Trainee pay at Clifford Chance hits £55k

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£50k in year one, rising to £55k in year two

Clifford Chance has increased the salaries of its trainee solicitors, Legal Cheek can reveal.

The firm’s year one rookies will now earn a salary of £50,000, a rise of £2,000 from £48,000, while their colleagues in year two will receive £55,000, a boost of £1,000 from £54,000. This equates to uplifts of 4% and 1% respectively.

The pay rise puts the firm’s second year trainees on the same levels of cash as those finding their feet at a host of US heavyweights including Akin Gump, Cleary Gottlieb and Debevoise & Plimpton. As for its magic circle rivals, Linklaters is the only other member of the elite fivesome to provide the same £55k sum.

The Legal Cheek Firms Most List shows that CC is one of the largest trainee recruiters in the City, dishing out up to 95 training contracts each year.

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News of the cash injection comes just months after Legal Cheek revealed the firm had increased the salaries of its newly qualified (NQ) solicitors to £100k.

Elsewhere, Womble Bond Dickinson has confirmed a series of pay rises of its own. NQs in London will now earn £68,000, up £3,000 from £65,000, while pay in Newcastle and Plymouth has risen a sizeable 14% to £44,000. NQ pay in Bristol now sits at £50,000, up from a previous rate of £46,000, and £45,000 in both Southampton and Leeds — boosts of £3,000 from £42,000.

Trainees are also cashing in. First year trainees in London will receive £38,000 in year one, rising to £40,000 in year two, while their counterparts in Bristol and Southampton are now on £30,000, rising to £32,000 in year two. Trainees in Newcastle and Leeds start on £26,000 and £27,000, moving to £28,000 and £29,000 in their second year. Rookies in Plymouth earn £28,000 and £30,000.

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Rustic Rambo

That’s pretty epic. Now check out the trainee pay at SPB: £37k lmaoooo 😂😂😂


That’s more than I’m on at my mid-sized city firm. But I suppose that I at least can enjoy my weekends and evenings.


Ooof that is outrageously low. Can any SPB trainees confirm it hadn’t been increased? £37k for a first year trainee used to be market in 2014…


No but can u pls keep the banter going as some pressure to increase wouldnt be all tht bad. Cheers hun.

Disgruntled mid level

We need an expose on firms bunching salaries further up the associate chain. It’s outrageous and has only been spoken about here in the A&O increases article.


Start tipping off salary grids. Only way for proper transparency and accountability

Old Guy

£37k is a good job for a 23-26 year old. Learning how to do a job too. What’s the problem?

Ok boomer

The problem is that 95% of the London market pays it’s trainees substantially more. And it shows what a sweaty pit SPB is.

Old Guy

That is not true. The London market isn’t just Clifford Chance and Herbert Smith. You mean the international firms in the City?

Ok boomer

Lmao your delusional question fits your name, old man. Keep on snoozing and living in 2014.

Chicken little

Goodwin trainee rise wya??!


Does CC give a 10k grant like some US firms?


what do you mean by grant? LPC grant? interest free loan? something else?


I mean like a full on grant no strings attached. I have a TC from a US firm and my contract says I will be getting my salary + LPC fees paid for + £10k maintenance grant (no interest, no tax – basically free money). Was wondering whether CC do the same.


You must be new here fresher. Weak attempt, better luck next time.


Im being serious…but ok…


Congrats CC. Now how many jump ship to US firms on qualification, most recent qualification round, as prime example. Or, those trainees already holding offers ;)!

CC Insider

Not many actually. Many are just leaving to other City firms / outside of law.


Goodwin are going to release new trainee rates imminently


You would still have to be a fool to work at an MC firm, considering that the pay you get for the hours worked is on par with sweatshop firms. Might as well work at a firm that pays better money or won’t chain you to the desk.

Yes, but...

As this article demonstrates, it pays to train with MC firms. More so because of the training quality (granted this is becoming less of an issue as the US firms grow their market share).

Ask anyone in legal recruitment; MC is still the gold standard. The problem for them is retention – many US firms with less intensive training programmes are more than happy to recruit from UK firms (funnily enough, more often ‘chasing pack’ firms as opposed to MC and SC). Why not let them bear the cost of training?

Time will tell how this plays out…


whats a chasing pack firm? why not mc/sc


See hm’s comment below.


Now it’s Freshfields’ turn! The lowest MC pay for trainees… even some Tier 2 firms pay trainees more than FBD does!


What is a tier 2 firm?

FBD Trainee

Freshfields “in the same league as American firms” Bruckhaus “but pays the lowest trainee salary in the magic circle” Deringer


Thx for the comment son. Good luck with your first year Contract Law lectures, better get ready.


Not sure what the different rates are, but isn’t this the case for all of the firms that are clinging to the outdated notion of MC.

Brutal truth in my opinion is that, MC firms are losing/have lost the battle to compete/differentiate against the top tier US firms.


Increasingly, US firms are recruiting associates from second and third tier firms like Ashurst, DLA Piper, etc. to fill their banking and corporate practices which are churning through associates like crazy. This MC vs US associate pay war debate simply isn’t relevant for anyone other than a handful of associates slash victims in ECM/DCM/LevFin/SF. MC firms seemed to be having a pretty decent retention of associates during lockdown and there’s no indication that the ones that did leave are business critical or top performers (often the contrary).

