Freshfields becomes first UK firm to lift associate salary freeze

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  • With inflation rising isn't this inevitable? If the freeze is now rescinded across the board, the weaker players will be hit hardest. Revenue falls combined with rising costs will lead to drops in profits.

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  • Freshfields partners had a record year in profits last year while salaries were frozen -- looks like it's quid's for them this year if they can afford this

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  • Lawyers are overpaid and this starts at the bottom. What a shame Freshfields didn't take the initiative to keep the freeze. It could've prevented salaries from spiraling out of control and stop more redundancies during the next recession.
    It seems some of the bigger firms are failing to learn the lessons of the past.

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  • Lawyers aren't the only ones who are overpaid and, as a result, not always familiar with the residents of the Real World.
    But no law firm (or bank for that matter) can afford to be the first to make a unilateral stand over this.
    In the inimitable words of Hugh Abbot: "We all love that ethical stuff, but if you're the first to put down your gun, then people tend to stomp on your head like a ripe watermelon"

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  • Lawyers spend years and thousands of pounds training for their work. They aren't overpaid - their salaries reflect the sacrifices made earlier in their careers.
    At some firms they also reflect appalling hours worked.
    Professionals deserve to be paid well across the board. It's insulting to suggest otherwise.

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  • Snorter's quite right.
    I hear at A&O they're forced to sacrifice a kitten on Jim Morrison's tomb at midnight just to secure a training contract...

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  • Oh shut up.

    Also, try to remember that the legal profession doesn't begin and end with the "Magic" Circle. I am four years qualified at a large regional firm and don't make as much as an NQ at Freshfields.

    I'm sick of hearing how "rolling in it" I'm supposed to be. A tiny bit of respect would be nice.

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  • Calm down, Snorter. The profession doesn't end with the Magic Circle, but let's be honest it does begin with them.

    Also, although you may not be paid as much as an NQ at Freshfields, your rent most likely isn't as high either. And you may even get to see your flat.

    Just console yourself with the fact that Eversheds is now a Superbrand.

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  • I'm not complaining that they earn more - I'm complaining at the perception that lawyers are all "overpaid" when I think they are reasonably paid in the circumstances. What do you think they SHOULD be paid, bearing in mind they are more highly qualified than most other people?

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  • Snorter, a lot of lawyers are overpaid. End of.

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  • Snorter, get back to work if you are going to justify that fat salary you're on

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  • Snorter, returning to your first point, it doesn't tally that, just because someone spends thousands of pounds on their training, they should be entitled to a certain return on that money.
    There are plenty of professionals who train just as hard and work just as many hours without feeling that entitlement. Some of them also save lives in the process.
    That is not to say that lawyers never earn their salary, just that the simple fact of qualifying as one shouldn't make them feel entitled to earn more than those in equally competitive professions.

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  • I can't really see the problem with NQ salaries in London. Compare someone who starts work around 19 years old. Nothing especially well paid, but by the time their lawyer equivalent starts a training contract at 24, they will have earned in excess of £100k, even if they averaged £20k. I have friends like this who make comments about how much lawyers earn, but they're on the property ladder, had a head start on the pension and are on £30-35k. I meanwhile started with £20k debt (would have been more but for family support), accommodation costs roughly double what they've ever paid, and work 50% longer hours than they do and earn £36k as a trainee. When (if!) I earn £60k as an NQ, it will still take me years of working to reach financial parity, and I have the added bonus of working harder, under more stressful conditions, while having to pay more to rent a flat half the size of their 3 bed houses in the home counties.

    By the time I'm in the same position as them, I'll be pushing my mid 30s. Of course you'd expect the lawyer to earn more in the long run, but they do work for it doing a job not every can, or would want, to do.

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  • Associate salaries had to rise, given that partner drawings had barely been touched by the credit crunch. Given how successful large English law firms have been in the past decade, and the extra demands made on associates hand-in-hand with diminishing prospects for partnership, associate salaries need to be weighted much more towards present-benefit. Indeed, in comparison to the difference between a Freshfields NQ / Freshfields partner vs a 'Sheds NQ in the Sticks / 'Sheds Sticks partner, it could be argued Freshfields associates are underpaid...

