NQ solicitor pay hits £140k at Cleary Gottlieb

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Trainees handed substantial rises of £7,500

Newly qualified (NQ) solicitor pay at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton has hit £140,000 as trainees are handed salary rises of as much as 15%.

Cleary confirmed NQ pay in the London office has risen 5% from £133,000 to £140,000. The last time NQ salaries were raised at the firm was in 2019, from £122k to £133k.

US law firms in London are luring junior lawyer talent away from the UK and magic circle law firms with bumper pay packets.

Legal Cheek’s Firms Most List 2022 shows Cleary’s NQs are among some of the most well paid in the City, making more than their peers at Ropes & Gray, White & Case and Willkie Farr, all of who pay associates £130,000 upon qualification.

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Rookie pay is also up at the firm: first years are now on £57,500, up 15% from £50,000, while those in their second year, earn £62,500, up 14% from £55,000. The trainee pay rises match those implemented this month by Davis Polk & Wardwell, which Legal Cheek reported at the time were the highest of any firm in the City.

Cleary has also increased maintenance grants on the GDL and LPC in London to £12,000 (previously £8,000). The grants can vary from £1,000 to £12,850, according to our Firms Most List.

Elsewhere in the City and on matters of money, Morrison & Foerster has increased the salaries of its junior lawyers, with NQs now on $202,500 (£147,500).

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Don't Mind Me

Just casually waiting for the comments on this one …


I spend too much time here

I have this morbid fascination also, despite my suspicion that the comments mainly come from uni students and pimple-faced trainees with flamboyant online egos



Heard Links and A&O now offering up to 50% of base salary as bonus if you hit the highest chargeable hour target as a way to “compete” against US firms with fixed bonuses – is this true?



Yeah but only if you hit 2400+ chargeable hours which is huge


FF associate

Nonsense, absolute max bonus you will get at the MC is 30%



Actually now up to 65% total bonus but as above only if you hit 2400 billable hours. Not sure how that compares to the expectations at US firms.



£69875 bonus, total comp 177375 for 2400 hours, whilst in a US firm hitting 1900 to 2000 will often get you £170,000.



Lol guarantee they aren’t going to pay that out even if you hit 2400 – they’ll start taking off write-offs and discounts. No NQ at LL is getting those that amount even if they bill 4000 hours.



A&O = 30% of salary at 1950 hours plus usual discretionary bonus of c20k. So, hit 1950 hours as an NQ and your total comp is £160k



£20k ‘usual’ discretionary bonus?



Not true. You need to be graded as a top performer before you get 30% bonus. Top performer rating is relatively rare.

Speaking as an A&O associate I’m not aware of any circumstance is here an associate was awarded 50 to 65% bonus


Everybody will now want to be a lawyer

Lol we will be up there with the Americans soon 😂


Niche reference but I’ll allow it

There’s a Gary Larson cartoon showing that an entire flock of sheep was made up of wolves in sheep’s clothing, with one standing up and ‘whoa whoa is anyone here a real sheep?’

I feel like the Legal Cheek comment section might suddenly stop and ask itself:
‘wait, wait, is anyone here actually a qualified lawyer??’


Tim Greening

Huh? I never even realised it was in doubt that 90% of the readers and commenters are students.

The articles have always been of little interest or relevance to lawyers. But back in the day (c. 2015) there was at least a reason for solicitors and barristers to frequent the site: the comments were genuinely funny, interesting and even sometimes informative.

Now, even mentioning the initials of a well-known US law firm, or forgetting to include the ‘+’ in LGBTQ+ is enough to get your comment censored.



I wonder when clients will say…..”hang on……”



Clients of these firms are making more money than ever. Absurd deal volumes means high demand for high-quality juniors in IB, PE, and law. There is a war for talent going on and that’s what’s pushing up salaries across the professional services industries.

Why are some firms able to charge more and continually raise salaries while other firms can’t? Hint: look at their clients.



As seen from the pandemic … these firms can be just as ruthless when it comes to cutting pay and jobs. I would look carefully at those that didn’t make any changes during that time rather than those offering highest wages today.



Which US firms actually cut jobs? Which ones cut salaries?
During the pandemic everyone on here was saying that US firms were cutting people, but it was never reported anywhere. Soon after the firms paid extremely generous bonuses.

The only thing I remember is certain U.K. firms freezing/lowering salaries or reducing the number of days the associates supposedly had to work.



Sigh. There are two reasons why you don’t hear about it in the news.

1) Nobody likes to be in the news for firing their staff – it’s not good publicity.

2) US firms prefer to engage in stealth layoffs rather than outright firing. Saves them money.



Oh right, the classic ‘stealth layoff’ line…

All these US firms with record profits and growth that utterly outstrips UK firms are laying off associates in droves


Many US firms also had the highest retention rates of any in the city. Hardly struggling and looking to cut people


Kirkland did cut and I know some of those impacted. Don’t believe everything these firms tell you. Publicity is great, the reality can be very different.








What do we think of Reed Smith? Anyone have any experience of working there?


Actually question

Anyone genuinely know what Dechert is like to work at as 4-5PQ? What’s the salary/bonus structure like?



A war for a talent, but would anyone with talent want to waste their career hollowing-out the UK economy by doing PE work?



Not their career, but definitely 5-7 years if it means a couple hundred grand saved up.


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