Allen & Overy cuts NQ solicitor pay by 10%

By on

COVID-19 response measure follows Slaughter and May salary decrease

Allen & Overy (A&O) has cut the salaries of its newly-qualified (NQ) solicitors by 10% in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The magic circle firm confirmed this morning that the salaries of its September 2020 qualifiers will drop from a minimum of £100,000, comprised of salary and sign-on bonus, to £90,000. This represents a 10% decrease from 2019.

Last year, A&O upped its NQ pay package by as much as 20% from £83,000 to stretch to the six-figure-sum, following the summer City pay war.

Fellow magic circle firm Slaughter and May confirmed a month ago that its NQs will earn £87,000, a reduction on the £92,000 base salary, while Linklaters is understood to be still considering its NQ pay position.

A spokesperson for A&O said in a statement: “Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and in line with measures we have introduced across the firm in response to it, we have made the decision that lawyers qualifying in September 2020 will receive a minimum total cash of £90,000, comprised of salary and a sign-on bonus.”

The statement continued:

“We would like to take this opportunity to recognise that this is a time of great concern for students wondering what the future will hold for them and to state that we have not reduced recruitment levels for the next generation of Allen & Overy lawyers.”

Secure your place: The UK Virtual Law Fair Series 2020

The spokesperson confirmed to Legal Cheek that A&O’s second year trainee cohort will remain on first year pay in line with the firm-wide pay freeze. First year trainee solicitors earn £46,500.

Today’s news is a marked shift on last year’s narrative in which we saw City firms compete with their US rivals in London to top the NQ pay league. Some US firms pay their newbie associates a dollar-pegged salary in excess of £130,000.

Freshfields, however, has decided against an NQ pay cut in spite of the uncertain financial climate brought about by COVID-19. The magic circle’s top payer will continue to pay its rookie talent £100,000.

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Newsletter



Good move by A&O

Because of this decision, in a few years’ time they will be paying market leading salaries. Firms not cutting won’t be able to invest. You heard it here first.



Can I have some of what you’re smoking?



A moist outfit with a moist reputation. Unsurprising



Why is A&O doing this and not Freshfields, Kirkland or Latham?


Another Anon

Kirkland is doing worse I’m afraid, just don’t expect a public announcement about it.



How do you mea Kirkland ‘Doing worse’? No chance


Kirkland NQ

There must be a rogue associate who was dumped for being a dud and is now covering the internet with slander about Kirkland making cuts. Kirkland has amongst the highest PEP and RPL, the strongest PE practice and arguably the strongest restructuring practice in the world. PE clients have still been doing deals in the downturn. LOL at the idea of it being even vaguely under financial pressure. If the slander were true, RoF, LC, ATL, TLS, etc, would be all over it.


The Lawyer

Actually, Simpson Thatcher took the highest RPL in London was in the headlines the other week… The significant number of departures from Kirkland was heavily covered by Bloomberg, The Lawyer etc… it happens even when it’s not a crisis so it’s the same old BS tbh lol Why bother with a firm that already has so many departures

Vincent Van Gogh

Slander being a spoken statement…

Libel being a written one…

Kirkland NQ

The departures you’re talking about are non-equity partners going to become equity partners at other firms. It’s part of the Kirkland model.


Vincent better learn the difference between libel and slander, since his definition is a touch 19th century…

Not an NQ

Yes, you’re delusional if you think they’ve all gone willingly or for equity. If they had to produce the same statistics for associates the picture would be even worse.


We’re as busy (if not busier) than ever. Don’t pay attention to the poorly informed naysayers.



Not a “Nay Sayer” at all! Kirkland is cost cutting and those who say the opposite are trying to mislead. Kirkland is too proud to admit it which is why it does not do it publicly because it doesn’t look good after all the trumpeteering.



Why is everyone so obsessed with Kirkland on this website? There are other US firms in the city who pretty much pay their NQ’s the same – Akin Gump, Willkie Farr etc. Tekkers to Kirkland for generating so much interest but it’s definitely overdone

What is that shet

Wilkie Farr rofl lmao

Eat my shorts

Akin Gump and Willkie Farr are shit – your mentioning them as K&E rivals demonstrates you don’t know what you’re talking about. And Willkie doesn’t pay NY rates in London.


