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BCLP cuts NQ solicitor pay to £78,000

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Belt-tightening measures across the City continue

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) has cut its newly-qualified (NQ) solicitor salaries by 2.5%.

“In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic we have lowered our NQ salary by 2.5% to £78,000 as part of a set of measures developed to ensure that we approach a challenging period, pragmatically,” a spokesperson from the firm said in a statement. “Developing and retaining talent remains a key priority for BCLP and we will move through 2020 with the same dedication to our current and future trainees.”

BCLP’s new associates were understood to be on a base salary of £75,000 but could receive a maximum bonus of £21,000 taking total earnings to £96,000. However, the spokesperson confirmed that BCLP increased NQ base rates last year to £80,000.

The firm previously deferred portions of partner distributions and cut employee salaries by 15% for a period of 13 weeks to weather the effects of the crisis.

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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.

It comes less than a week after Clifford Chance followed fellow magic circle firms Slaughter and May and Allen & Overy with reductions to NQ pay.

NQs over at Hogan Lovells, Reed Smith and Osborne Clarke have also become privy to firm-wide belt-tightening measures with cuts to pay. Legal Cheek reported last month that solicitors at Osborne Clarke will see their salaries drop by about 7% for a period of 11 months.

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44 Comments

CMS Trainee

Just another glorified highstreet firm like NRF. I know for a fact many of the fee earners at that second rate shop are looking to jump ship to a more elite outfit like CMS. CMS paralegals > BCLP showround associates/junior partners

(9)(54)

Iapetus

BREAKING NEWS: CMS and Greenberg Glusker LLP in merger talks

CMS partners describe ‘A giddy sense of relief at our tattered husk being rejuvenated by the top, top titans.’

Morale at CMS is ‘low’ after a ‘relentless battering in the Legal Cheek comments’.

One insider describes the merger as ‘like the eagles rescuing Frodo and Sam from the lava-strewn slopes of Mount Doom’.

Meanwhile, following the failure of the Greenberg / People’s Liberation Army merger last year, the Mighty Double G is keen to acquire CMS’ partners to run basic errands and clean out the firm’s fleet of Lambos.

Reports that the new leviathan will be called Greenwang Glusker are unconfirmed.

(33)(1)

JDP

10/10, top bantz my boy.

(2)(0)

What are you on?

Keep smoking whatever you’re on bud. I hear Kirkland partners are desperate to make the move to CMS too.

(38)(1)

Anonymous

You mean CMS who in a year deal with the same value of real estate BCLP act on in a week. Cute.

(14)(9)

Real Estate + COVID = insolvency

In a time where real estate work has absolutely tanked, probably wise not to brag about how much BCLP relies on it to stay afloat.

(38)(1)

Anon

Real estate work may have tanked but they do that in America. Property teams practice the law of real property in this country.

(1)(8)

No

And yet many UK firms (including mine) call it a real estate practice.

How is being pedantic for no reason working out for you?

Questionable

That is odd; CMS and BCLP are both tier 1 (legal 500) for commercial property? Nabarro was well known for its real estate prowess. In fact, CMS is ranked higher in corporate M&A, Projects, Oil & Gas, and TMT. Obviously, I am not one to judge the accuracy of the Legal 500. It just seems that CMS is unnecessarily criticised because they don’t pay as much as other firms. Both firms are mid-market though.

(13)(11)

Anon

Aren’t BCLP regarded as silver circle?

(5)(5)

Chinny

Lmao yeah…no.

Anonymous

Yes and no. They were included in the silver circle when the term was started, but these terms don’t really have any meaning anymore.

The legal market’s a lot more segregated these days.

You have FF, CC, Linklaters and A&O who are full service and actually do great deals across the board. You have HSF who is similar, but their average deals are slightly less ‘prestigious’ than the first four but still pretty impressive, and you have Slaughters who are similar to the first four firms in terms of work quality, but quite different when it comes to hiring and expansion approach. Also much more of a cult – partner only dining rooms shouldn’t be a thing.

These 6 firms are better than the other UK firms (we’re not counting white shoe firms/Kirkland/Latham for these purposes, but are counting merged shops where a legacy firm had a significant presence in the UK).

