Magic Circle NQ lawyers charged out at £600 per hour, new data suggests

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By William Holmes on


Rates for top partners hits £1,500 — double compared to 15 years ago

The hourly rates of a newly qualified (NQ) associate at a top Magic Circle or US law firm can be as much as £600, new data suggests.

The eye-catching figures, compiled by legal costs expert Jim Diamond, also show that Magic Circle partners’ rates have doubled compared to 15 years ago, whilst, according to the Bank of England, inflation has risen 36% over the same 15-year period. Magic Circle partner rates currently sit between £1000-£1500, while US firm partners typically charge between £950-£1350, according to Diamond’s figures.

Magic Circle (left), US law firms (centre), Top London law firms (non-US and non-Magic Circle) (right) (Data source: Jim Diamond)

The research suggests the hourly rates for lawyers at Magic Circle and US law firms with between zero and two years post qualification experience (PQE) sit at £450-£600, while those at five PQE can charge up to £850.

Between 2000 and 2021, revenues produced by the UK legal sector have shot up from £8.6 billion to £41.6 billion with over two-thirds of this generated by the top 100 firms.

Magic Circle law firms

Year NQ-2 years PQE 5 years PQE Partner
2003 £175-£185 £245-£280 £375-£450
2005 £180-£215 £250-£300 £425-£525
2007 £235-£250 £375-£450 £625-£700
2008 £250 £350-£400 £600-£750
2009 £250 £375 £450
2010 £300-£350 £450-£550 £650-£725
2013 £350-£425 £450-£550 £700-£850
2015 £350-£500 £500-£575 £775-£850
2022 £450-£600 £650-£850 £1000-£1500

Diamond believes the recent series of junior lawyer salary rises explains why NQs are now charging around what partners would charge back in 2007 (not taking inflation into account).

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“The Magic Circle law firms are paying in region of £125,000 for NQ lawyers whereas the US law firms are paying £160,000 for NQ. One US law firm smashing records in the legal market place by paying just shy of £180,000. In 2015 the US law firms were paying in the region of £90,000 in comparison to Magic Circle law firms paying in the region of £70,000 for NQs,” says Diamond who is the author of The Legal Extortion Racket which is coming out later this year.

He notes: “The simple logic is with these huge increases in salaries will be passed on to the law firms respective clients. This is not meant as a criticism of NQs themselves as the 24/7 work commitment is the price they pay. I just wonder how many of them are still in the legal industry in 10 years’ time.”

US law firms

Year NQ-2 years PQE 5 years PQE Partner
2007 £215-£225 £325-£360 £450-£500
2008 £225 £300-£375 £425-£500
2009 £250 £375 £450
2010 £250-£300 £450-£550 £500-£600
2013 £275-£325 £450-£550 £550-£700
2015 £375-£525 £500-£595 £700-£900
2022 £450-£600 £700-£850 £950-£1350

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