say get the MC training so Links is by far the most ideal choice, then go to Latham after. My training is sub par at best and abusive too. Clifford is great but different culture.



“most ideal”


OK???? shut your rancid mouth. did u even get an offer?!!!! NO you reed smith asshole



Take cleary then move to Kirkland after a bit



Rofl ok



What are the 1 – 3 PQE rates for each firm



Tree fid



Why is no one talking about the great non-pecuniary benefits of being a MC NQ?



Because 2 years of photocopying/bundling/ghosting legal update blog posts and hiding from partners and clients in the janitor’s closet leaves few benefits unless moving to another MC/SC firm.

A family member is a partner at an IP boutique: her firm took on an MC NQ (at a fairly hefty price tag). They were completely useless in front of clients and couldn’t function without consistent supervision. NQ didn’t last the probation period.


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