Reed Smith joins NQ salary war with 19% boost to £107.5k

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Juniors billing 2,000+ hours will earn £132.5k

Reed Smith has become the latest law firm to up the salaries of its junior lawyers, with a new and improved base rate of £107,500.

Up from £90,000, the six-figure sum equates to an extra £17,500 or 19%.

The firm says the new salary band is available to associates who hit a target of 1,700 hours of billable work, although earnings can stretch even further, with a salary of £132,500 available to those who complete 2,000 hours or more.

But if NQs fall short of the 1,700 hours target, they will receive a salary of £100,000 — an uplift of 11% on the the old £90,000 rate. The changes take effect from next year.

The Legal Cheek 2022 Firms Most List shows the £107,500 base rate matches that announced last week by Clifford Chance. Allen & Overy and Linklaters also dish out the same figure, while Herbert Smith Freehills sits just behind on £107,000.

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Reed Smith also confirmed trainee pay is on the rise too. First year rates will move from from £45,000 to £50,000, an uplift of 11%, while second year rates will soon sit at £55,000 — a 12% increase from £49,000.

Under the new and improved salary scheme, associates will continue to be eligible for a non-discretionary bonus, subject to hitting hours targets, as well as a discretionary bonus.

Reed Smith confirmed its current policy of allowing 140 hours of non-billable work to count towards associate targets will remain in place. This can include pro bono legal work, innovation projects and equality, diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Tamara Box, Reed Smith’s EME managing partner said: “We are pleased to confirm the significant increase to NQs’ salaries in London. It is a reflection of our strong desire to retain and attract the very best legal talent in a hugely competitive market.”

She added:

“The new salary level is an investment in our lawyers and is consistent with several of the firm’s key objectives, including driving performance and teamwork, delivering impactful results for our clients, and rewarding excellence.”

The 2022 Legal Cheek Firms Most List



Obscure, no-name firm but that is a very healthy whack. Top marks.


If you think RS is an obscure, no-name firm, you clearly know nothing about this industry

Kirkland NQ

Me and my fellow ‘landers were in stitches laughing at the thought of this two bit shop in a “War” with us. It’s a bit like San Marino declaring war on China at this point. Let the big boys fight this one out, we don’t want you to get hurt.


You should be paying attention to your A level General Studies class, kid, not be on Legal Cheek.


How are you still an NQ?


So they’ve raised their NQ salary to £100k then, not £107.5k… extremely misleading.


Yet Legal Cheek have fallen for the press release spin

RS Toppity Top

Such a confusing article. So is the variable salary separate from the non-discretionary bonus?


There was still an expectation to hit 1700 hours with the previous £90k base, so really it is still an increase of £17.5k..


There is effectively a guaranteed bonus if you hit 1700 by the sounds of it – at most firms it’s based on hours plus some intangible things that they arbitrarily score you on so it’s always a bit of an unknown what you will get if you bill x hours


100k for doing under 1700 hours isn’t a bad deal. However, if you’re doing 2000+ may as well go to a proper cravath scale firm. Trainee salaries at 45k are awful


So very similar to NRF, although NRF associates have to bill 1800h to get the 107.5k and then it accelerates to c.130k quicker.

But very decent rises from both

Fourth Seater

CMS – your turn.


Commenting this on every post is not going to make it happen.

everyone who is anyone

1700 is completely standard in the city. if you aren’t doing this you’re generally out.

Not always

There’s often an expectation of less hours in advisory departments.

My firm used to pay bonus at 1600 hours for advisory departments specifically (including mine) – they paid out that same bonus for the rest of the firm at 1700 hours.

(Sadly they’ve since increased our bonus target to 1700 as well.)


2000 hours per year is no joke – I’ve consistently missed this mark / barely hit it, with no impact on my Cravath scale salary/bonus (I’m part of a transaction team here). Not sure what RS aretrying to do here but still seems to fall short of being a fair deal.

1 PQE - US firm

1700 hours is quite calm tbh for 100k, the 2000 hours is deffo not worth it for 132k though lol

Silver Circle Rise

Seriously, if pretty average shops in London like RS and NRF can pump up nq rates its HIGH time the siLveR ciRCLE got real- Macs, Travers, and especially Ashurst (which sees itself as a real international firm ala RS) need to get real or they will lose out on the best talent period. Plus their PEP is mostly higher than those two.

NQ but dont wanna be

You missed out Simmons from this list – similar target, shitty bonuses and pathetic NQ for a “truly international” firm

Macs to follow?

RS ‘pretty average’? You seem salty to be at an SC firm (to be clear, I’m not implying that RS compares to Latham/Kirkland etc).

From the SC firms that you mentioned only Macs is probably expected to pull a good raise considering their PEP and recent upsurge. Tbh it has been expected for a while now that Macs raises rates above the rest of the SC firms.

HSF future joiner

When will HSF respond? They upped theirs by a measly 2k (from 105k to 107k) recently, and that’s including bonus – base is still around 95k.


Sounds great but it’s a crazy number of hours – really unhealthy. And in return only £66 per hour for 8.5(ish) billable a day. Reality will be 15/16 hrs in the office and weekend work which brings the hourly pay down to £28ph before tax, with a take home pay of about £17ph. The firm however (operating a 25:75% split will earn £600k plus for not doing a lot. Paying for the Porsches and Divorces of the senior equity in the hope that one day they too can exploit junior lawyers at the expense of clients. A model like ours for example pays 90% to the lawyer (a 3 year pqe last year made £219k and worked in general a normal 8 hour day). The traditional law model is not really a great system (but to be fair it does generally provide excellent training but at a serious cost) and entrants to it should be made fully aware, the good and bad, of what they are entering into.

What are you on about

People at HSF aren’t pulling 16 hour days and weekends lol. And what kind of firm pays 90% of billables to associates? Most US shops are even more profitable at partner level than UK.


If anyone is working 16 hours to bill 8.5 hours, that’s their problem and they’re just being wildly inefficient. Also, no 3PQE is making 219k working 9-5, especially not at a firm that you won’t even name.


A “model like ours”? Which firm are you writing about – Keystone?


Aint gonna lie, ill be happy with 100k at any age lool, especially if i was living outside london

Magic Square

alright abs

Ashburst,Simmpsons, Travers Miff

Someone has already mentioned this but surely its high time the other big ‘international’ firms raise nq to at least 100k- Simmons, Ashurst, Macs, Travers, etc. They can’t keep up in this market otherwise. Put your money where your mouth is. In New York Everyone pays the same starting salary pretty much. London sort it out


Why on earth would they pay more when they can get away with paying the same. It isn’t as if they will win any sort of talent war – people from tier 1 universities will continue to go to the MC and US firms, regardless of whether Ashurst or Macs is offering the same compensation. So, there really is no discernible benefit.

Why not...

So you’re implying that if Macs raised to £110k base they wouldn’t get way way more apps?

People don’t just go for the names… money talks kid get real.

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