Have NQ salaries been cut at all? Trainee salaries been cut? Retention rate of trainees dipped? Future trainees being deferred?


US Firm Creditor Entity

The US firms are also largely leveraged up to their eyeballs to fund their aggressive growth of market share (payouts to lure partners etc.) – whereas MC tend to be pretty conservative in their own financials. Will be interesting how some of these manage the current situation.



No major US firm has any debt I thought. Do you have evidence for your statement?



Lol leverage is not necessarily debt, In the context of a law firm it means the ratio of non-equity partners/associates (employees) vs equity partners bringing in the business.


Re-read the comment and poster.


I’m completely shaken by this news. This is devastating and should be national news. Allen & Overy is an outstanding firm and if they are cutting NQ pay by 10% they must be seriously worried about the global economic outlook. I’m going to need some more time to process this. Wow… just wow.


Jumping to conclusions

Might just be worth pointing out that I don’t think anyone is actually having their pay cut at A&O! The rate of pay for NQs in September will be at the lower level, but noone who has already qualified (eg in March) will be having their pay cut!

It’s not like junior lawyers are underpaid even at the new level. It just moves things back toward a marginally more sensible level, following Freshfields daft move last year.

I imagine most big firms will follow suit, but probably quietly!



Because A&O have FUSE stuck so far up their own ass that they tend to forget that they’re fucking irrelevant



EVERY PERSON WHO WORKS AT A&O: Here at A&O we INNOVATE, because we are INNOVATIVE, which makes us INNOVATORS, oh and when we are not INNOVATING- did I tell you about fus-

ME:😒 Do you pay big bucks or not?



Anon 1

Kirkland and Latham are far, far more profitable (mostly due to being dominant in America, focussing heavily on private equity, and having the sort of aggressive hypercompetitive culture that attracts and keeps high-performing partners). As for why A&O is doing worse than FF; they’re a poorly performing brand who’ve been desperate for a US merger to prop them up for years. This isn’t a surprise to anyone.


Reality Check

Yes, Kirkland is “BOOMING” with M&A and private equity transactions haha ONLY pre-Covid though and even pre-Covid it saw a dramatic drop in transactions compared to previous years – it is not doing as well as it would like the outside world to think. You can boast as much as you like, I know enough insiders.


Reality Checked

I don’t think Kirkland really cares what the outside world think. The only thing that matters is clients and results. According to the public filings they’ve been killing it in bankruptcy work recently. Haters will always hate number one.


Re-check your reality

Mumber 1? The magic circle firms have all the number ones across the board if you bother checking the legal publications. Yes, Kirkland is doing restructuring, I’m sure it can fit 2,500 lawyers across offices all in that practice group, not to mention tons of salaried partners aka mid-level associates.

Other than that, Kirkland has very few number ones. You should also know that being awarded “number 1s” is all about sponsorships and advertising and inflated descriptions of its client matters, which is how US firms get their rankings.

Re-check your reality

Number 1? The magic circle firms have all the number ones across the board if you bother checking the legal publications. Yes, Kirkland is doing restructuring, I’m sure it can fit 2,500 lawyers across offices all in that practice group, not to mention tons of salaried partners aka mid-level associates.

Other than that, Kirkland has very few number ones. You should also know that being awarded “number 1s” is all about sponsorships and advertising and inflated descriptions of its client matters, which is how US firms get their rankings.


Why not Freshfields? They have cut/deferred significantly from the top very early (to be commended), are no.1 ranked for M&A deal volume throughout coronavirus, and have huge mandates in the Disputes, Antitrust/Competition, Restructuring & Insolvency teams.



Ana oop



This is only half the story. A&O’s retention rate for September 2020 will be 90% plus. To be commended.



And those not retained will walk straight into top US firms given their MC training.


US firm TC holder

‘Straight into’??
You must be kidding. All lateral hires will be severely reduced if not completely frozen right now.

Pipe down and don’t fool yourself into thinking Slaughters,for example, or any magic circle on your cv is a free pass to anywhere in the city.