Hogan Lovells is a step below these 6 in terms of full service appeal and prestige, but a step above everyone else,

Macfarlanes and Travers are similar to the Slaughters model. The latter two have excellent corporate/PE teams, but their other teams are pretty average. Their corporate/PE teams compete with the best of the city, their other teams provide support or do more mid-market deals (no shame in that). They’re a step above other firms because of their profitability.

You then have firms like Ashurst, BCLP, and NRF. Pretty similar on pay, all had better days (NRF would have been on the Lovells tier even 3-4 years back), but still pretty good firms.

Ashurst has a strong corporate and finance practice, and are decent in other areas, NRF is solid in most departments but not special in any, and BCLP has an excellent disputes team and excels in niche teams (planning, competition, real estate, technology) but is pretty average in core corporate work and is non-existent in the PE space (i.e., they failed to capitalise on a 10 year boom period of PE that drove profitability for most law firms – which is a huge knock against them).

This bunch is followed by DLA, Eversheds, Pinsents, Simmons and CMS – all three have 2-3 strong areas and a lot of average areas. What makes them come below the firms on the above tier is they also have a couple of teams that are actually quite poor. This tier could also be further split, with Simmons and DLA being a step above the other three.

After that, you have other firms like Clyde & Co, Bird and Bird, Addleshaw etc. – decent firms with one flagship department that’s good, and a bunch of mediocre departments.

Should go without saying that all this is subjective and based purely on my observations of firms and the legal market, conversations with people at these places, and general experience of working on deals across some of them. A lot of people will disagree, which is completely fine – none of this really matters at the end of the day, and each department in a firm has its own vibe anyway.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter though. Unless you have a huge passion for the law and a particular department, all most people care about is working on mildly interesting deals, avoiding unnecessary red-tape, and having decent colleagues. You’ll get that at most firms mentioned here, as well as on firms that haven’t been mentioned like DACB, Osborne Clarke etc.

2PQE

Interesting that you’ve got HSF and HL above Travers and Macs.

Arguably, the latter two could go in the tier above because of their strengths in corporate & PE work, particularly in London.

Anonymous

2PQE – Travers and Macfarlanes undeniably have better corporate/PE teams than HSF and Lovells, especially after HSF’s PE team got raided in the past two years by multiple US firms.

For trainees though, unless you know before starting your TC that you want to qualify into a corporate/PE team and want to be based in London, HSF and Lovells will be more helpful in figuring out what you like. If you want to explore teams like litigation, finance or sit in more niche departments, the latter two teams are much more suitable.

Travers and Macfarlanes are more profitable because of PE and corporate – that only affects the partners though for the most part. For trainees, you’ll only be in those teams for 6 months – the other 18 are better served elsewhere.

From a client perspective as well, you’re more likely to give large matters that need multiple departments other than corporate involved on a deal (that aren’t just tax, because most firms have solid tax practices) to Lovells/HSF than to the other two.

That said, they’re still two very good and well run firms.

Anon

This is quite an interesting perspective. It seems there has been significant movements from the “Club of Nine” days. Just out of curiosity, where would you put Stephenson Harwood, as they used to be on the same tier as Lovells?

And on the topic of Lovells, I know other translantic mergers with historically decent London firms have had mixed results: Reed Smith seems to be melting away in the mid tier whilst I hear mixed reviews of Mayer Brown. Would be interested in getting views on these firms too.

Oracle

No smoke without fire.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

That is odd; both CMS and BCLP are tier 1 for commercial property (Legal 500)? In fact, CMS ranks higher than BCLP for Corporate M&A, Projects, Oil & Gas, and TMT. Obviously, I am not one to judge the accuracy of the Legal 500. Both are mid-market firms though.

(2)(7)

Food for thought

Word of warning to what people say. Take “most” of these troll stupid comments with a pinch of salt. CMS and BCLP are both good firms if they suit what you look for in a firm’s criteria such as practice areas, work life balance and culture. Never be completely swayed on making decisions solely by complete strangers on a forum such as this.

On a side note, I was quite pleasantly surprised about the NQ rate at BCLP, had the impression it was lower!

(43)(3)

Insider

Well now it’s lowered, and they also had a 20% haircut. Lmao top whack alright

(1)(2)

Naughty Hen

Sorry, have you just used CMS and work life balance in the same sentence?

(7)(0)

In-House Trainee

CMS and elite outfit? LOOL. The firm is also on the list of glorified outfits charging extortionate rates for high Street value!

