EXCLUSIVE: regional NQ pay hits all-time high of £81k in Osborne Clarke salary hike

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Rises in the London office too

International law firm Osborne Clarke has confirmed to Legal Cheek that the lawyers qualifying into its Reading office will receive a base salary of £81,000, a figure that smashes pay records for newly qualified (NQ) lawyers in the regions.

This marks an increase of almost 25% with the firm boosting its Reading NQ’s pay up from £65,000. Meanwhile, their counterparts in Bristol enjoyed a 15% salary hike to £69,000, the third highest-paying NQ rate for a UK office outside of London after Hogan Lovells’ Birmingham office that pays £70k.

Osborne Clarke’s Bristol trainees now start on £45,000, rising to £47,000 in their second year, up from £39,250 and £43,000. On the other hand, trainee pay in Reading has dipped slightly to £46,350 for first year trainees and £48,150 for second years, depegging from the London rate which last year was set at £47,500 and £49,500.

The 2022 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

The international firm has also put NQ wages up in London from £80,000 to £90,000, a rise of 12.5%. According to the Legal Cheek Firms Most List, this puts Osborne Clarke on par with Ince and Mishcon de Reya.

Trainee pay, however, is the more striking figure out of the London pay rises. The firm has dished out an extra £4000 to both first-year and second-year trainees who will now take home £51,500 and £53,500 respectively. This makes it the second highest first-year salary of any UK-headquartered firm, trailing Addleshaw Goddard by just £500 and edging out the Magic Circle who all pay £50k.

This latest round of salary increases comes off the back of a strong set of financial results that saw Osborne Clarke’s revenue jump 20% to €407 million (£349 million), a rise that even “surprised” the firm’s international chief executive Omar Al-Nuaimi.

10 highest NQ rates in the UK outside of London

RankingFirmNQ base rate
1Osborne Clarke£81,000 (Reading)
2Hogan Lovells£70,000 (Birmingham)
3Osborne Clarke£69,000 (Bristol)
4Simmons & Simmons£68,000 (Bristol)
=5DLA Piper£65,000 (all regional offices)
=5Squire Patton Boggs£65,000 (all regional offices)
6Shoosmiths£63,800 (Thames Valley)
=7Addleshaw Goddard£62,000 (Leeds and Manchester)
=7Eversheds Sutherland£62,000 (all regional offices)
8Pinsent Masons£61,000 (all regional offices)

Junior lawyers practising in the regions are the beneficiaries of the pressures of globalisation in the legal sector.

US-headquartered firms have been increasing trainee and NQ pay in London driving up salaries in the City as law firms engage in a war for talent. This has had the knock-on effect of putting pressure on firms with UK offices both in London and outside of the City to raise salaries consistently on a firmwide basis.

The competitive US ‘money law’ culture has also reached the regions via UK-US merged firms with offices throughout the UK such as DLA Piper, Hogan Lovells and Squire Patton Boggs which have been at the forefront of regional pay rises.

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90k in London v 80k in Reading is dumb.



Might as well live in Reading. Swear cost of living is better there?



Not really, no


Barney the tree

Of course it is.


Former thames valley lawyer

Reading is cheap as chips to live (relatively speaking) but is an absolute shithole



Says someone who clearly lived in Reading 30+ years ago…



As opposed to east London where most junior lawyers live…


Gowling Associate

Gowlings have fell so far behind the rest of the international firms in the regions. We are hemorrhaging lawyers atm



Maybe it’s because their associates can’t write


Gowling Associate

I apologise if my dyslexia has offended you!



Apology accepted.



I doubt you’re dyslexic



Burges Salmon NQ pay now £65k too – bit disappointing considering OC is now higher, but good to see continued regional raises.


City looking to Regions

Anything from Burges Salmon…?






65k NQ
46k 2nd year trainee
44k 1st year trainee



I accepted my TC offer but I haven’t heard anything about this – how did you find out?



“after Hogan Lovells’ Manchester office that pays £70k.”



William Holmes

Thanks for spotting this error – have now updated 🙂




The Shed, you need to at raise again at least it’s trainee pay



What about Wombles (which sound like a CBeebies tv show) didn’t they increase too?


Grim up north

WM in Leeds.
Juicy bonus of up to 35%
1350 billable
Cheap housing
Fantastic countryside on yr doorstep.

But yeah Reading ……..😂



Tbh not all of reading is shit. Swear they have a private school, the Abbey school? I’m sure some people who go school there live in nice places in reading



Classic City law type of comment “it can’t be that bad because there is a private school” Imagine the HORROR of living in area without one!


Classic City Law

It certainly would be a dealbreaker for me.



Random Q and unrelated – apologies.

Anyone have any news on pay rises at “US” firms like White & Case or Cleary.

Feel like they missed my news feed if there was any update.



That’s because there isn’t.



Squires is still 55k in the regions…


Kirkland NQ

What is this “Outside London” thing? Do I eat it? Do I sit on it? I’m so confused.



I don’t know but the pay looks awful.



The facts in this article are wrong, AG do not pay trainees £51k lol


Lincolnshire Lad

Just out of curiosity, what hours are expected by firms offering these salaries? Public sector salaries are hugely lower – little wonder they’re struggling to recruit – but you can at least have a life outside work!


Grim Up North

NQ in Leeds – generally we all work 8.30 – 1800. Occasional late night required and pretty rarely you I have to work the weekend.

Its very dependent on your department. Corporate work much longer hours pretty consistently and there are others where more frequent late working is required. But my routine is mirrored by by 80% of my fellow juniors.

This is reflected in the billable hours target. Its 1350 – which is easily achievable and for those that work longer a good part of your bonus is connected to hours worked. Very few work the extreme hours that some city lawyers seem to suffer.

What I would say is that compared to my friends who have graduated into the public sector is that not only is the pay and benefits far higher – but the culture tends to be much more hard working – they often spend quite a lot of their day not doing a great deal of work and it is to some extent an extension of their social life. Whereas at mine pretty much everyone is flat out and hard at it all day. (fun or exciting are not words I would use to describe the office)

Add in of course that even out in the regions its a fiercely competitive business getting a training contract for a large commercial firm.

So plenty of life outside work – but pretty much only work when you are there!



SPB are still paying NQs £55k until January (although knowing SPB they will probably backtrack and decide against the increase stating “market uncertainty”). Their pay reviews in February was poor timing as they are now behind all competitors (and behind even some of the smaller regionals).


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