NRF boosts NQ lawyer pay by 11% to £105k

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Top performers could earn as much as £147k with bonus

Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) has upped base salaries for its newly qualified (NQ) lawyers to £105,000 following a recent pay review.

Th global outfit said rates could rise to between £118,125 to £147,000 if NQs achieve the required hours to earn a performance bonus. NQ rates were previously set at £95,000.

First-year trainees currently earn £48,500, whilst second-year trainees recieve £53,000.

The Legal Cheek Firms Most List 2022 shows that NRF’s new NQ base rate is on par with Ashurst and Mayer Brown and just £2,500 off Magic Circle firms Allen & Overy and Linklaters. The firm last increased its NQ pay in November, handing its juniors a 12% uplift.

In light of the cost of living crisis, the firm has also decided to raise the salaries of its UK full-time employees who earn under £48k by at least 5% up to a maximum of 10%. All these new pay changes will come into effect on 1 September 2022.

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Dentons Associate

Of course as soon as we catch up to the tail end of the pack, everyone pulls away again.



If Links and A&O need another wake up call, perhaps this is it…


Time to jump ship?

But do they even care?


A&O Associate #24601

Care? Of course they care. They care about revenue and PEP.

Think of this as a bet; everyone I know at a junior level is actively working with recruiters to jump ship. Some are even working on CVs in plain sight. Management (both LL and A&O) will have contemplated this but are betting that an insufficient number will actually succeed that could damage profitability or render the deal pipeline unsustainable. If this thesis looks like it’s going to hold, then they have no incentive to raise.

At NQ-4PQE, it takes four to six months to pull off a move. The successful defection rate gets lowered further by a bonus here, a secondment there (or a promise thereof) to the ones they want to keep on. Any future slowdown in the lateral market further eats into this figure. Point being, if they see the tide turning (and it doesn’t look like it is), they have plenty of time to up salaries.

There have been some interesting comments before attributing profits being drained by US investment but my pet theory is that they over-committed during the hiring spree and it’s a lot easier to convince someone to jump ship rather than push them off.


Banking B4

A fair and measured response. Pretty much everyone in finance, corporate and restructuring I’ve spoken to has been looking for a job. It’s ignorant in assuming that the firm’s decision on pay shall have no impact on staff loyalty.


Disgruntled MC associate

It’s quite telling that this seems to be a well thought through strategy from A&O and LL, rather than ‘ignorance’. And every time there is some indication of a crisis (Covid, Russian war against Ukraine or the financial crisis), they always freeze pay. Do partner drawings get reduced as well? Is the PEP lowered? We and the market know the answer. Ruthless and cold. And these are the same people who tell us that US firms are ruthless?

And they honestly expect us to believe that they will “protect” and “look after” people in recession? Sure, if it lasts 2-3 months, then yes, they probably wont do anything drastic. But if the war is gonna last years, and the energy crisis and inflation persist, would they really not fire anyone even due to “challenging market conditions”?

Maybe it is a sound business decision, but I think the illusion of “friendly” and “people’s” culture of these firms that they were so oh eagerly selling in the beginning of my career has long been seen through.

A nobody associate

Honestly our market leading restructuring is likely to be propping up the firm in the coming decade, yet the cocksure management doesn’t appreciate the impending exodus and the severity of the situation. What a total airhead.


Any insight into what these required hours are to earn 147k?

I assume 2400 or something equally as ridiculous.



2200+ i would imagine based on bonus structures of my current and previous firms in same market


NRF Associate




Billed or clocked? Back in the day bonuses were based on hours that actually went into the bill after write offs.


NRF Associate

That’s changed now – bonus is based on billable hours or, if it works out better for you, multiple of fees billed versus base salary (i.e. if you get charged out at a higher rate but do less hours then you can end up with a larger bonus than someone smashing hours at 60% discount to headline).


Ince lonely soul

What are the target hours like at NRF? 1800+?


Concerned associate

are you ok?



No. My firm’s down the pan and I’m probs gonna be made redundant in a couple of months. Primark home section here I come 🙁



People that complain, just move firms. What’s the big deal? Don’t tell me you have such undying loyalty to a law firm that could drop you anytime lol



You’re right in theory but it’s not just a matter of loyalty – loads of other factors there e.g. risk of leaving to somewhere worse (if you like the culture of your current firm but not the pay), risk of being the first one on the chopping block if you go somewhere new right before we hit a big recession, etc.


Older gent

Which is exactly the point. Stop complaining that someone else is earning a few thousand pounds more after tax if you are in a job with a good boss, good team and good supply of work. If the job is so bad then leave for more money if you can get it. Just stop complaining. People here are really making such a big deal out of potentially a few hundred pound more a month difference. These constant articles on NQ salaries are so tedious.



Guys after this announcement, which firm next do you think is next to rise??



Didn’t think they had it in them. Good whack NFR. Still wouldn’t work there though lol



I’m sure they’re devastated



I’m at Freshies so I’m good lol



first year insight scheme?



