Reed Smith and Ashurst push NQ solicitor pay to £125K

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By Rhys Duncan on


City salary rises continue

Reed Smith and Ashurst have raised the salaries for their newly qualified (NQ) lawyers to £125,000 as City firms continue to splash the cash to attract and retain top talent.

This represents a 16% increase for Reed Smith, raising from a previous salary of £107,500. For Ashurst the new figure is a 9% increase from its previous £115,000, which the firm raised to this time last year. Over the past two years, NQ pay at Ashurst has risen by £20,000, and over the last five years, it has increased by more than £40,000.

Prior to their improved NQ pay, Reed Smith’s can expect to earn £50,000 in their first year and £55,000 in their second. The firm takes on around 26 trainees each year.

It has also confirmed that all other associate level salaries will increase in line with the most recent change, and that associates will continue to be eligible for a bonus programme, subject to completing the set number of target hours

By comparison, new recruits at Ashurst’s London office earn £52,000 in their first year and £57,000 in their second. The Legal Cheek Firms Most List shows the firm takes on around 40 trainees each year, with the most recent retention rate seeing 82% (18 out of 22) of the spring qualifying cohort stay on.

The 2024 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

Commenting on Reed Smith’s salary uplift London office managing partner Andrew Jenkinson said: “We are pleased to confirm the increase to associate salaries in London. It is a reflection of the market and our desire to retain and attract the best legal talent by providing a competitive and sustainable reward structure.”

He continued: “The new salary is an investment in our lawyers, which keeps us in line with other leading international law firms, and supports the firm’s strategic growth objectives enabling us to continue to deliver the highest quality, legal services that we are known for.”

This latest raise comes on the back of a spree of salary uplifts across the City.

Freshfields hit headlines when it increased NQ pay to £150,000, with three of its Magic Circle rivals, Linklaters, A&O Shearman, and Clifford Chance, quickly implementing the same increases. Slaughter and May has remained steadfast at £125,000 so far.

Other firms to increase rates include Herbert Smith Freehills and Hogan Lovells, both of which have raised NQ pay to £135,000, while Macfarlanes has gone further, increasing NQ salaries to £140,000.

Elsewhere, HFW boosted its NQ pay to £100k, with Bird & Bird climbing to £98,000 and DLA Piper rising to £110,000.


Called it

I called it knew Ashurst would


Who’s next to rise AG? Shed? Pinsets?

Who’s next

Who you reckon will rise next that’s non MC/SC/US?


What is NQ retention looking like?

Barney the tree

About tree fiddy


Reed Smith‘s retention rate is reportedly 36%.

MC Trainee

Ah so Slaughters are now paying the same as Reed Smith. I guess the prestige points are worth an extra £25k though.


Who need extra dough when you have prestigeeeeeee


Where is white & case? Way too close to firms it has traditionally distinguished itself from…

Eversheds to £181k

Firms that market themselves as US (I’m looking at you Baker McKenzie, but any US firms paying 150k and under, really) but now pay closer to Reed Smith than their top-of-the-market peers are starting to really harm their brand/attractivity to grads lol.

Unretained US firm trainee

The NQ market is carnage. What’s the point of pay rise when there aren’t any jobs around. The SRA should intervene and force firms to retain trainees – this is the only right thing to do.

Reality Check

Why should firms be made to keep trainees on? I say this as a trainee about to qualify too. Surely a natural consequence of ever-increasing pay is that firms are going to be more brutal in their decision-making on who stays and who goes? People who would previously been a “ah go on then” will find themselves without an offer, but those who would have comfortably been retained will continue to be retained anyway.

Not true

This just isn’t true. There are plenty of excellent trainees who are not being kept on simply by virtue of the practice areas that they want to qualify into having no NQ spots due to budgetary constraints and/or hiring freezes.

I’m a leftie but come on man

Not sure forcing businesses to keep employees on is ever a good thing. Stronger employment protections? Sure. Incentives to keep them on? Sure. Strongly worded advice/indignation? Sure. “Forcing firms to keep trainees” ? Massive slippery slope.

Morality police

Elite firms (US or UK) have moral obligations to keep trainees and to provide them with a platform to develop their career. Hiring freshers as trainees and then not give them a NQ job is brutal and morally wrong.

Regulatory intervention is the only way to enforce the values of our society.

Leftie again

Ok this is clearly a troll. Readers, please do not associate this view with the left. There is no right to a six figure job, we know that.

A man called Thomas

You clearly don’t work in private practice if you have this naive view

Macs lifer

Travers to 125k. They’ve given up their battle with Macs

DLA to 200k

Pay rise galore!!! Whoop

Which one

DLA or Dentons is the McDonalds of law firms ?

Slaughters trainee

This is probably the worst day of my life.

5 prestige points to Slaughteryn

Why the worst day? You’re still ‘better’ than Reed Smithers in terms of prestige lol


CRS to 97.5k save for certain high performing lawyers in certain teams who have had salaries raised on basis of the NQ pay being 110k. Some CRS 5 pqes now on 130k plus if they’re high performers.



Confuddled CRSer

Plz stop this nonsense reporting.

Old Timer

It’s interesting that Ashurst has financially positioned itself below HSF and Macs.

10-15+ years ago the firm was a top tier PE shop, now it’s seemingly energy and tech focussed with little to no PE partners left – all have been poached. Does some M&A here and there but it’s not the corporate power it once was… likely going to need a transformational merger to catch up to the “global elite”.

Don Corleone

*Weeps* “Look how they [US Firms] massacred my boy”.

Hey, still a pretty good firm overall – mixes it up with the big players sometimes!!


Yeh that ship has sailed, only mid US firms willing to merge. Shoulda merged with Sidley when they had the chance 😂


What’s S&M playing at?

Banana Man

What I really want to know is whether the bunching is worse or not.


horrendous. 4PE Ashurst 135k


Not bold enough not brave enough not enough

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