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

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By William Holmes on


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

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