I could understand Links and A&O’s positions if they gave a guarantee (or even some meaningless pledge that they would try their best) not to fire people or cut salaries if a big recession hits.

But they haven’t. And these are two stingy, ruthless firms. They both cut salaries ASAP when Covid hit. And A&O’s firing of associates and partners in 2008/09 is infamous.

What’s the point of being at Links or A&O for less money if you’re not going to be guaranteed extra security in the event of a downturn?



You can’t really guarantee that, can you? No firm ever could.


LL associate

Linklaters care about their people indeed. You can see it through the way they wind down the Moscow office – their severance payment and relocation offers are the most generous on the market even in comparison to the top US firms.

I’m 100% sure that the decision not to raise salaries is temporary, and once there is a solid pipeline of transactional work in autumn, they will match salaries to the level of CC/FBD.



Yeah, it’s not like the partners are obsessed with PEP and keen to reduce their ‘fixed cost base’ (your salary).

It’s not like Links cut your salaries in 2020 when Covid hit. It’s not like the Links managing partner complained in summer 2019 that the NQ salaries hitting £100k were unnecessary.

No, you’re right. The Links partners really care about you. Would you like a biscuit with that kool-aid?


A&O Banking Associate

So you actually believe that Links and A&O are worried about their deal pipelines? All other firms seem to be happy raising salaries (including direct competitors like CC and Freshfields with almost identical pipelines).

Let’s see this for what it is. Links and A&O were hoping they could start a trend of freezing NQ salaries. It hasn’t worked as everyone else is raising. But they’re probably thinking ok, worst case, we have an extra few months of underpaying our associates. We can raise in the autumn if need be and in the meantime more money for our poor partners on £2 million a year.

The naivety of some people…



No links associate would say this, this post screams of being written by someone in HR or even worse a partner.



They’re not the most generous though – CC’s relocation offering for example is much stronger (I know as I had comparative offers).



The use of a firm’s strategy to winding down Russian offices is something I have seen in several vac schemes this year, as apparent evidence of [the firm in question] having a nice culture. LL associate, or LL future trainee? ‘fess up


A and Ohhhhyeah

I’m finding it hard to understand how A&O and Links can justify paying slavish attention to the Cravath scale for their US associates but not paying attention to market factors in London for their UK associates. The market is moving and they’re falling behind. And now if/when they move they will seem miserly and reactionary and weak. Friends at A&O were apparently happy with decent bonuses this year – and with new “super” bonus schemes it seems they’re trying to move more rem into the variable camp.


A&O Associate #24601

Wondering what seniority we’re talking about here.

The lions share of the bonus pool goes to key SAs to prevent them from defecting to US firms.

Junior bonuses tend to be lockstep 1-3 PQE and even then I’ve heard of a lot of people hitting targets (~100% busyness all year round) and still missing out. I’m talking across transactional, litigation and advisory practices.

I mean fair enough if management wants variable comp for more control over pay but if it’s not implemented correctly (i.e. not getting a bonus is a clear signal you’re considered expendable), the effects are awful for morale.



What’s the new super bonus scheme? Looking to join there from overseas (India). Thank u.


Hello again

If you hit 2000 hours billable (this now includes pro bono)…

15-30% bonus if 1 to 3 years PQE
30-50% bonus if more senior

Both guaranteed.

This bonus is separate to the team specific bonus which is discretionary.

It’s meant to help the firm keep hold of those in the sweatier banking/cap markets teams.


US firm associate

If you’re billing 2000 hours a year, just go to a Cravath scale US firm.

You’ll have a higher base salary and higher bonuses. The US targets are all around 1900/2000 hours and include pro bono hours.


tired bill

Target of 2000 hours =/= actually billing 2000 hours (it will likely be more)

I’m pretty sure that pro bono hours count towards billable hour requirements at all MC firms…

Vax schemer

Anyone reckon two birds will increase again?



Lol, nope



Yes, they’re now called three birds



So, A&O and LL only earn £2500 more than NRF at NQ level? Looool

Magic circle who?



It’s incredibly short termist to just look at the NQ salary – by 3/4PQE there’s going to be a significant difference between total comp at A&O/LL vs NRF and similar firms.

The only reason to be utterly fixated on NQ salary is if you plan to qualify, make as much money as you can and then get out as soon as possible – and if you’re one of those people, why would the firm bother incentivising you?


Someone who was born before the year 2000

Since when did MC refer to the firms with the highest salaries?

Are you familiar with how the term was coined?


Copium Dispenser

NRF is never going to be considered to be on par with A&O or other MC firms. It’s basically a mid market finance shop with some other practices attached, many of which are legacy and unprofitable e.g. shipping.

You can mock A&O as much as you like but they’re still the better firm.



You are still under an illusion of “magic”…

Yes, A&O is a good firm, if not a top 20 best firm in the world. But do you really think that the difference between it and say a top 100 firm is that great? Do you really think that the service they are offering to its clients is that better? And in every single area of law that it operates in?

