Slaughters swerves Magic Circle pay war — for now

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NQ rates remain at £115k despite rivals raising

Elite law firm Slaughter and May is keeping salaries for newly qualified (NQ) associates at £115,000 for the time being, despite rivals Allen & Overy and Linklaters both upping pay earlier this month.

Slaughters conducts pay reviews every six months, the most recent of which is understood to have taken place last month. NQ rates were kept the same but eligible associates shifted up through the post-qualification pay bands as normal.

The decision comes as both A&O and Links recently increased to £125,000, matching similar moves by Freshfields and Clifford Chance in spring 2022.

The 2023 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

The Legal Cheek Firms Most List 2023 shows that as things stand, Slaughters is now the only member of the Magic Circle not to offer the £125k rate. It last upped junior lawyer pay in April 2022, a 7% bump from £107,500.

Slaughters recruits around 95 trainees each year, with TC pay set at £50,000 in year one, rising to £55,000 in year two.

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An Honourable Man

Goofy ahh firm

Rupert; a US total beast legend $$$

🎶Chick chick chick chick chicken….🎶

Bullingdon B

Oh dear, Poopert’s back…

functional brain

Really scraping the pay war barrel to say when firms aren’t moving their salaries. I thought it was bad enough when Legalcheek was announcing which US firm adjusted their Fx rate last week.

Barney the tree

You can’t blame LC can you?

Their most commented on posts all relate to salaries.


The Lawyer ran this earlier today in fairness to Legal Cheek. It is pretty noteworthy they are capping NQ salaries below every single one of their competitors.

Real Today Gone Tomorrow

I love me the money. Money money and some honey. Love thinking Im rich when Im in debt. Love thinking im important when Im seen as no better than the copy guy, love the stress that works causes me. I sold my soul for money, and now I can buy a cheap suit for my job. Should have become an actor. Should have become a teacher. But i love me the money. Spelling mistakes, but who cares this legal cheek. Solicitor I am. Bibillable hours. Targets and no friends.

US Trainee #69

What’s the craic with Slaughters’ lack of a billables target? It sounds good on the surface, but can’t help but wonder if an associate would still be pulled up for not hitting an informal target.


You would be managed out. In reality you are so busy that you exceed what would be the billing targets, so it makes no difference.

US Trainee #69

Cheers for the insight, I had my suspicions… Have heard of junior litigation roles opening up (could be wrong tbf) and thought work-life balance might’ve been a thing with the lack of targets.

Slaughters Junior Associate

As long as you say yes to stuff when you have capacity, you aren’t going to get in trouble for not hitting specific targets. This is particularly true in departments where workflow is uneven (either due to macroeconomic factors or the nature of the work product in that department). There are mid-levels here who bill 1600 hours with no ill effects upon their career.

On the other hand, whilst there’s no direct correlation between partner track and the number of hours billed, if you’re set on making partner then it absolutely does help to have high billables (2000+).


It’s fine, they pay you in ‘prestige’.

Top G

The prestige of being a DORKK

S&M Trainee

Sounding like there’s gonna bea lot of NQs moving to US on qualification


People say this every year but rarely happens.

Pants before socks that’s the rule. Never socks before pants: makes a man look scary, like a chicken.

Maybe last year but there’s been a downturn in lateral hires with PE and Corporate teams in US firms.

Bullingdon Boi

Oh dear, Poopert’s back…

US Firm Observer

Unsurprising. Actively suppressing associate pay whilst partners pull in millions.

It’s one thing when the majority of the MC was at £115,000, but to be the outlier, when your peers are making 10k more, is a slap in the face. (Yes – £115,000 is, objectively, a very high salary – but it is below market for top flight firms.)

Star associates want to make a great deal of money – why shouldn’t they? If at S and M, this decision might be the catalyst to move. Forget the MC – recruiters offering a base of £175,000+ at US firms will be inundated.


For star associates the carrot will always be partnership. Even a £75k pay hike is peanuts in the grand scheme of things for a Slaughters 4 PQE with a genuine shot at partnership in the next 4-5 years.

Slaughters’ challenge is: (1) convincing those stars that its full service, UK focussed business model will maximise their earnings as an equity partner, compared to being equity at another shop; and (2) keeping good but not exceptional associates when its offering them neither top of market salary nor partnership prospects.


This comment hits the nail on the head. Any associate with a chance at partnership won’t move. The challenge is to retain the broader associate base to adequately staff deals and stop them from being hoovered up by US firms.