US fanboys look increasingly weak and pathetic when one realises that their venered firms recruit students from Aberdeen and Southampton (looking at you L&W and W&C) and associates from NRF and Travers. Seriously, check the recent associate moves to Debevoise and STB, both $205k NQ firms that are seen as extremely prestigious by the children in this comments section. There’s a certain allure to being able to say that you steal the brightest, hardest workers from the MC firms, but these US firms simply cannot say that any more!


This is absolutely true. If you look at the associate moves, it’s clear US firms poach strong mid-associates and seniors. However, at the NQ and junior level, it’s often the trainees that weren’t good enough to be retained in their chosen area (or at all). Not always, but more often than Legal Cheek commenters think.


Are you really saying those firms aren’t high quality because a few of their lawyers didn’t study at a top university? You do realise the MC also take a select few from lower ranked universities, too? Let’s see, if you filter L&W London employees on LinkedIn to find out where most of them studied, what are the most common schools? Oxford, UCL, LSE, Cambridge, Durham, Kings, Bristol, Nottingham, Warwick – in other words, the best universities for law and pretty much the exact same as what you’d find at the MC. There are more employees at CC from Southampton than there are at Latham…

When it comes to firms like L&W vs the MC, most would pick L&W. You will find that most successful L&W trainees would quite easily get a TC from large U.K. firms. L&W isn’t even in the same ‘US firm’ class as white & case, it is the definition of a globally elite law firm.

I’m not even trying to disrespect the MC, they’re great firms, but what a ridiculous comment, honestly.


What’s wrong with recruiting students from Aberdeen and Southampton, or from excellent firms like NRF or Travers?

Are you high fresher?

Magic Square

They’ll up it shortly for sure


This is an important step in recognising trainees for the hours they put in and work they get done.

I’m a trainee at a US firm and work relentless hours, often longer than the associates working alongside me and yet I receive barely a third of what they are paid.

Working trainees as hard as associates for a third of the pay is unfair; but firms know they have all the bargaining power and take advantage of it. Kudos to CC for this – let’s hope more firms appreciate their trainees.

Agreed, trainees work hard. I worked hard as did all my cohort. However, to suggest that working longer hours equates to a work product that deserves a comparable salary is ludicrous. The distinction is arguable less clear at 4th seat vs NQ but then the argument would have to be that 4th seat trainees should be paid on a sliding scale across the final 6th months as they become quasi-competent to reach NQ salary. That is equally ludicrous. Trainees in the City are exceptionally well paid, especially when the vast majority of them are clueless.


This is an important step in recognising trainees for the hours they put in and work they get done.

I’m a trainee at a US firm and work relentless hours, often longer than the associates working alongside me and yet I receive barely a third of what they are paid.

Working trainees as hard as associates for a third of the pay is unfair; but firms know they have all the bargaining power and take advantage of it. Kudos to CC for this – let’s hope more firms appreciate their trainees.


Who really cares about trainee salaries?

Waste of Space

Ohh, I don’t know – maybe Legal Cheek’s primary audience? (wannabe lawyers)


They should have their eye on the long game and working out which firms provide the best experience, do the work you actually want to do and, I suppose, pay at the level they want post-qualification.

The difference of a couple of thousand a year for two years really doesn’t make a huge difference. No matter where you train, you aren’t going to be outrageously wealthy in your first two years of work, you will barely have any time to spend it and you probably won’t yet be financially secure enough to make any major purchases like buying a house (and you will probably want to wait until you’re on at least 50% more as an NQ so you can buy more than a cupboard).


Strange how some pupil Barristers with far superior legal knowledge will earn much less.


It’s not all about legal knowledge. Some MC partners seem to have only the faintest grasp of the law, in my experience…

MC Associate

This is amusingly true. I’ve seen quite a few highly intelligent and competent lawyers not qualify / leave as juniors, and several energetic brown-nosers of questionable competence (all good skiers, of course) get promoted.


Depends on your department, doesn’t it.

Vast majority of corporate departments require bugger all legal knowledge.

Litigation / employment / tax / pensions etc generally do require at least some knowledge.

With a few notable exceptions, those advisory departments are much stronger at “non-US” firms. You don’t go to K&E / V&E etc to do that type of work.

Realest Realist

Litigation aside for sure, and tax probably. The US firms dominate at the top end now. Apart from Freshfields, Clifford Chance and Herbert Smith, high value disputes and international disputes in London are dominated by the US firms and the bar. Profitable areas of tax are dominated by the US firms.


Which US firms are you saying dominate disputes? The only two that have any real credibility are LW and Debevoise (QE is US but a boutique so doesn’t really count). The vast majority of other high paying US firms are tinpot when it comes to litigation. As you accept, much better off using the likes of Herbert Smith or MC firms.

Most of the high paying US firms focus on corporate. Their litigation teams are corporate support doing DD for deals (I.e. mindnumbing work).


Lmao the fresher is in the house again. Thanks for the nuggets of wisdom 😂🤡

freshfields chance

taking bets on FBD salary boost by August 2022

Waste of Space

As much as commenters on here like to glorify FBD as ‘top of the MC’ – it’s the only one to have regressed in profitability since 2011.

Citation needed

Beep boop

Waste of Space

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