(2)(0)

Big bird 101

Haha – as if people on here are arguing about how prestigious X law firm is. Ignoring the fact that the writer probably doesn’t even work at said firm, who actually gives a s**t?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

That’s what you get if you join a firm that sounds like it is named after two actors from Beverley Hills 90210.

(29)(1)

Clive

Could be a rocky road ahead for BCLP with their focus on real estate.

(0)(1)

Anon

Or “property” as we call it in this country.

(9)(10)

Swadling

Real property, surely, or are you asserting that English law knows no personal property rights?

(3)(0)

Anon

Property departments practise the law of real property.

(1)(1)

Anon

You’re making yourself sound a bit of an idiot across your posts on this thread mate. Real Estate is very commonly used by top English firms to describe their teams. Calling it property is very high street…

Anonymous

Expect to see some amount of culling in the real estate team soon enough. The merger has led to more of a focus on litigation and corporate work, and the real estate team in London is pretty heavily staffed.

Wouldn’t happen pre-merger, but the firm seems to be taking a slightly more ‘pragmatic’ approach these days to finances because of the American influence. They’d have waited for the market to settle, give people 2-3 years before making changes in the past.

That said, they seem to have taken good care of the NQs this round, though how busy some of the ones in niche teams will be is up for question. No deferrals, not forcing anyone to take qualification leave or unpaid leave, and the pay-cut is pretty minimal.

(5)(1)

Anon

20% cut to salary is minimal? What are you smoking blud?

(2)(0)

BCLP Associate

Where’s the 20% figure coming from?

There’s a temporary 15% cut until July. That doesn’t impact the NQ salaries of fourth seat trainees who qualify in September.

Base NQ salary has reduced by 2.5% for incoming NQs, but that’s pretty much it – going from 80k to 78k a year makes very little tangible difference to people currently on that salary, let alone on fourth seat trainees who are on 48k at the moment, so will be getting a 30k pay rise anyway. Current NQs haven’t had their base reduced.

Even if the 15% cuts are renewed, which doesn’t seem too likely at this point, those are temporary and voluntary anyway.

(7)(0)

Cpt. Trenchfoot

About as voluntary as getting gas gangrene while emptying a latrine. All fee earners knew that shirking away from the pay cut would lead to the axe.

BCLP Associate

Cpt. Trenchfoot – that’s what most of us thought as well, but there’s been no blowback on anyone who didn’t opt-in so far and no talk about discreet layoffs for anyone (including non fee-earners).

That isn’t to say that things won’t change, but the firm’s been pretty transparent so far, and there hasn’t been the discreet firing of secretaries and paralegal contracts not being renewed that we’ve seen at other firms.

Anon

Property teams advise on issues affecting real property. Real estate is not an English term. If someone referred to “real estate” in an interview with me they would be getting a “thanks but” letter.

(2)(15)

MC Senior Associate

The “property” teams at most firms are called “Real Estate” departments as are the relevant teams at investment banks, accountants and property management businesses.

Comments like yours are the reason lawyers get given a bad name.

(12)(1)

Bob

Like we care what names they call us.

Anon

Agreed, but at the end of the day they’re all conveyancers and any half decent paralegal could do the job.

Anon

CMS pays less than this to it’s nqs on full pay.

(8)(0)

Anonymous

Will cutting NQ solicitor pay really affect firms since all top students are fighting for spots in those firms

(3)(0)

Magic Square

Meh. That’s all I have to say about BCLP. Not a shit firm but nothing to write home about either. It just sits in the biglaw space the same as a Bounty does in a celebrations box. No one chooses it, it’s just THERE.

(13)(3)

Anonymous

unless you want to do anything relating to property, and then its top and certainly something to write at home about….

(2)(5)

Sigh

I don’t know if people read but a lot of firms are cutting NQ including magic circle firms such as CC so let’s not make it seem like BCLP are the first firm to do this and therefore not a “good” firm because that’s just bs.

(3)(7)

Not BCLP HR

Hi BCLP HR

(7)(1)

Anonymous

If you indeed read the comments under those articles you would have seen literally everybody shitting on A&O, CC, and Slaughters for cutting the salaries. And a lot worse than on BCLP. Pipe down, BCLP fanboy.

(8)(0)

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