US firm training (bar a few satellite offices) is getting just as good if not better than MC now. They’ve been pumping a lot of money into recruiment and BD

Regardless, not sure why you’d need ‘semimars’ on completion documents, just do them yourself or watching a partner doing it is ten times more invaluable.



Theres also like 400/500 magic circle trainees each year, not that special and especially not enough places at US firms for you


Graduate Assistant

Lol…Just look at how good Kirkland’s training is, 4 years later and all the people featuring in its UK recruitment brochure promoting the firm are no longer working there! Oh..except for the the “training principal” whoae supposed to be charge of the training programme.

“Here is a comparison of the 2014/2015 K&E UK graduate recruitment brochure and the 2014/2015 Linklaters UK graduate recruitment brochure to see whether the persons interviewed are still working at those firms today.

K&E features 5 lawyers on pages 1, 2, 7, 10 and 14 —> Only 1 lawyer still works at the firm (the training principal on pg. 1)

Linklaters features 5 lawyers on pages 8, 14, 18, 22 and 28 —> 4 out of the 5 lawyers are still working at the firm.

Link to K&E brochure:

Link to Linklaters brochure:


Kirkland NQ

You post this on almost every article mate. What’s your point? Kirkland dumps its betas more readily than Links? It’s true.


Cool empirical study brah. When you can retire before 10 pqe there, is it any surprise.

MC Associate

From my experience in (as a junior in the MC), the people joining US firms on qualification are not exactly the “pick of the bunch”. They are either people who didn’t get an offer, or (given some US firms require a contract offer to be in place, as a form of vetting), people who got an offer but not in their preferred (usually competitive) seat. Granted, you will get juniors who make the lateral move in their first few years, but at least for the NQ round, people tend to want to stay, and the US firms pick up the rest.

Fair play to them though. I actually think its quite comical when a previous trainee, who everybody had regarded as useless, gets to lord it over their old team with their big pay packet and demanding top-tier-PE-sponsor terms.



Hahahahahah no chance, US firms recruit from other US firms or smaller UK firms at associate level



As a recruiter I can tell you this isn’t true at all. MC lawyers, including trainees, get hounded by headhunters on behalf of US firms. The training at the MC is phenomenal in comparison. You may also want to have a look at the number of MC lawyers who leave to go to US firms and then come back again because the culture is so toxic (it’s not always because they don’t ‘cut it’, before you say that) and they get pigeon holed into one type of transaction with 1 partner. Thrilling I’m sure!



Getting hounded by a headhunter doesn’t mean you get hired. US firms generally do not view magic circle NQs any more valuable than other UK firms. They’d much prefer to take a trainee who has had much higher responsibility at a smaller firm than a magic circle trainee with very little actual experience – verbatim for the managing partner of a huge US firm. Stop the arrogance of being a ‘Magic circle’ lawyer, go and get some proper on-the-job experience and sing your praises from the deals you’ve worked on rather than the historic name of a British firm.


Also, you can get as pigeon-holed at magic circle firms as US firms. Freshfields split their teams into 10s of tiny specialist sub-teams. Could you get any more niche?


How can you be special as a magic circle trainee when there are over 450 of you each year…..


As someone who is very regularly instructed by US firms to find the best lawyers, from the MC, I’m inclined to respectfully disagree. We’re under a retainer, so we are given specific people to target; we are not regularly asked to contact those at small firms/those working on lower value deals – why would we be? MC trainees are some of the most intelligent and well rounded individuals in the country. Your comments are extremely naive. Remember it’s c. 400 out of c. 7000 lawyers qualifying. Yes, they’re special. Sorry to burst your bubble.


As someone who is very regularly instructed by US firms to find the best lawyers, from the MC, I’m inclined to respectfully disagree. Also, a headhunter is under a retainer, so we are given specific people to target – we are not regularly asked to contact those at small firms/those working on lower value deals – why would we be? MC trainees are some of the most intelligent and well rounded individuals in the country. Your comments are extremely naive. Remember it’s c. 400 out of c. 7000 lawyers qualifying. Yes, they’re special. Sorry to burst your bubble.


Cool story recruiter brah, hope your furlough is going ok. Redundancy in October yah?

