Linklaters trims NQ solicitor pay packets by 10%

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Last of the magic circle to reveal post-pandemic pay position

Linklaters has cut the salaries of its newly-qualified (NQ) solicitors by 10%.

The magic circle firm confirmed today, after much speculation, that the salaries of its London NQs, due to qualify next month, will drop from a minimum of £100,000, comprised of salary and bonus, to £90,000. NQs are eligible to receive a discretionary performance-related bonus on top of the new sum.

Last year, Links became the fifth and final of the magic circle lot to increase 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. The firm did not disclose its base rate at the time (£93,000 is a Legal Cheek estimate) which makes it difficult to calculate the actual percentage cut to NQ pay.

Legal Cheek understands that trainee solicitor pay remains unchanged, with first years earning £47,000, rising to £52,500 in their second year.

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Linklaters, which offers around 100 training contracts each year, the highest of any other City outfit, has followed moves made by fellow magic circle firms Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy and Slaughter and May to trim NQ pay packets in the wake of the coronavirus. Other City firms have made similar moves.

CC’s new qualifiers will earn up to £94,500 with bonus, approximately £5,500 less than last year’s six-figure sum. Their counterparts at A&O will receive a minimum of £90,000, comprised of salary and sign-on bonus, down 10% from £100,000. Meanwhile, Slaughters will pay its NQs £87,000, down from £92,000.

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 £150,000.

Freshfields, however, has decided against a 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 upon qualification.

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A smug NQ at Freshfields

*Clears throat*




*clears trainee retention*



US dollar

To all those reading:

One of the firms that is offering a “+£150,000” dollar pegged salary is also carrying out several stealth dismissals because it has grown so unsustainably that it makes no longer sense to retain so many people.

No – it is not greener on the other side and many people at this place I refer to are currently afraid of losing their jobs.



Why not name the firm, give details and LC can do a story on it?


Aishah Hussain

I second that. 7:20, email me:


Kirkland NQ

I’ve no idea why anyone would debase themselves working in the lower reaches of the legal profession for such a paltry sum of money, when the Yankee greenbacks are there for the taking.



…. a third year Anglia Ruskin law student writes.


Kirkland NQ

…an inadequate, small appendaged failure with Lambo envy writes.



What they haven’t reported is that NQs are the only ones in the firm taking a pay cut.

Everyone else is either getting an increase or keeping the current pay for their salary/pqe band.


Rob from the poor

Wait, so they’re effectively reducing the salary of their most junior staff only?

lol – but can’t say that is surprising given how vocal their MP was last year in complaining to the media about Freshfields increasing NQ pay.


Original Anon

Yes, pathetic really.



“a minimum of £100,000, comprised of salary and discretionary performance bonus”

I’m probably being a bit thick; but how can it be a seemingly guaranteed minimum if part of the sum is discretionary ?



Where are those clowns comparing DLA to Macs last week In terms of salary and work/life … now you can compare Macs to Links


Money law?

It’s a new day and time for a new firm to be disparaged by first-year keyboard warriors.



You missed the point.

Macs lawyers work significantly longer hours whereas firms like Eversheds and other international firms work fewer hours each day and have better work life balance as a result of working at these firms.

It is funny when you put into perspective that the base salary difference between Macs and those other firms is around 5k when taking into account the completely different working culture and hours at both firms.

I know the Kirkland troll in the comments is always flexing about the US firms being better but they do have a point… if you are being worked that much at a silver circle firm you might as well laterally move to a US firm where you will actually get paid twice as much for doing similar hours to what you already working.

Macs has the highest PEP for a UK firm, even higher than the Magic Circle firms yet the lawyers are being paid a salary that is not that far off an international firm salary whilst the equity partners are raking it in.

That is why people in the comments have been making comparisons.


Han Jo

Agree with everything you have said but honestly there is no point explaining to trolls who are determined to take a reductive view of everything just for a laugh.



Someone misses the bonus difference again…



No they didn’t. It clearly says “base salary”. Go work on your basic comprehension skills



Precisely. No mention is made of the bonus. Keep up with the ad hominems though. Dolt.


Does the same not apply to MC firms – salary different now being 10k – why do the long hours when you could go US for significantly more or international (like Eversheds) for slightly less but much better work-life balance?



I guess you could say that. But you have to ask yourself whether it is work being worked like a dog for that extra 15/20k before tax when you could be making an extra 50k for doing the same hours



Ok Eversheds PR/fanboy



* Yawn * Are you the ‘Sheds campus rep SK? Really going above and beyond. Kudos.



Great logic … according to you working at an ‘international’ firm like Eversheds > MC & SC simply because of the fewer hours. I’m afraid city law is a demanding profession and if that’s what makes you want to work at Eversheds, then you’re in wrong profession.


Susan Kyles

Not because of fewer hours. But the fact that you’re working significantly more hours just for 10k extra when you could be getting 50k extra at a different firm for the same work you’re doing. It doesn’t make sense.

I would rather work for a regional firm for 70k and have a decent life outside work than be worked Like a dog for an extra 15k. If the money was really an issue I would opt for a US firm anyway, at least I would be getting my money’s worth.

That is literally all the comment was about



Opt for US…more like you can’t get an offer from anything better than a regional firm so you’re trying to justify your choice. No need.


Cheapskate firm..



Not just Linklaters… the way most ‘top’ city firms have responded to the coronavirus measures is very telling.



Not just Linklaters… the way most ‘top’ city firms have responded to the coronavirus measures is very telling.

Ultimately, the way certain firms have treated those at the bottom of the firm hierarchy whilst the partners are sitting on their PEP just shows you that a legal career is an uphill struggle where you will only be safe once you make it to partner level



You’re not safe even when you make it to partner, there will be a lot of pressure to bring in work as a new partner and when you’re too senior pressure to try and force you out and make way for the hungrier junior partners.


Real Jamie

Why did you copy my comment just to add that part on after?



What is DLA’s NQ pay this year?



This is such a random question? What was your thought process behind this exactly?



4K under Macs



When you put it like that it does sound ridiculous the difference in the working hours and difference in salary hahaha. Maybe that Kirkland troll was on to something



Bombarding the thread isn’t going to help your agenda lol


Keyboard warrior

This ^


Hours are about the same, bonuses are different and exit options are different. Guess it’s up to you what you want.



What a stupid comment to make when the article is about Linklaters. Where is the correlation lol?


Kieron B

Honestly I miss the days when the comments section was full of banter. There is such an elitist vibe in the comments of these articles nowadays with anons comparing firms and salaries and everything else.

I can just imagine that the comments are full of law students who haven’t even got a TC or if they do they are making comments in defence of their future firm and raging against other firms as some sort of patriotic act. It’s so bizarre.



What is your salary? So many broke people behind these comments anonymously posting about firms they will never work at… what is the point of it at all loool


IM Trainee

Dear Log,

The food ran out a couple of days ago. Water is soon to follow I am sure. I can see spiders in the corner; perhaps they will be able to sustain me.

I am unsure whether anyone will rescue us, if anyone will find us; perhaps those made redundant will find help for us.

The mice whispered through the cracks that Linklaters had a pay cut today. I bet all their soon to be NQs are livid; the froth seeping at their snouty mouths. They will never know the horrors I have seen, the reality I know.


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