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CMS raises NQ solicitor pay to £73,000 plus bonus in package worth up to £87,600

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A rise of 4%

CMS has confirmed its newly qualified (NQ) talent will be 4% better off.

Those qualifying into the global giant’s London office were previously remunerated a base rate of £70,000. Their salaries have now grown to £73,000, with bonuses of up to 20% (£14,600) based on performance and “contribution to the firm”. This means newbie associates can receive a total pay package worth up to £87,600 with bonuses applied.

Legal Cheek’s Firms Most List shows NQs at CMS now out earn their peers at a plethora of London-headquartered outfits including Addleshaw Goddard, Mishcon de Reya and Osborne Clarke — all of whom award junior lawyers £70,000. CMS’ lot draw level with those at Squire Patton Boggs (£73,000).

The 2019 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

The firm confirmed regional pay remains unchanged. Bristol and Sheffield NQs are paid £50,000 and £41,000 respectively, while those in Scotland earn £40,000. CMS — which offers 65 training spots each year — remunerates its London-based trainee solicitors £43,000 in their first year rising to £48,000 in their second year.

CMS became the sixth largest firm in the UK by revenue and the sixth largest in the world by lawyer headcount in 2017 thanks to a three-way tie-up between CMS Cameron McKenna, Nabarro and Olswang.

In November 2016 we revealed CMS trainees-to-be had been offered sizeable sums of money if they agreed to defer their training contract start dates to February 2018. It is understood this was an attempt to accommodate the intakes of two additional firms. In April 2017 CMS confirmed 25 of its 46 would-be trainees had taken up the voluntary deal, equating to a pay out of £250,000.

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90 Comments

Anonymous

Peanuts.

K&E big boi

“A rise of 4%”

lololololololololololololololololol

Anonymous

It’s phat isn’t it

Anonymous

It’s embarrassingly meagre.

Latham NQ

Cute

Harold Johnsworthy

If inflation is 2-3%, then this is a 1-2% real terms rise. Basically no change.

Anonymous

Hefteh, very noyce

Anonymous

Legal Cheek, you complain about law firms not doing enough on diversity, mental health, work life balance etc., yet you do the dirty work of these firms who are mugging off students and their lawyers with these ridiculous “total package could reach” numbers to mask the disparity between the UK and US firms.

Do you have any principles?

Next time you write about Kirkland & Ellis I expect to see you write that total NQ comp can reach £190k though I’m not holding my breath.

Anonymous

All well and good if you want no life to go with it ….

Anonymous

The top end of the bonus requires c.1800 billed hours…not worth it.

Anonymous

Billed, not recorded – so well over 2000 recorded.

Not a trainee

Does anyone even record non-chargeable hours? Sounds like someone has been drinking the HR kool aid…

Anonymous

You also clearly don’t work at a law firm either. I can record all the time in the world, but if the client is not going to pay for it, or the time spent was disproportionate to a fixed fee or fee estimate given then it won’t be billed.

MC Associate

1800? Must be nice to work a 9-5.

Anonymous

Billed hours? That’s more than 2000 chargeable, definitely not 9-5

Anonymous

How many CMS associates get the full 20% bumper Modus bonus payout?

Anonymous

The losers with no life have a shot.

Anonymous

zero

Anonymous

lmao.

Anonymous

I know I speak for all when I say I just can’t get enough of these law firm NQ salary stories.

Report after report, day after day, just isn’t enough. We need dozens of these every hour.

Why limit these to UK firms? LC could cover earnings from everywhere around the world. Ukrainian IP firms, med-neg specialists in Tallahassee, criminal defence practices in Azerbaijan, and the rest.

Feed us LC! We live for endless accounts of junior solicitors’ income. There’s nothing boring about it at all. Really.

Anonymous

Couldn’t agree more. Anyone got the NQ at Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer Baratz LLP?

Latzer Baratz

LMAO

Anonymous

LC is basically 95% the reports about firm’s pay rises, retold materials from RoF, videos from Eve’s vlog and Love Island updates. Do you want to run them out of business?

Anonymous

Propa PHAT

Anonymous

One of you CMS associate mug-faces tell us the details of the bonus scheme.

Anonymous

Billed hours 10% and then an arbitrary 10% contribution …no one gets this.

