Slaughter and May joins magic circle rivals in upping NQ pay to £107.5k

By on

Third rise this year

Slaughter and May today announced it has raised the salaries of its newly qualified (NQ) solicitors to £107,500, following similar moves made by some of its magic circle rivals.

The firm confirmed in a statement that following a review of remuneration using “professional market data”, NQ salaries will increase from £100k to £107.5k backdated from November.

This marks the third time this year that the firm has increased NQ salaries. Slaughter and May nudged NQ lawyer pay from £87k to £90.5k in February and to £100k in July 2021.

The latest money move matches recent pay rises made by Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy and Linklaters, meaning Freshfields, which was the first of the bunch to raise NQ salary levels to six figures back in May 2019, is the only magic circle member still paying its NQs £100k.

Magic circle salary standings:

Firm Trainee pay (Year 1) Trainee pay (Year 2) NQ base rates
Allen & Overy £50,000 £55,000 £107,500
Clifford Chance £50,000 £55,500 £107,500
Freshfields £50,000 £55,000 £100,000
Linklaters £50,000 £55,000 £107,500
Slaughter and May £50,000 £55,000 £107,500

In separate news, Slaughter and May confirmed that all staff will receive a discretionary bonus in December. This will be in addition to the special 5% bonus the firm paid out to staff in June this year.

The 2022 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

Elsewhere, Gowling WLG is increasing its junior lawyer salaries in London and Birmingham from next month.

The firm confirmed it is upping NQ solicitor rates to £85,000 in London and £52,000 in Birmingham — representing increases of 12% and 8% respectively. The rises are effective from 1 January 2022.

NQs in London currently earning £75,750 will soon be on the same level of cash as those at Squire Patton Boggs, our 2022 Firms Most List shows, and earning more than their peers at Addleshaw Goddard, CMS and Eversheds Sutherland, all who pay associates £82k upon qualification.

A spokesperson for Gowling WLG said that salary levels for associates, senior associates and legal directors at the firm are also being raised for 2022.

“We keep pay under regular review to ensure we remain competitive and to continue to reward and motivate high performance,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We invested in one our largest salary rounds in recent years over the summer, and we are pleased to be in a position to increase lawyer salaries further from January 1.”

A pay war has been waging across the City as UK law firms compete with the mega-paying US ‘MoneyLaw’ firms in London to retain junior lawyer talent. Find out which other firms have raised London NQ lawyer pay in recent weeks here.

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Newsletter



Where’s that magic now, Freshfields?



How has Freshfields managed to go from top to bottom in the space of a year when it comes to NQ pay? The Magic Circle is a rollercoaster


Didn't want the MC life

Gowling’s NQ raise hidden away in this article by the guise of the MC – 85K very respectable



Very respectable and even more pressure on firms like Pinsent Masons to increase.


A song for FF Nqs

Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmas time again
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmas time again
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmas time again
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmas time again



FF pay up the PQEs is way higher than the other firms though



Can someone explain wtf is happening to ‘top of the MC’ Freshfields .

I’ve heard two versions:

1. That their +1QE blows the other MC’s out of the water (130k+bonus). This is a rumour I’ve seen on this place but also something on RollOnFriday.

2. They are waiting to ‘act last’ and will bump it to £110,000 or something.

They do not have the most trainees. They take on less than Clifford Chance or Linklaters. Both Freshfields and Slaughters recruit the lowest intake out of the MCs. So why the issue?



It is up from 1PQE – from some months ago now. £130k+bonus is exactly what it is. So it does, in that sense, solve the retention problem entirely because nobody wants to leave for salary reasons; and at the same time it does not unnecessarily overpay NQs because of a bidding war


FF Sake

FF has never been top of the MC, just the sweatiest. Can confirm the 130k at 1 PQE minimum though. However with the 2200 billables might as well be as a US shop or A&O for the special levfin bonuses.



They’ve overextended massively in the US with some key rainmakers on 6m+ a year.



Will this mean the US shops go up again to maintain the gap?



No. US salaries are set out of the US. They don’t react to UK firms.