Wah Wah!!

I love all these butthurt MC trainees with an inferiority complex having to diss other MC firms and other US firms, when they are just 1 of 100 trainees each intake. Literally the easiest firms to get into.



lol…if you can’t qualify in an MC firm you most definitely not qualify in a US firm, so no they will not be going anywhere



Standards, quality of advice and individuals at US firms are much lower compared to MC/Silver firms – fact

(I’ve been in several positions where I’ve had to compare the two…)



Agreed. Aggression is not quality.


A top silver circle firm like Travers over A&O and Slaughters all day.


TS slavedriver

Rofl back to your cage gimp



Agreed – smaller intakes, better training, more responsibility and most importantly greater loyalty when it comes to retention!



Slaughter and May has the best of both worlds. We work on transactions that are every bit as complex as the so-called Magic Circle firms whilst retaining the collegiate atmosphere of a smaller firm.


Jonathan's Dad

This is literally the opening of every talk from Slaughters ^



This is so true, I worked at Slaughters and they were pretty intelligent and very down to earth, on the flip side Links across the road had right thickos and were up their own asse*. I’d rather chew up my arm then work there…



99% of law students: but Mum it’s MAGIC CIRCLE!!!!

Mum: but they don’t pay top whack anymote sweetheart

99% of law students: cry.



1 % (at US firms): Smile with glee


Alien & Ovaries

Say it with me: #nolongerMC



BCLP retention rate is going to be over 80%, but NQ pay is likely to fall for them too.

The vast majority of firms will cut NQ pay – most of them won’t actually need to, but now they have an excuse.


Interested Party

Source on the BCLP pay dip?



Don’t think there’s confirmation of pay just yet. If they were sure it would stay the same, that would have already been confirmed.


Leg recuiter

They’ve already slashed NQ pay deeper than Jack the Ripper. It’s a shet mid-market shop, avoid



BCLP’s an average firm compared to Magic Circle firms, white shoe US firms and their competitors like Latham and Kirland, as well as a few other shops like HSF, but that still makes them a very good firm.

If you’re not sure about the area of law you want to go into and haven’t gotten an offer from the Magic Circle/Latham/White & Case/HSF, they’re very much a firm that you should consider.

They have some excellent teams and some average ones across a spread of areas (some that aren’t really common in other firms), excellent culture (but the merger might change things in the long run, too early to tell) with a lot of homegrown partners and senior associates, individual teams have decent hours compared to equivalent teams in the city for the most part and they do some good pro-bono and outreach work.

Any firm that’s not in the Magic Circle, aren’t great in PE or pay under £120k get a lot of generic flak about being ‘shet mid-market’, which isn’t helpful given that lot of applicants actually look at legal cheek for insight (though anyone who bases a lot of their opinions on what they read here is being incredibly foolish).


Puff Piece Pete

Hi BCLP HR, nice to have you join us here.


Cool story brah, thx for the insight


Love how you slipped White & Case in there amongst titans like K&E and Latham.

W&C is one of the most bland, soulless US outfits out there. Literally their only seeking point is guaranteed international secondments. Which now won’t be much of a thing really at least for a while.
The trainees I’ve met from W&C have been some of the least impressive I’ve ever come across


@Anonymous at 5:40pm – can’t directly reply to you for some reason.

Didn’t put W&C there because they’re a stellar firm – despite having some great teams, their work as a whole is pretty cookie cutter in London.

Included them because they are a rung above BCLP, and are one of the few ‘full service’ London firms and take a fair amount of trainees – if I was advising a person with offers for both firms, there would be no hesitation in recommending W&C over BCLP unless the person had a particular interest in certain teams (planning, real estate aligned departments, competition, tech).

W&C have better corporate, finance and disputes teams than BCLP, pay £25k more for relatively similar hours, and guarantee international secondments (though as you acknowledged, that’s not too relevant at the moment).

Is your training going to be materially different at either place? No, but that’s the case for any firm that takes 15+ trainees, does upper mid-market work or better and is full service. Will W&C look better on your CV? Yes. Will the quality of deals you get in the core teams be better on average? Yes.