“…in the next 4-5 years…”

Agree with the substance of your comment but at Slaughters you’re likely to make partner at 6-8 PQE. That’s why ‘star associates’ hang around – it’s a relatively short slog to make it if you’re good.


Partner at 6PQ?! What are you smoking? Can you provide some concrete examples of who these baby faced partners are?

Slaughters Junior Associate

There’s a partner here who was made up at 6.5PQE this round, and at least two who were made up at 7PQE. If you’re the right person at the right time, it’s eminently achievable.


Okay so one person happened to make it in the history of the firm. If you’re the right person at the right time you can win the lottery too and retire. 99.9% of people will never have that option so let’s not sell fairytales.


Just look at the latest round of promotions. The majority of them were 7PQE or under.

Try harder, fresher.

Slaughters 4PQE

It’s fine, Slaughters has told us for years to pay our bills with prestige rather than a pay increase…


Do these firms take it in turn to hold off on matching pay just so they can halt the rises. Last year a&o did it now slaughters.

Banger and Mash

PE/Levfin work at elite US firms has dried up, resulting in stealth layoffs of ropey associates. One can expect reverse migration of US associates back to S&M and the like in the next 6 to 12 months.

Magic Square Senior Associate

Can confirm. Happening now in my MC shop (the CV’s from the likes of Sidley/Kirkland etc are coming in by the boatloads ). Bit scary to think whether its because of getting the boot or wanting a teeny squeegee bit more of WLB-I think its the former.

Prestige don’t pay bills

Loool such a neeky firm, f your prestige give me the loot


What would happen if 90% of NQs left after qualification? Has there happened in law firm history before?

Twelve cats eating Yorkshire pudding

After a significant amount began leaving they’d wise up and make silly offers to current NQs to make them stay whilst also aggressively hiring laterals.


Are we becoming out of as a society. It’s not normal to be earning 90k + in your 20s to early 30s…

Demand and supply

I know right! Should be 180k, minimum


Being an NQ at a U.S. firm feels like winning the lottery every month. Can’t complain. I’ve been from trenches

NRF Lifer

Norton Rose will be paying higher than SM come July. Finally after 10 years of impressive and expansive growth we are now going to be part of the magic circle elite . Well done to all involved and thank you to the ambitious leaders who made it their mission to make us the sixth member of the magic circle way back in 2010-2011!


Nah not NR…lol

CHIEF Inspector Boggs

Macfarlanes just raised to 115k today.
Expecting the likes of Ashurst to follow shortly to 115k-120k base.

Both of then paying as much as a Slaughters NQ, I never thought I’d see the day


Power of the magic circle is continuing to lose its magic.

Slaughters Junior Associate

Yes, I’m sure the general counsels at half the FTSE 100 are going to stop instructing Slaughter and May because they pay 24 year olds a few grand less than one of their competitors.

Prestige has left the building

No, but they will when quality drops because decent associates walk across the road to well paying US/MC counterparts.

Slaughters Junior Associate

US firms have been paying 20-50% more at NQ level than UK firms for years now, and we still have no shortage of highly talented associates, and no shortage of instructions from all kinds of clients. At the end of the day, we work on better matters, we’re less likely to fire people for not meeting arbitrary targets, we have a very healthy pipeline to a highly-remunerated equity partnership, we regularly place alumni in-house at some of the best firms in the country, and we’re generally a much nicer place to work than US firms.


You may be paid slightly less than other magic circle firms, but to me, being able to introduce myself as an “Associate at Slaughter and May” more than makes up for it.


Does your mortgagee care more about the name of your firm or your salary?


You’re were the same hours or maybe longer at some points as other US and MC firms but on lower pay. But yeah, good quality work, clients and prestige so coool mehn

Aspiring Solicitor

How easy is it to move to an SC/MC/US Firm after training at a Mid-Tier City Law Firm (AG, RPC etc)
Need advice on whether it is smart to accept the TC at the Mid firm and then move to a bigger firm, or wait it out and keep applying to the SC/MC firms instead. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Not an expert

What I’ve heard is that trading up is very difficult to near impossible. If I were in your position and had the numbers to wait and apply to MC/US, I would. SC acceptable.


No, it depends on which practice area. I’ve seen lawyers move from AG to K&E. Depends con which seat you did, what experience you gained and how you performed in interview. It’s not like you’re going from a high street firm to a U.S. firm. It is an entirely possible.

Aspiring Solicitor

Will firms look at academics at this point and ask for minimum a-level requirements, or is this just at trainee level only? What sort of things would they be looking for when hiring an NQ?

Aspiring Solicitor

Also what sort of practice areas would these include?

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