Clifford Chance is latest magic circle firm to cut NQ solicitor pay

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Follows moves made by Slaughters and A&O

Clifford Chance is the latest magic circle firm to cut the salaries of its newly-qualified (NQ) solicitors as the unravelling of last summer’s City pay war continues.

Solicitors qualifying in September 2020 will receive a total pay package of up to £94,500 with bonus, approximately £5,500 less than last year’s six-figure sum. CC previously bumped NQ pay from £91,000 to £100,000, comprised of salary and bonus, following the 2019 summer City pay war. The firm does not report its NQ base salary.

CC also confirmed that trainee solicitor pay remains unaffected — £48,000 in year one, rising to £54,000 in year two.

Today’s news comes less than 24 hours after we reported that fellow magic circle player Allen & Overy has reduced NQ pay from a minimum of £100,000, comprised of salary and sign-on bonus, to £90,000. Meanwhile, Slaughter and May confirmed a month ago that its NQs will earn £87,000, a reduction on the £92,000 base salary.

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Freshfields, however, has decided against an NQ salary cut and will continue to pay its rookie talent £100,000. Linklaters is understood to be still considering its NQ pay position.

Last summer saw all five elite firms boost annual NQ salaries to at least £100,000 in competition with the London offices of US law firms.

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The binary bonus has been increased. When CC says up to, it means that’s what you’ll get unless they need to performance manage you. I for one think that’s fair – if you’re rubbish at your job you don’t deserve a bonus.


Voice of Reason

Yes but these firms deliberately ‘performance manage’ out more than their fair share of staff given the pyramid model. Sometimes it’s capricious.

You also don’t get the bonus if you change jobs or fail to record time swiftly enough or for whatever random reason. It’s hardly in your pocket like regular salary.


Voice of Reason

Pointing out the obvious, but it’s clear CC has a social media team aimed at ‘guiding’ these discussions.

We’re talking about a business here (and a very stressful one), not a church or social club. The quality of the so-called people doesn’t enter into the discussion, unless any given place has a notoriously toxic culture.

Higher paying firms are usually acting on the more profitable (and complex) deals, which is why they can afford to pay their associates more.



Just for those that still keep saying K&E is a better firm and always picked over the MC for M&A and private equity, further proof that you are wrong.



Literally nobody is saying that. CC is a great firm. Kirkland and Freshfields are great firms. One of them will likely be ranked number one for PE work at any point in time.



TS is a great firm. The way they’ve handled Covid has won them an awful lot of loyalty for a long long time, myself included. Good pay, brilliant culture, sure the hours aren’t great but better than other silver and MC firms.


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