Why the hell would any young lawyer with half a brain want to work at an MC firm anymore? Same hours, much better pay at a US outfit.


MC over US any time

Looks like someone hasn’t worked at a US firm before!!! And if you have, you must be living in a cloud or found a nice comfy corner unlike the experience of so many people…



Perhaps people with half a brain want the best quality and variety of work, rather than being mindless drones acting for one partner only and not gaining exposure to anything else? Often in a highly sexist and sometimes even racist environment. Just a thought.

Also, it’s NOT the same hours. Stop saying this. US billable hours are at least 200-400 hours over MC and that’s not including the additional admin at many due to lack of enough business services.



Meh. The people who actually work at US firms and who moved from MC firms know the hours are exactly the same. Same partners (literally), same clients (literally) as their old shops and similar hours targets (1800 or so) for lockstep bonus purposes. The magic circle marketing teams have an incentive to fear monger. It stops associates leaving. It rationalised why they earn 50% what their peers do. It’s sad.



You must have a serious problem with US firms? Pretty bitter clearly, didn’t get that TC or NQ position?



It’s completely misleading to state they’re the same hours. For example, CC billable hours were 1,800 but have now been dropped completely. At somewhere like K&E you’re expected to do 2,200-2,600 billable hours. At the smaller US firms with similar billable targets to MC, they also have to pick up all their admin so the hours they do is definitely over the MC. This isn’t my opinion it’s a statement of fact having known many who have experienced both.



K&E associates on here are laughing at you buddy. The average for associates last year was c 1900. 1800 is what you need for the lockstep bonus. There is no expectation of 2200-2600. It’s a lie you tell yourself to overcome your envy.


Ultimately it is retention which matters. A 60-70% is basically throwing 30-40% of the cohort to the unemployment wolves in this market. Ordinarily where X firm took 80%, 20% would be going elsewhere and retention could be indicative of musical chairs – someone from X firm goes to Y, Y firm goes to X. But in this market, no firm is recruiting laterally, many firms are protecting their own, some trainees are happy to qualify into areas they wouldn’t have usually selected.



I have yet to meet anyone at A&O who wasn’t the dullest person. They are all dead inside and have the personality of a burnt watermelon.



Seems like you haven’t met a single person from AO. Go back to your revision and tc applications to high street firms



ok ao boomer


'Land NQ

Rank the magic circle firms below



The Rest



1. Slaughter and May
(then Kirkland)
2. Freshfields
3. Clifford Chance
4. Allen Overy
5. Linklaters



You wish, buddy






I would wholly agree with Jonathan. Take a look at the Profit Per Partner rankings and you’ll see what I mean. Slaughters bats it out of the park, in league with the best of the US firms. The rest of the MC barely make over £1m per partner, compared with S&M which is almost double.

This is the stuff that matters, not shabby NQ salary wars.


don't read too much into BS

Aha…well here are some news for you; PEP is only an average and considering S&M has very few partners it means that their PEP will be higher, whilst for example FBD since it has a lot more partners there is a much greater PEP spread which would bring the average down. However pragmatically it has a lot more partners earning £2m+ than S&M… Stop looking at stupid numbers that present artificial results and focus on the firm and the market itself.



I said PPP not PEP.

PEP is how much each equity partner is paid out. PPP is how much business each partner brings in (e.g. billables). They are rarely correlative.

Ergo… more business brought in by less partners (i.e. Slaughters) is a damn site better than the same amount of business divided between more partners.

If a shop with 10 lawyers brings in the same amount of work as a shop with 100 lawyers, they are the better shop.

Understand now?


1. FF 2. LL 3. CC 4. AO

Silver circle: Macs/TS, Slaughters, HSF, HL.


2nd seat

Spot on


Not telling

How would you know ‘2nd seat’? You’ve only experienced one firm (supposedly). LOL.



1. CC
2. FBD
3. Slaughters
3. LL
4. A&O


Bantz Quality Control, Pty. Ltd.

Bravo sir, 10/10.



See FBD consistently in top 2 (given Iapetus is clearly having a laugh) – shows that regardless of biases towards other firms everyone regards FBD as top dog


They call me Stacey

1. Being a barrister, making £300k in your first year and having 12 weeks holiday a year.
2. List the firms in the order you want, but you’ll be living in Zone 4 for the next 10 years.



