Macfarlanes enters City pay war, boosts NQ lawyer salaries over 20% to £140k

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By Legal Cheek on


Also confirms 84% retention score

City law firm Macfarlanes has increased the salaries of its newly qualified (NQ) lawyers by 22%, raising them from £115,000 to £140,000.

The outfit has also upped trainee pay from £50,000 to £56,000 in year one and £55,000 to £61,000 in year two.

The Legal Cheek Firms Most List shows that the NQ rise brings Macs in line with US firm Orrick and £5,000 ahead of Hogan Lovells, which increased its rates from £120,000 to £135,000 earlier this month.

The 2024 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

Separately, Macfarlanes confirmed a retention rate of 84%, with 27 out of 32 final-seat trainees staying on. All of them are joining on permanent contracts.

Jat Bains, early legal careers partner, said: “We are excited to welcome our September qualifiers across a range of practice areas and congratulations to this talented cohort. We are proud to invest in our trainees so that their careers can thrive at Macfarlanes.”

Catherine Morgan-Guest, early legal careers senior manager, added: “We are committed to providing exceptional training and support to further the careers of the diverse group of talent we recruit. They are intrinsic to what we do and the future of our firm.”



We know people are asking – but our associates are getting by splendidly on our prestige & multi-specialism fare!

Rupert; 🇺🇸 💸

Chicken feed, dear being or entity.

Incoming trainee

Any update on them “considering” pay?

SM Assoc

Doesn’t apply to you lol, it will be different by the time you get here, and you might not even stay on past your TC (low retention this year…)

MC associate

Didn’t they retain 95% of their trainees this year?

Kirkland NQ

Haha, they are bringing a knife to a gunfight here if this is “entering the City pay war”

Concerned mid level associate

Any news from senior Macfarlanes people – is there much/any bunching or have they increased each PQE’s salary by a similar % / figure?


25 uplift at each PQE

Concerned associate

Four thumbs up and four down, is this true or not??


We’re told individually and it won’t happen until tomorrow.

Enlightened associate


East London Associate

Whew… massive move from Macfarlanes – I have to rate it. I wonder whether that’ll prompt some of the US firms who hover around the 140-150K to move e.g. Jones Day, Dechert and White and Case. Particularly Jones Day and Dechert haven’t moved NQ salaries for a while now (both about 2 years if I’m correct). If I was a law grad, at this point it’d make the most sense to go for the magic circle or a Macfarlanes over a Jones Day or Dechert who have essentially excluded themselves from the market (being non-Cravath US, and paying lower than the UK firms).

US future trainee

I’d sooner work for free than for JD or Dechert anyway


JD Sports

I thought americans were savvy with it

It boggles the mind. Those non-elite US firms were already paying £140-150k when the Magic Circle were paying £110k. That’s the reason people went there. They’ve just let themselves be caught over the last two years and there’s little to no argument why you’d now choose Dechert over MC or increasingly the SC.


Most of the US firms pay Cravath scale (eg £178k NQ depending on the exchange rate).

Legal cheek is just not up to date with their figures for a lot of the US Firms.

"Lawyer", or are you a "Law Student"?

“Most US firms pay Cravath scale”… written like a true law student? There are quite a few US firms who clearly don’t pay cravath in London. That’s just basic knowledge and for any associate who has ever worked in one of those non-Cravath paying US firms in London (as I have done previously), you know that a massive point of contention among London associates is always the differential in first year US associate and NQ UK salaries.

I can’t speak for every US firm, but knowing current associates at both JD and Dechert those NQ salaries are definitely up to date. So the point about them having lost their market position seems a valid one… At this point why train at a non-Cravath paying US firm in London, when you could go MC (or even SC).

Dechert not moving hasn’t suprised me because of their litigation issues with their former White Collar head (City AM reported earlier this year how much they’d had to pay out so far which was eye watering) and I’ve heard both JD and Dechert have had issues with deal flow in certain practices (Corporate etc).

Non-Cravath US Trainee

White & Case, Cooley, Dechert, Jones Day, Covington, and my firm are just a handful of US firms in London still paying £140-150k.

