Exclusive: We won’t ‘rush’ to increase NQ pay, Linklaters tells lawyers

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Magic circle player to consider ‘impact of any changes and the wider economic context’ before matching rivals, internal email reveals

Magic circle player Linklaters has told its junior lawyers it won’t “rush” into matching the salaries offered by some of its closest rivals, Legal Cheek can reveal.

In an email (in full below) circulated to associates last week, Links said that whilst it recognised “that our NQ salaries are below those of some our competitors, we do not believe that the right course of action is to rush into matching salaries at NQ level without properly considering the impact of any changes and the wider economic context”.

This, the email continues, “includes understanding how any changes would be applied across all PQE levels (including counsel and knowledge lawyers) and taking stock of whether the bonus continues to work most effectively”.

Links says it will be exploring the issues around pay over the coming weeks and encourages associates to come forward if they “have any views”.

The 2022 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

Linklaters has been approached for comment.

News of the cautious approach comes just a day after Allen & Overy told junior lawyers they would be missing out on pay rises — for now — due to what the firm described as “challenging” economic conditions.

The Legal Cheek Firms Most List 2022 shows Allen & Overy and Linklaters‘ NQ rates currently sit at £107,500, while Clifford Chance and Freshfields both dish out £125,000 following pay increases earlier this year. Slaughter and May, meanwhile, provides its most junior lawyers a salary of £115,000 thanks to an uplift in April.

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PC C***

Hahahaha this is so embarrassing!!!



Shameful considering the new managing partner said back in November the firm would now lead the way on pay in terms of competing with UK firms. The bonus requirements are outrageous, you have to do over 2500 billable hours to bring you to parity with US firm base salaries.



I mean that’d be >50k of bonuses…



>75K for a first year in bonus, it would be. If you consider in the bonus you’d get at a US shop.


Millennial tears

Aboohoo feel so bad for you. When do you have the time to spend the money anyway 🤪






It’s so obvious that A&O and Links have come up with this plan together to take a stand against further pay rises



*calling in competition law colleagues*


MC Ass

I think they think the market is about to tank and the others are going to be more embarrassed rolling back their salaries. Only time will tell.



If they are well leveraged full service practices (the whole selling point of MC) it shouldn’t affect them. R&I and Disputes will get busier while corporate gets quieter.



Yes, but none of the MC firms have particularly strong disputes practices, let alone R&I. I know, because I trained at one of them, and then moved on qualification to a US firm because there were far too few NQ places in the disputes team (and also because of the money, obvs).

If you search historic issues of The Lawyer, you will find many articles over the past 20 years describing how different MC firms have launched ambitious plans to grow their disputes teams. They’ve never managed it. The last time I looked, disputes was no more than 20% of the practice for all firms except Freshfields.

There are many reasons for this, not least competition from US firms (who can also represent clients in SEC and DOJ investigations etc.), MC clients are usually defendants who have instructed the firm only because that’s where the transactional relationship is too, and finally the MC’s higher fees means that they’re uncompetitive compared to other English firms.


LL Assoc

Solid analysis. DR is the most competitive qualification option in almost every round at Links, despite the practice remaining weak compared to others. It relies heavily on Aussies to replace the most talented NQs who inevitably go to places like Boies or Mischcon once they realise that the meat of the practice is boring investigations – ie endless doc review. We do arguably have the best R&I practice in Europe though.


Absolute rubbish – what are you basing this off? Links has hundreds of associates in disputes – it’s one of the key practices in the firm. R&I is also big and supported by other banking lawyers – they spent all the last recession working on Lehman.

Zeta Male

This is way off and is very much an NQ-at-US-sweatshop type comment.

All of the biggest COVID restructurings across Europe have been done by MC, and it was the same after 2008. There are no other firms stronger in this space. Even beyond Europe, there are few US firms with enough presence in Asia Pacific and Middle East. You saw it in the aviation sector which was hit hardest by COVID, all of the global restructurings were done by MC firms.

While it’s true that disputes is 20-30% of most the MC, 25% of £2bn revenue is still £500m. No other firms come close in Europe or Asia Pacific in size. Even HSF’s disputes practice is smaller than most of the MC in absolute terms.

Junior Latham Associate

Won’t rush to increase? Don’t be surprised when trainees won’t rush to sign NQ contracts and associates resign, en masse.

Looking forward to working alongside some ex Links associates – when the inevitable stampede for the exits begins.



This is a great opportunity for US firms to swoop in and poach talented but undervalued associates at these firms.


Lemon Balm

Or move to Freshies or CC for an immediate 20%+ pay increase and the exact same type of work and probably slightly better culture.


Left big toe

LOL at Freshies or CC having better culture. Moving to either is a hospital pass.


Stand up comedian

Really seeing the differences amongst supposed ‘top’ firms now.

Only paying 2k more than the likes of Ashurst and HSF but for US firm hours.

Freshies has amongst the highest trainee numbers too and still raised to 125k. This firm has quite literally shown itself to be the weakest LINKS.






HSF have just increased to 120k NQ plus bonus from today – reported in the lawyer.



HSF up to 120k now..


