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Walker Morris keeps NQs on £29k trainee pay until November

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New qualifiers must wait two months for salary hike

Walker Morris’ Leeds headquarters

One of the biggest legal employers in Yorkshire will keep its newly-qualified (NQ) solicitors on trainee pay until November.

Walker Morris — which hires 15 trainees annually — has delayed its NQ pay rise for a period of two months, meaning second year trainees will continue on £29,000 upon qualification in September.

Walker Morris confirmed to Legal Cheek that it has retained 16 of its 18 autumn qualifying trainees. But the firm added that they’ll have to wait until November to earn an expected £44,000, as per our Firms Most List.

The firm says the NQ pay delay is consistent with its deferral of all pay reviews — for partners, who have also agreed to defer profit distributions (Walker Morris partners earn around £400,000 per year), and staff — until November.

In a statement the firm said:

“We have seen businesses and law firms across the country face difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we have retained 16 NQ positions available to our 18 qualifying trainees — one of our largest cohorts ever — which reaffirms our position as one of the largest legal graduate recruiters in the city. Whilst we continue to invest in our trainees and newly qualified solicitors, we have delayed our NQ pay rise for two months.”

It continued:

“We are probably better placed than most firms to see this out, but even the strongest firms are facing significant challenges if this continues. We believe the steps we have taken are an appropriate and proportionate response to an extraordinary situation. Actions have been taken to conserve cash to give us the best opportunity to come through in the best shape for the benefit of all of us, partners, staff and clients alike.”

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Other firms have taken steps to curb the financial fallout brought on by the coronavirus.

Travers Smith has deferred all salary reviews and reduced its annual firm-wide bonuses.

A Travers Smith spokesperson said: “Given the current uncertain conditions, we have deferred all salary reviews until later in the year and have awarded firm-wide bonuses albeit at a reduced rate.”

They added:

“The last few months have seen trading conditions unlike any we have seen previously; however, the firm continues to perform well and the measures we have put in place help us ensure prudent cash management during this period.”

Back in April, the firm deferred partner profit distributions and reduced monthly drawings. It furloughed a small number of staff, “principally those performing front of house, post room and hospitality roles”, but confirmed today that it has not made use of the government’s Job Retention Scheme and that “everyone has been kept on full pay throughout”.

Meanwhile, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) announced this week that it will axe 19 fee-earners and 26 business services staff in its London office. BCLP also shuttered in Beijing.

The firm is also reducing pay cuts for employees and lawyers earning more than $40,000 (£32,000) to 7.5%. BCLP previously imposed a 15% cut across its offices in May for an initial 13-week period. The new pay cut will apply from August until the end of the year.

In a joint statement BCLP co-chairs Lisa Mayhew and Steve Baumer said:

“After exceeding performance expectations during the first half of this extraordinary year, we’re pleased to begin rolling back salary reductions necessitated during the worst of the pandemic conditions.

“Looking ahead, we plan to continue taking proactive steps to provide as much clarity as we can to all our colleagues and to ensure our firm is best positioned moving forward. While a difficult decision to make, we believe the limited adjustments to our workforce are in the best interest of our clients, our business, and our people for the long-term.”

BCLP previously reduced NQ wedge by 2.5% to £78,000.

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