No. Most of that £7.5k will be hit by the loss of the personal allowance after £100k.

The gap between £100k-£120k, whilst a no-mans land all cross eventually if they stay in these firms, is very limited in actual take-home boosts.

By contrast, US firms have offered 146k plus three bonuses this year, so they are unlikely to even notice this.



Why do people always say this? Most people I know make good use of pension allowances in the knowledge that they taper away after a point, and given how little the increase would be after tax if it was taken as income – and £7.5k p/a extra in this context is £7.5k extra in the pension pot.



Slaughters raise NQ pay having been forced into it and through gritted teeth to avoid professional embarrassment


Silver Circle Analyst

Expecting Ashurst to do something next… Can see them going to 100 maybe105. As for Simmons and Travers on the other hand they’ll probably just call it a day and settle at their current rates.



It’s just embarrassing for Simmons and Travers – really no way to justify it



Thanks for this, good luck with the vacation scheme applications.

Simmons and Travers are very different animals.



Simmons just went to 100k



These minor NQ increases are just PR stunts. The retention issues firms are having are at 1-3 PQE and not at NQ level. If FBD are opting to hike their PQE scales by a considerable amount rather than taking part in this tit-for-tat at NQ level then that seems like a much more sensible approach (although it will get far less publicity). If firms keep pushing the NQ rate up but don’t replicate the increase at other PQE levels then their associates are actually more likely to leave when they are most useful to the firm.


Not an NQ

Yes. SM increasing 1 pqe to £112,500 – and so on – pretty much sums this up. Even more “bunching” than before.



This is a good take, although I think FF will still pump up the NQ whack to 107.5-110 to keep the grumbles quiet.


Can I move out in first seat and apply for another TC?

Some firms raise 3 times a year and firms like mine struggle even with 1 raise while partners shout about the “excellent financials” every opportunity they get – rhymes with Timmons & Rimmons



Move on qualification, if you’re a first seat trainee the difference you’ll get in pay will be around 200 a month post tax (at most). Just focus on your training and becoming marketable on qualification. Don’t worry about payrises that don’t affect your level.



how do you make yourself more marketable on qualification? i want to move firms i’m a 3rd seat trainee at a decent city firm


what is a decent city firm?

deal/client exposure, better if you have client secondment at a client that the new firm would like, networking, having a solid recruiter, referrals from your mates at places you wanna move to etc. are things you’d need to consider



Thx for the comment fresher, now back to your revision notes yes?



Someone obviously wasn’t included on the 1053am email…


Interested Vac Scheme Applicant

Keen to hear about this 1053 email. Is the raise at least competitive? or are we talking 2k raise?



NQ to 100k


Bob Cratchit

“earning more than their peers at …CMS …who pay associates £82k upon qualification”. You need to do a bit more research LegalCheek. Some firms are modest enough to award their lawyers massive (across the board) pay rises and bonuses without feeling the need to issue a self-congratulatory press release..



Lmao CMS


Aishah Hussain

‘Newly-qualified (£82,000)’ 😉 but point us in the right direction, please?



Why has Legal Cheek not released anything on the Freshfields 20k raise for associates? Similarly, LL have also increased associate pay but unfortunately The Lawyer has only reserved these articles for paying subscribers!


CMS trainee

CMS have increased everyone’s salary across the board by 15%, pending a salary review in July, putting NQs at 95k. Just not public yet.
Source: CMS trainee


CMS trainee

Do your research lol



At least they have PR gimps on LegalCheek ensuring the real market (the commenters) are informed.

Thanks Bobby.


Future SM trainee

What do we reckon the nq salaries will be by the time current future trainees qualify ie 2025? They can’t keep increasing at this rate surely.



By then the 2023 financial crisis will have happened, your house will be worth less than a meal deal and the SM NQ pay will hover at £100,000, but you’ll be paying the firm.


Question to the legion of legal cheeky cheeky

Which firm pays 100k but has best work/life balance so you can actually enjoy your salary???? Asking for a friend



Senior associate at somewhere like RPC



Surely Travers have got to shift looking at profitability v NQ pay now.


Comments are closed.