NRF is best mc firm not that isn’t in the mc but should be – don’t care what anyone says



Irrelevant comment and highly untrue.


Big Boi

Not such a stupid move from A&O. The problem with the 2019 pay hike + current pay freeze is it means NQs would have been on the same pay as people in the year above (who now have 12 months’ experience under their belts).

Most MC mid-level and senior associates were pissed off at the pay hikes from last year as they didn’t filter up the food chain and caused salaries to bunch. Consider this a necessary re-calibration and, based on Links’ comments about salaries going crazy last year, expect them to follow S&M and A&O rather than FBD and CC.



At times like this one wonders if it would be easier on their reputations if firms just said “competitive” when stating salaries, or even just “around £100k” or “over £80k”.

But I guess they all have a lot of pride in these overly attractive salaries so they just can’t help themselves. Always trying to “retain the top talent” but doing this they probably get hundreds more applications from idiots dreaming of becoming “ballers” when in fact they’ve got no clue.

I honestly couldn’t see myself choosing a firm that pays £1k-£5k more based on solely that. Any self-respecting lawyer would have plenty of other factors on which to base their decision.

Plus remember that anything over £80k puts you instantly into the top 5% of earners in the UK. And truthfully as an NQ almost none of you are really worth that, especially when you consider what some other roles offering that involve (e.g. Professor, Police Chief Constable, Regional firm partner etc.).

Plus at least you have the benefit of knowing that your salaries are gonna increase year on year… I don’t know many other professions that do that. Anywhere else, the salary you accept when you start is the salary you’re stuck with until promotion, with only minor incremental increases in your performance review, which is usually more like less than £1k extra per annum.

Put simply, all these firms got way too ahead of themselves in recent years. Most MC and US firms in 2015 were around the £60k mark. No other industry has increased salaries this much. Think it’s about time it all calmed down haha



You are a student. You know nothing yet. Why spend your free time wibbling uninformed opinion to other people who are uninformed?

The salaries were c.60k in 2008. US firms have uniformity across their offices. London salaries only increased somewhat significantly in 2016. Salaries are high for a number of reasons – one of which is that US and MC firms have trouble attracting and retaining talent. Lawyers leave on average between 2-3 years at a firm. They don’t just go from big firm x to big firm y – they go in-house or to smaller firms or, in some cases, do something entirely different. It’s a pyramid model.

Have you ever billed 2000 hours+? Do you know what the job actually involves? Have you ever been on call 24/7, 365 days a year? Do you know how much associates are billed at and do you know how much money the firm makes from each associate? Do you know how profitable the firms are?



Cool your tone, mate.

I’m hardly uninformed, all of my points still stand.

FYI I’m far more aware than most of these wide-eyed students. I’m a career-changer, I worked in a firm for 3 years before my LLB, and have done several placements at both firms and banks.

And you’ve literally just made my point that there is more to base a decision on that simply the salary. So I’ve got no idea why you got so defensive… I am agreeing with you.

I really don’t get why you decided to wade in? If you’re so “exhausted” why are you on LC? It’s mostly a place FOR students, anyway. I can’t see myself commenting here when I am actually a lawyer.

Seriously gtfo.



“Put simply, all these firms got way too ahead of themselves in recent years. Most MC and US firms in 2015 were around the £60k mark. No other industry has increased salaries this much. Think it’s about time it all calmed down haha”

When profits are at 1-2m, and juniors can easily bill 750k-1000k on a busy year, I don’t think we are particularly overpaid.




Don’t @ me.



Everyone needs to chill out about US v Magic Circle, it’s okay for each to have their benefits and to not criticise the other!! It’s always magic circle lawyers battering US firms – accept they have benefits, and vice versa!



Depends if you prefer class over being gauche and nouveau.


US future trainee partner

So what US firms are ‘gauche’ are they? Someone got rejected 😂



How are they gauche?



Huh? That’s so not true.



So everything is back to where it was before the last silly round of increases? Hardly a big deal.


Comments are closed.

Related Stories