Anonymous

rofl even the SPB slaveship has a better bonus scheme than this

Anonymous

Reasonably anorexic… expected better, CMS…

Anonymous

Only 4% and even with bonus way behind market rates …

Anonymous

In all fairness it will be based on what the firm can afford – not just what other firms pay. If K&E fund/asset management clients are willing to pay £450+ an hour for an NQ assisting on a PE due diligence so be it. I bet any construction sector clients of CMS, which they have a lot of, would not be willing to pay more than £250 for an NQ on a litigation or arbitration matter (If even that).

Nature of the work is what matters.

CMS 4th Seat Trainee

Thank god I am off to K&E to earn some real cash.

Anonymous

LMAO IS THAT THE ‘US MONEY TRAIN’ HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Kirkland NQ

I heard you had been recruited to replace our conceirge, who is quitting due to exhaustion. First job, clean the Lambo with some used £20 notes and get me an original Picasso for my office.

Anonymous

Picassos cost millions of pounds. It will take you decades to be able to afford one.

Kirkland NQ

I don’t generally communicate with the lower orders, but just so you know, it’s not that much if you’re a PE deal monster on the partnership express.

Don't Worry

Weasels like you chat so much breeze behind a screen. In reality you’re weak as fuck ITL and no one even notices you.

Latham NQ

Hefty

Continental Big Law

I don’t understand the sheer amount of criticism CMS seems to receive on this website (and this website only in such amounts).

Of course, CMS does not pay like MC/US firms, but it probably neither expects its lawyers to pull the same hours. After all, being in London and earning as a young professional 73k + a possibility of topping up with a bonus is pretty good given any such professional is likely able to almost always finish working before dinner.

As a comparison, most “top” European continental law firms in London pay much less and expect their associates to work way longer hours (with the added sporadic working weekend).

Anonymous

CMS associates have dinner from the local Leon or a deli-deal from M&S food. Unless in Corporate, then the team orders and eats together for up to an hour, safe in the knowledge they are there until gone midnight anyway.

US NQ

You contradict yourself. ‘Do not expect them to pull the same hours’ – the target for the bonus you refer to is 1800 billables. That is comparable to most US bonus targets (maybe 100 hours lower).

The point is if you’re billing 1800 hours (achieving the full whack CMS offer), why the hell would you do it for almost 50% of what you can get elsewhere?

Anonymous

This is complete nonsense.

CMS does not pay as well as MC/US but in many departments (not just corporatized ones) it does require long hours. The post above is correct. CMS associates step out of the office for Leon, M&S, Nusa, Chilango and then return to the desk for a few more hours of toil. No infrequently, corporate associates are clubbed together well into the evening and even on weekends passing the time – knowing that they’re there in any event.

It’s all relative – yes 73k + bonus is good by any stretch, but it’s certainly not market taking into account perceived brand, strength of client base etc. The reason for this is over-reliance on institutional clients who are unwilling to pay, demanding of huge write-offs and fossil partners riding out until retirement.

Anonymous

Mmm Chilango good choice

Anonymous

I prefer Chipotle, although it does give me the worst burrito farts

Anonymous

I’ll go for the Cannons Plaice.

Anonymous

The burrito bottom burps as I call then hehehe

Anonymous

Looool bet the Sheffield office is buzzing 🙄

Anonymous

How much longer can firms like this, who expect the same level of commitment and quality from their regional associates, continue to absolutely shaft them on pay? Particularly when a typical corporate deal will be staffed by associates in London and Sheffield say, and everyone is expected to chip in to the same extent. You can’t just say “right I earn £20k less than you lot so I’m off home at 5:30”!

Anonymous

£20k less? Try more like 30k. CMS toilers in Sheffield start on £42k NQ

Anonymous

Whats your point? Isn’t a 10 bedroom house only worth like 300k up there?

Anonymous

Clearly never been north

Anonymous

Was I being too generous? Would it in fact cost 100K?

Anonyman

Given their size and supposed caliber of work, £73k is not a very competitive salary when compared to the likes of Reed Smith, Baker McKenzie, Hogan Lovells, DLA Piper etc.

But in the grand scheme of things, it’s bonkers to see in the comments how self-entitled some people are sounding. You should count yourself lucky to be on a such a salary in your mid twenties!

Anonymous

Do you know how expensive it is to live in London, buy a property here, etc?

Anonymous

Hear hear, the more I think about it the more London appears like a total mugs game.

Anonymous

The whole country’s a mugs game. You’re probably worse off up north. Same hours, crap pay, and property market running away now the value for foreign investors has been sucked out of London.

