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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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