You, my friend, still have not seen through the illusion of ‘magic’.


Copium Dispenser

No idea what “top 20” is supposed to mean but thanks for the arbitrary fresher metric.

If you actually worked in A&O’s ICM practice, or even in capital markets more broadly, you’d know that it’s a stand out practice that usually sweeps the league tables across most product/asset classes. As in, its closest rivals outside of the US are probably Latham and CC and that’s it. Same goes for its Banking practice. NRF just isn’t in the same league in most of what it does.

No one claimed that A&O, or any MC firm for that matter, is amazing at everything it does.

A top 100 firm – if that is used to refer to national firms like TLT and smaller ones like Osborne Clarke – is very different from a firm like A&O, both in terms of its clients, profitability and sheer market presence/diversity. Any fresher would know this.

Anyway, I think you need a 50 ml shot if you keep on being this deluded, here you go *ka chink!*.


Juicy truth teller

Honestly, A&O/Links been a market leader in various practice areas for decades and it’s preposterous to even imagine that the lower pay is gonna somehow erode that position.

Take finance as an example. Your “elite US” firms might be paying significantly more but the truth is very few in fact does tier 1 work. It’s therefore common that many US associates end up quitting law altogether as they struggle to make partnership due to their abysmal skills compared to MC associates of the same level and are too burned out.

Google is free

A&O has 30+ Tier 1 rankings on Legal 500 in London, NRF has half that (15).

A&O pays more across the board even in spite of its recent decision not to raise salaries and its PEP is nearly double that of NRF.

Pretty clear which firm has more “magic”.



HR, is that you? Or worse yet, a counsel/partner?


Shoosmiths to reach £110,000 for NQ (rumoured leak)



Not happening. I will personally bet you 100 bucks. Why would a bang average regional shop go higher than the silver circle?



Trolling dumbass lol.



with bonus or base?


Twelve cats eating Yorkshire pudding

You joke, but they pay 87k which is pretty decent considering it’s known as a regional hitter


Thoughts looking at market

I reckon piper or the shed could rise next. Not sure about pins tho



Okay guys, we can no longer troll NFR.





Yi Xhan

why not? second rate firm that can’t even match the low bar set by SC firms. bunches its pay like crazy. basically Dentons with fewer offices.



Why not?



Kennedys to reach 80k for nqs (rumoured leak)


Interested Party

Anyone know what the rises have been like further up the PQ scale?


Keen observer

5PQE is £150k. I call it the Half Cravath Rate.



Oh so they’ve got rid of quite a lot of the bunching then that was talked about on here a month or two back – fair play to them


Bunch Munch

Can someone corroborate or give other PQE rates?

Not mistrusting you mate, just curious to get a clear picture of just how much they’ve fixed their bunching if at all.


An unimportant associate

4.5 PQE here at £147,500. I think our pay varies. Keen to know what others are getting paid for benchmarking purposes.


Glad I left DWF

Will DWF ever release any formal, clear salary scale? Whilst priding itself on doing “high quality” work where are the high quality salaries…



Lol this is pennies! Hogan Lovells base starts at £107k with potential to rise to £150k


Who's next!

Who’s next to rise! (insert meme of dancing kid)


legal money cheek

They should change legal cheek to “legal money cheek”. That’s all this site talks about.


Doer in East London

Go away. I love legal cheek and am appreciative of the unbiased reporting.



Davis Polk to increase NQ rate to 180k


Cash is king

Cash is king.



Will Dentons ever increase their scale!? Apparently the base salary jump from NQ to 1PQE is £90,000 to £92,000…?



loooooooool oh Dentons


Max Power

Is it more if you work on the overseas torture cases?


Check your figures.

NQ base is 92k son, you’ve made these figures up.



A newbie question – why does NRF (a US firm) pay significantly less than some other US firms such as K&E and AG? Would I get better training at K&E as opposed to NRF?


Summer vac scheme student

Are Ashurst increasing?


Full disclosurer

Several Cravath pay scale firms in London are struggling to meet targets. My bet is that these firms, which focus deeply on private equity and finance work, will soon lay off their staff to preserve the bottom line. The junior end of the practice will be most affected (looking at trainees who live an extravagant lifestyle wearing Rolexes and APs in anticipation of the handsome NQ paycheque).

The £160k+ NQ dream will soon be over to most. Only the true elite can survive. Freshers should be aware of what’s coming.


Interested party

Shouldn’t they lay off mid-level associates without the perspectives of partnership before cheap juniors?


Legal industry historian

You only really become useful after the 3PQE mark and hence it makes perfect sense to lay off junior associates or super senior associates with no partnership prospects (12+PQE). Obviously, this also depends on practice areas. For instance, in a typical large litigation team firm would want to retain more junior to support doc disclosure process.

Goes without saying that if you’re not performing generally there is a higher risk that you get turfed out.


You only live twice

Because its not a US firm


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