Clown farm

Lol, this is incredibly woeful. Strategically, there are some firms now, like JD, Reed Smith, HSF, Mayer Brown, etc, etc, that could step in and increase salaries that go beyond A&O/LL significantly, i.e to 120-130k NQ. What do they get from that? A sea of grads/talent from Oxbridge / RG universities queuing up.



Agreed, but from personal experience Oxonians tend to go for US firms (even JD!)/Slaughters over Links/A


MC ass

Lol every MC intake is packed with Oxbridge grads.



No sensible person would choose to train with Jones Day over Linklaters or even A&O



HSF has increased NQ base to 120K.



Links associates to unionise. You heard it here first.



Someone has already said it above – it’s so obvious this is some scheme concocted by Links and A&O to stop pay increases.

The MC is split now. FF and CC will lead on pay. SM is in the middle (though, more annual leave, two bonuses and no billable targets + “prestige” – whatever that means…). A&O and Links firmly at the bottom without question.



How much annual leave are people getting at Slaughters?



30 days base.



Entitlement to annual leave is one thing. Being able to take it is another.

(speaking as a not-at-all-resentful US trainee who’s had to cancel his leave on several occasions and has worked through it on another)


MC ass

That’s never happened to me at 6 years at a MC firm, but it’s happened to literally everyone I know at US firms. That’s part of why you get paid the big bucks – American clients pay more fees, but absolutely don’t give a fuck about ruining your life.



I’m 3 PQE in a US firm. It’s not the clients driving us, it’s the fact that US firms must realise maximum value from associates if they are to pay them so much more. That means far higher hours targets, and an expectation of availability in evenings, weekends and holidays. It’s unsustainable for many people with kids, but that’s fine – we only need a finite number of people.

The good thing about this though, other than the money, is the fact that I never hear whinging about “I could get so much more for the same hours in a US firm”, which I did hear while a trainee in an MC firm. If you’re at a US firm, you know what you signed up for. It’s therefore gratifyingly snowflake-free.

MC Ass

True. Personally I haven’t moved because most people I know at US firms are bellends and/or have a much worse life than mine. You won’t hear me complaining about it – it’s a conscious choice. People complaining endlessly about US salaries are honestly rare in my experience though. Most people just go if they’re unhappy.


They were also the first two firms to cut pay when covid hit. Future applicants bear this very carefully in mind when you make your TC apps!


The Informer

The two bonuses from S&M is simply one bonus split in two. They get their bonuses every 6 months, rather than one lump sum at the end of 12 months.



OMG HSF AT 120K!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1





Well HSF always was referred to as the 6th member of the MC – maybe they should apply for permanent membership



Absolutely shocking form from links and a&o. All associates should get an email at close of business today saying NQ is now 125k or hand their notice on Monday.



Hahaha yeah seems like the magic dust is running out at Links & A&O

This HSF announcement was perfectly timed 👌



Don’t be ridiculous. Exclamation marks and all. No one really cares and I suggest you find a life or something.


Herby Diced

HSF now paying £120k to NQs (see article in the Lawyer today, leapfrogging). I think this was decided in May, but after this news from A&O and Links you’ve got to hand it to them – they’ve timed this announcement for maximum impact.



The MC always does this – paints the vibe of being progressive and ahead of the curve but still held back by money hungry partners who want to keep a hand in the profit pool for as long as they can



All these comments about the bull market coming to an end…

HSF HAVE JUST RAISED TO 120K. If the likes of Ashurst and Reed Smith/Mayer Brown follow, the whole idea of the MAgiC CirCle to graduates will be flipped on its head. Exciting times!



HSF raised in May and A&O have called the market today. Law firms recruited massively in 2021 and now associates are returning to the office law firms expenditure has increased (socials, firm retreats, international travel etc) PE has slowed down considerably and it’s going to be recruitment freezes and stealth layoffs



This is more insulting than refusing.


Sick and tired

The senior management at Linklaters are liars. They raised salaries in November telling us they were committed to leading the UK market in pay, and not even a year later they’ve gone back on that promise and are trying to get away with paying nearly 20k under CC/FF, and nearly 15k under HSF.

They must think we’re all clowns to be happy being undervalued like that.

If anyone can recommend me a good recruiter I would be very grateful.



Lol the magic circle is done.



Litecoin (silver circle) has overtaken Bitcoin (magic circle) Lool



Will HL copy HSF and raise to £120k?



Here’s hoping. We were all fairly disappointed it was put up to 107 rather than c115-120, at the time.



My SC firm also about to go higher than this. Embarrassing for the MC.



We had a town hall meeting at Links a few years ago and NQ salaries came up. One of the comments that the then Senior Partner made was “my daughter’s a junior trader and she only makes £30k…”. This kid of reflect what’s wrong with the City. It’s still mostly full of children of wealthy parents, who can absorb getting paid peanuts because BOMAD is paying for their around the world adventures. For someone from a working class background who has moved from the regions, the City is cripplingly expensive. I left a while ago, but this attitude is the reason why Links continues to hemorrhage its good lawyers to the US firms.


Harsh but fair

All this drivel about law firms. Sorry, but you are just a bunch of paper pushers who never encounter the law and delegate the proper work to counsel.


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