Anonymous

Just to correct you on this ever so slightly, in the northern cities we can live a 10-20 mins walk from the office quite easily which is the perceived benefit

Anonymous

It isn’t really that difficult. On £73,000 you should be able to put away £1,500 a month whilst paying rent and living a reasonably good lifestyle. That is £18,000 a year saving. Add on another £1,000 for LISA first time buyer bonus.

Notwithstanding salary increases, any bonus, or previous savings/family assistance, you should easily have saved a 10% deposit and fees to purchase a £400,000 flat within commutable distance to the office after 3 years maximum.

Anonymous

What is a commutable distance from London for that price point… 1.5 hours each way?

£400k gets you nothing actually worth living in within zones 1&2, and if you’re not living in zones 1&2, what’s the point of being a City lawyer?

Anonymous

You can get a two bed flat in Zone 2 for 450k.

Anonymous

If you take away help to buy, you need around £100k in cash, liquid, to first-time buy a new build £500k property with a 15% deposit. You’re going to be quite senior as a City lawyer before that’s possible.

Anonymous

Or have rich parents.

Anonymous

How many parents nationwide have 50k odd to give away.

Anonymous

LOL … good luck with that

Anonymous

Sorry but putting away £1,500 a month while living a reasonably good lifestyle on £73,000 just isn’t possible. Some very basic calculations:

Assuming the person has a student loan (as most will), the take home pay is £3,800. Minus the proposed £1,500 savings and another £1,200 for rent and bills (assuming renting close to the office and including phone bill and gym), that leaves £1,100 for the month. The person of course then needs to eat which subtracts about £800.

Can a person really live a reasonably good lifestyle in London on £800? It’s definitely possible, but it relies on the person not having a social life.

The above also assumes the person doesn’t have a holiday at any point.

Anonymous

No need to spend £1,200 on rent, bills, gym and phone. Possible to do the lot within a grand.

Anonymous

Yes that doesn’t mean you should be able to afford to buy one aged 23

Anonyman

Newsflash, you don’t have to buy in London!

Who wants to buy a scabby two bed flat in Stratford for £500,000 when you could buy a farmhouse up North instead? Work in London until your early 30s (whilst renting with a friend) and then relocate to settle down.

Anonymous

Piss off

Anonyman

Gordon Bennett, mind your language boy!

Anonymous

“CMS’ lot draw level with those at Squire Patton Boggs (£73,000)”

ROFL congrats lolololol

Anonymous

Talk about being damned by faint praise.

Anonymous

How big are the jumps at CMS between PQE levels?

Anonymous

Every year will seem like a lifetime

Anonymous

LOL – pathetic …. 50% less than US firms.

Anonymous

What’s the 3 year PQ salary at CMS?

Anonymous

bout £80k, pretty shett

Anonymous

85k for 3PQE; 125k for 6PQE.

Anon

CMS doesn’t have lockstep promotions or pay though, and there is overlap between the pay bands. Junior Associates don’t necessarily cap out where Mid Level Associates start (which is £78k). You could be a Junior Associate on 85k at 2 years or a Mid Level associate on 100k+ at 4 years (more than the Senior Associate starting point of £95k). So there’s no such thing as a “3 year PQE salary” at CMS – it depends whether you’re a Junior or Mid Level Associate and whether, even if you’re a Junior, they want to put you in the Mid Level pay bracket. Not necessarily the most transparent system, but it means they can pay on merit and give rewards and incentives where they want to.

Anonymous

…which is totally shet. Effectively the firm can keep stiffing you on pay or giving their favourite gimps more whenever they wish. Nice.

Anon

….or they are “stiffing” the people who aren’t pulling their weight and rewarding the people that are, instead of giving everyone the same amount regardless of the value they add. It’s a pretty basic incentive and reward system.

Anonymous

Yes. Unlike at a US firm where it is expected that everyone is busy and then everyone is remunerated the same at each PQE, this system makes people subject to the whims of greedy partners, favouritism, misfortune with write-offs and being put on clients who don’t pay…much rather be expected to just work hard in good faith and be rewarded and not have to worry about being paid ‘competitively’ with my peers.

The truth is that most firms simply cannot afford the US model and have to make savings/pay more in a way which is directly linked to hour-to-hour billing performance rather than on what is equitable in the spirit of everyone knuckling-down when the time comes.

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