Exclusive: A&O Shearman sets NQ solicitor pay at £125k

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By Rhys Duncan on


New Magic Circle mega-firm opts for Allen & Overy-level salaries

Newly qualified solicitors at the soon-to-be A&O Shearman will start on a salary of £125,000, Legal Cheek can reveal.

At the same time, first-year trainees will earn £50,000, while second-year trainees will receive £55,000.

While these rates mirror those already on offer at Allen & Overy, newcomers joining the new firm via Shearman will find themselves earning less than they had initially expected.

The Legal Cheek Firms Most List 2024 shows that Shearman & Sterling trainees receive £55,000 in their first year of the training, £60,000 in the second, and £145,000 on qualification.

This means that the salary bands at the new global firm are £5,000 lower than those at Shearman’s at each stage of the TC, and £20,000 less at NQ level.

While it remains to be seen how these shortfalls will be dealt with, some may look beyond the money and see the broader career benefits of joining a new Magic Circle mega-firm.

The new firm adopting A&O’s rates is perhaps unsurprising, considering its significantly larger size compared to Shearman, with 80 trainees each year as opposed to Shearman’s 12.

The 2024 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

While the firms will officially join forces on 1 May, the new salaries don’t come into effect until September. Legal Cheek understands there will be performance-related bonuses on top of base salaries.

In a join statement, Allen & Overy and Shearman & Sterling told Legal Cheek:

“In light of our merger to create A&O Shearman, we will be aligning our trainees and newly-qualified (NQ) compensation models from September 2024. Attracting and retaining the best talent at all levels will be a priority for A&O Shearman. Trainees and NQs are a key part of the firm’s future, and we are determined to develop their talents and help them realise their full potential at A&O Shearman, and to reward them competitively while doing so.”

The prospect of a merger between the duo first hit headlines in May 2023, with 99% of partners confirming their approval of the tie-up later that year in October.



“Mega-firm” is pretty generous considering the sorry state of Shearman pre ‘merger’. More of an acquisition, really.


Their PEP was roughly the same – so at a partnership and profitability level it’s more a marriage of equals than you might think.

I think more telling is that AO couldn’t get a better US partner.


S&S trainees going backwards ££££ – is this not changing their contract ? I’d have assumed they’d honour the contracts


Would you complain about losing out on £5k a year and run the risk of losing your £50k a year 1st year TC?

It is insignificant and whilst it might dent morale for some, it’s not a game changer in the grand scheme of what roles there will pay on qualification… if anyone wanted to leave AOS there’d be a literal thousand clamouring to take their place.


You’ll be a great business leader one day when you turn to your employees and say, “don’t worry about your 9% salary cut, it is insignificant. Think longer term”.


If you read the contract, I suspect (going by my TC from a couple of years ago, plus my associate contract) that there is a paragraph reserving the right to amend salaries owing to business and market needs


“A new industry leader with truly global capabilities”. That’s the tagline AOSS use on their new website. An industry leader that pays well below BigLaw US salaries for all associates? Pathetic.


Think that’s the tag line for Bakers, Dentons, DLA etc.

A sign of where AO is going.


But that describes the UK as a country overall. The UK has pretensions (delusions?) to be a peer of the US. But salaries in the UK are at a 50% discount, and in the case of software engineers, a third. Before anyone starts: No, the dysfunctional NHS, where you have to wait months and weeks for an appointment, does not make up for it.


No more than 20 years ago Shearman was the elite of the elite in New York City the white shoe of the white shoe. Theire only mistake was falling behind on private equity but if you look at their clients and matters they’re still easily among the top 10 firms in New York City in terms of prestige

Prestige cynic

What do you mean “prestige”?

Are you referring to a made up metric in your head?

Prestige Cynic

This is a distinctly average list of transactions.

The fact you’re blown away by it suggests maybe you need to do a little more research.


What do you consider a prestigious transaction, selling the world to aliens?

Kirkland NQ



Your comment made me think that you are not a Kirkland NQ, you just wish you were. And you must be well under £125k salary.
But perhaps you are a Kirkland NQ – and a pathetic careerist?

I am a 2nd year trainee in a highly regarded British law firm (not in London, thankfully!), I am not even on £40k now and my NQ salary will be under £70k, but at least I am not a moron. 🙂

Get your facts straight

Clearly Karolina is new to Legal Cheek. Kirkland NQ is a highly regarded member of this forum and his salary far exceeds that of any MC partner.

Kirkland NQ

Haha you must be new too. My salary far exceeds the GDP of many European states, as you can tell from my Lambo collection.

Paralegal Bristol

Money isn’t everything … to normal people.
I am sorry for you Kirkland NQ
I don’t even try to imagine your life when you are old – and very lonely, just you and “your fortune.”

Paralegal Bristol

Maybe she is new, maybe she isn’t.
I am not new to Legal Cheek and I despise Kirkland NQ.

2 PQE lateral

What about above NQ – will a legacy Shearman 2PQE associate continue to be paid more than a 2PQE A&O associate (or 2 PQE lateral etc)?


Assume they’ll see out the current pay year on the Shearman scale and they’ll be harmonised (i.e. get a smaller rise) at the next pay review.

Mark Corrigan

But Johnson, where do [2 PQE laterals] go?!


The last Beemer out of Appold Street…

Concerned citizen

U okay Jamal?


What a stupid comment.

Misogyny police

Jamal next time you want to make a weird point, please consider that women have agency (just like you and I!)


Does that mean those who are currently in S&S london offices will be earning less with the same or possibly longer hrs? Lol who would want that

Millionaire claims another millionaire earns more than he does..

This is just a discussion that concerns Elitist MC firms, and a discussion that is divorced from the reality of most lawyers outside of London.

It’s like the average person on the street listening to high net worth individuals b*tch about high taxes on their 3rd UK property.

The other 80-90% not on superhuman salaries don’t really give a rat’s backside and find this kind of concern over £5k at that level of salary (it’s what, 10%? And there are probably bonuses on top right?), and future prospective salaries, to be incredibly sad, shortsighted, self centred, and miserly.

Above average person on the street

I mean, it is an article about lawyers from London. If it offends you so much you can always go talk to the average person on the street or you can even read The Sun to get a sense of what they tend to care about. Happy reading!

Concerned mathematician

5k is not 10% of 125k. It’s less than 5%. You see this is because it would be exactly 5% if it were over a hundred: five-per-cent. Because the denominator is higher, the result is lower. You’re off by more than 100%. With the appropriate maths GCSE, it is very possible that you might have found more luck in applying to an ‘Elitist MC firm’. Also, Jared, those astronomical property taxes are f***ing annoying. Please don’t disrespect the successful lawyers like that.

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