It’s fair to say that, for most people, the MC is more attractive than these firms at the same price-point.

I hope they raise quickly or I’m going to start regretting my decision.

Hopeful trainee

Any insights into Bakers upping NQ salaries?


I don’t think Bakers all have the same baseline salary, nor do Butchers or Fishmongers


New financial year starts in July. Promotions just announced. Salaries to follow next week.

nq fanatic

do u know the salary increases?


Well-timed, long-waited rises for the associates, though at the very painful cost of losing associates to US counterparts on six figure pay rises.

HSF associate

All quiet at HSF. Rather disappointing!

HSF associate

News on Monday apparently

who’s next

Who’s rising next that non MC/SC/US ?

Failure is not an option

Would have to pay 200k base to put up with that lot

The Hopeful, the doubtful

Travers Smith, any news?

Disgruntled and tired

This is so embarrassing for Hogan Lovells !!!!


Why though? Macs has always been more profitable. HogLove is doing great

Keen observer

A previous commenter on another post said that Macfarlanes is ‘stuck in the past’ but offered no explanation. Wondering what people’s thoughts are on this.


If it’s stuck in the past it’s stuck in a very pleasant past. Less diversity stuff, very hierarchical (a good thing), much more limited geographical footprint.


Less diversity … that’s not a good thing and actually the firm is trying to address it. It does feel like a private school + Oxbridge club sometimes at Macs but I have never witnessed anything toxic – most people are decent.

Hierarchical – agreed that it is a good thing when it comes to clear directions from management & co – there are no bad surprises at Macs.

Geographical footprint – agree this worked well for us as being the random outlier helps when getting referrals from similar firms in the US and the EU or even from the MC when they are conflicted. That said, the market for such firms is very limited in the City and most City firms were right to become global / international. Hard to see how Freshfields or, in another category, DLA could be criticised for that approach. As to culture, this does not make much of a difference IMO, although it is true that there are only a few associates from outside the UK (never mind partners), which feels a bit odd for an international law firm (the work/clients are international).


Agreed – I did a Vac Scheme there this year. Still felt very Old Boys Club. Case in point – a very hard working trainee (who happened to be a PoC) was teased and made fun of for being ‘anti-social’.

The bully – another trainee who apparently was shagging his way through the trainee cohort – had no reprimands against him for this and seemed to be in the managing partners’ good books, despite doing half the work.

Not saying it doesn’t happen in other firms but from my experience (and compared to other vac schemes at other firms) there was a much more toxic air to the place.

CMS Trainee

I beg, CMS you making us look bad. Ki


Relax yourself. We are £10k behind you.

CMS Associate

Could be worse, you could be an associate.


Surprised AG haven’t announced anything yet seeing as they’re doing so well


Stephenson, She’d, Watsons, AG – look at your age mates, move a needle or something


Seen on ROF:
“ You love to see it. Hopefully the US stragglers at the £140-150k mark will soon increase. Then the rest of the silver circle will join Hogan Lovells and Macs. Maybe one day we can even dream that CMS, Addleshaw, Dentons and the Shed will stop their NQs claiming universal credit. One can dream”

That comment made me chuckle

Loool “universal credit” wannabe and actual lawyers are so out of touch it’s ridiculous 😂😂

Hog 'lols'

Leapfrogging HogLovs is a great move.

Hi Slaughter and May

Can you please not stall the pay war for a year this time. Cheers


Bakers? 🙏 Come on, you know you want to…

Astigmatism 9000

W&C please… stop being mid it’s not funny anymore

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

A few weeks ago people were saying in the MC / US firm salary increase comments that it won’t trickle down to lower firms.

Absolutely malarkey


Interesting time for Baker. If they dont match those level, they would fall below silver circle firms. Basically DLA at this point


Has bakers historically paid more than SC and MC? I know they’re nominally US but has pay previously reflected that?


Baker used to pay more than most sc firms but less than most mc firms before this years increase. Not sure if they can match that now

Google This

Bakers raising to £140k in next 1-2 weeks. Awaiting partner sign-off


es and ag will probs move to 100k and maybe Dentons too

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