HSF ups NQ lawyer base pay to £120k

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Leapfrogs A&O, Links and Slaughters

Herbert Smith Freehills has hiked newly qualified (NQ) solicitor base pay to £120,000.

This rise comes as Legal Cheek exclusively revealed today that Linklaters had informed lawyers it would not “rush” into increasing its NQ pay, while fellow magic circle firm Allen & Overy had opted against NQ rises — for now — in light of “challenging” economic conditions.

Effective from today, HSF’s most junior associates will receive an extra £15,000, or 14%, to their base pay, plus a discretionary bonus. Rates were previously set at £105,000.

The firm will also be increasing salaries of associates further up the qualification ladder and “making significant investment throughout the associate bands”.

The NQ pay move sees the firm leapfrog A&O and Linklaters (both £107,500) as well as Slaughter and May (£115,000). Clifford Chance and Freshfields provide an NQ rate of £125,000.

The 2022 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

Alison Brown, HSF executive partner, said:

“It is key that we continue to attract the very best talent. We also want to recognise high-performing lawyers at all levels, so prioritising fairness and equity across the whole associate population is key for us. These new salary increases reflect the real depth of talent we hold in our NQ and entire associate population and demonstrate that we value their contribution, as next generation leaders of our firm.”

Our Firms Most List shows the firm takes on some 60 trainees each year, who earn £50,000 in their first year and £55,000 in their second.

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Well done HSF management. I hear this has actually been the case since May but they have played a PR blinder by announcing today. Links and a&o senior management will now have egg on their face when they announce rises – if they don’t it will be even more catastrophic.


MC Club

Welcome to the MC – bye A&O


The MC is DEAD

Wake up… there is no Magic Circle anymore


MC Hammer

A&O – brokies
Freshfields – crusty old boys club
CC – wokies
Slaughters – past its prime boarding school
Linklaters – influencer wars

HSF is the place to be!



Why on earth would you want to work for A&O when you could make more at HSF? You’ll still work long hours but it will be a better work life balance than the MC.



Not true.



Why work for A&O???? I’ll tell you why: PreStigE


MC Exile

I was told by my MC head of department that the “broader package” was better at the MC. He didn’t elaborate on this.

I have the exact same benefits at my US firm and nearly a 100k more on my base salary.


Mr Lyon



A&O Partner's Face

Who put this egg here!?


A&O 2PQE Corporate


Not a word from the Partners about this today.

Even if A&O matches to £125 now, we’ll all know that their hand was forced by the Silver Circle, and how little they value their people.




Magic dust running low at Links and A&O ✨👎📉


Crystal BALLS Gazer

This really is a chance for big British firms who have done really well lately (e.g. HSF/Ashurst/Macs) to turn the market on its head. HSF’s PEP is 1mill- Ashurst and Macs are on par or more than this and they take less trainees…

Come on shake things up.

Maybe some of these ‘MC’ firms will realise their model of using 100s of grunt staff only works if they pay them (comparative) peanuts.


International Firm Associate

HSF and Ashurst are not British, they both have British roots but include very large Australian contingents as a consequence of mergers. HSF in particular has loads of offices globally, whereas Macs has one. Forgive me for splitting hairs but…



END of MC. New MC will now consist of HSF, FBG, CC, and SandM



Links has fallen a looooong way


Sunshine lady

Links who?!


Incoming US Firm Trainee

Beautifully played from HSF – I suspect A&O and LL will suddenly rethink their compensation policies and miraculously find cash to increase salaries.

When they bow to the pressure, staff will absolutely remember that management opted to freeze salaries, before being forced into an embarrassing and damaging u-turn.



Wonder when stealth layoffs will start……



We’ll know as soon as a bunch of them are online whining about it.





Average Pay War Enjoyer

Lovely. What will the rest of the SC do?






My SC firm not matching HSF but still going higher than Links! Imagine public announcement will be early next week.



Spill the beans please…



HSF making Links and A&O management look like chumps


Munch bunch

Any intel on HSF salaries up the chain? I’ve heard about people going across this year at 1 and 3 PQE for 122k and 125k, so I’m curious to know about bunching.


HSF Associate 2PQE

It’s slightly performance related but goes up c. £3k -£4K per year.


Bonus afficionado

What about bonuses, for NQ and beyond?


Bonus knower

Bonus scheme isn’t great – not particularly generous, and a bit of a moving target unless you’re doing 2,000 hours.


HSF Associate 2PQE

Unlikely to get a bonus as an NQ but from there starts c.£10k and goes up.


Happy days

3 year PQE on 140k


Kirkland NQ




Magic circle rushing towards irrelevance and in house salaries looking increasingly meagre



Any recommendations for in house that pay decent? Seems like retail workers are being provided with increases at a quicker pace than in house


Inside scoop

There’s definitely earning potential as you progress which is down to discretion / performance but there’s only a difference of 5k between the base salary of an NQ and someone 8 years qualified!



That can’t be true. Ridiculous if so.


Inside Scoop

It’s not true, I’m c.1.5 PQE and now on £127k


DWFer in Walkie Talkie who can see everyone!

When we merge with someone like “propa big”, you’ll all know about big salaries.

Even Irwin Mitchell’s custard cream seconds will be shaking with envy.


Allen & Over it

Will Hogan Lovells follow suit?



Ofc! Hogan Lovells = Big money 💰 💷



Most likely



Absolutely not a chance. 31% and 26% increases in PEP in the preceding two years – we have to ensure costs remain low in order to keep this momentum up.



Hogan Lovells follow suit pls



What do you guys think Bakers will increase to? I say £115k


Future bakers trainee

£120-125 I think


JP Stanley

Now NQs at FF and CC make more than a senior VP or Junior ED at MS….. that’s 7/8 PQE lawyers who work very hard and are incredibly talented. But they are lucky to be at MS, apparently…


Lawyer to PE

No they do not.


Pay War Observer

Reed Smith are next to boost theirs to £125k


Confirmation please

Is this confirmed? Big if true.



yes, word says this is true. We are all hoping it is at RS!



Lol this is absolutely not going to happen. Certainly not before February next year when pay review happens.



What a move! I tip my hat off to HSF the same way I did for Ince when they raised NQ to 90k.


Stop it

No NQ is worth more than £100k.



Surely the argument is law firms charge too much for junior lawyers, rather than junior lawyers are overpaid. If they are charging 500+ an hour, doing 2000 hours a year, at 90% realisation they are billing 900k. Easy to justify the NQ salary then.


Scoop Hunter

What’s the word on Simmons & Simmons. Why are they so hush hush about their figures?


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