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  • Well said Nick. Roughly speaking, my 2000+ senior associate (6yr PQE) hrs at my MC firm got billed at £500+ last year. That gave the firm £1m+ of billings, which coincidentally is what the average MC partner draws. My package is £100K+. To bill those 2000+ hrs I of course worked 2500+ hours, making my hourly pay around £40 gross. I expect this is all pretty standard stuff for MC firms. On a related subject, the average price of a flat in Camden (to pick a London borough where quite a few lawyers in my situ live) is around £420K.

    So what are the equivalent numbers in the provinces chaps?

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  • Actually, I'm with Snorter. Overpaid is a subjective term. Law firms tend to employ ambitious, motivated, straight As students from good universities. I don't think lawyers are any better paid than ambitious, motivated, straight As students in other professions.
    And as for doctors, well, wasn't it the huge pay rises given to NHS consultants that helped Gordo blow the budget consistently over the last 15 years? The difference is that lawyers have at least now been given a pay cut to reflect the recessionary times.

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  • Snorter, I'm not sure that 'more highly qualified than most people' holds water... my brother-in-law is recently qualified at one of the large London firms and while he has learnt to recite law tomes by heart his wider education starts and ends with the collected works of John Grisham. University academics are highly qualified and in the UK (although not in other countries) earn peanuts.

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  • I do not understand how can people say that lawyers are overpaid. Most lawyers work more than 60 hours per week and quite often do 90 hours weeks. If you divide that per hour they are not "over paid" are they? The band system is only fair!

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  • Most of you are missing the point.
    Such lawyers are not "overpaid" because they work for people who can pay well. A partner working at a firm like Eversheds charges around 450 euros for each hour of working. In developed countries, above 60 % percent of people are paid less than 8 euros per hour.
    Don't complain about the salary of a lawyer working at an international law firm.
    Complain about the disparity.

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  • Anonymous | 26-Feb-2010 0:12 am: People choose to become academics in the UK largely as a lifestyle choice. Good ones do pretty well for themselves, once consulting and start-up interests are accounted for. As for your brother-in-law, if he didn't have to work 90 hour weeks at his big law firm then he'd have more time and mental energy left to spend on more worthy literature.

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  • Freshfields' move is not really generous considering that almost all well-performing US firms that care for their associates recently gave them double bumps, often accompanied by a make whole bonus. If I am not mistaken, Allen & Overy also awarded double bumps, at least to its US associates so far.

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  • FYI - whilst Allen & Overy and the other magic circle firms froze assistant salaries in the US, Freshfields assistants in their New York and DC offices suffered NO pay freeze and have continued to be paid market.

    I think we're confining our discussion here to the London market and I do hope the other magic circle firms will follow Freshfields' lead.

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  • I find it a ridiculous suggestion that an MC NQ is overpaid when there are a whole host of firms in the same market that pay £30k extra!
    Compare like with like - there is little point comparing MC NQs with those of the regions. Instead why not compare them with other professions in the City such as bankers and management consultants who roughly work the same hours - a Freshfields NQ is not so overpaid now is he?

    Working all those hours for £60k + measly bonus when bankers in similar positions make far more for working the same hours AND get blackguarded for being overpaid. Its a tough life!

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  • The only profession to be over paid is a foot baller! Not Lawyers or any body else for that matter. End of.

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  • Oh, come on. Professional golfers, surely, must also belong to that particular club...

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  • Do NOT forget that the unfreezing of payrises especially at freshfields comes at the expense of
    horrendous cuts in its support departments especially IT. The redundancies in that area were particularly
    brutal and unwarranted. Mind you I hear they are now paying dearly for that with staff whinging at the poor
    quality of IT support.

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  • If UK lawyers are overpaid what does that make NY lawyers? triple overpaid? They get $80K "cost of living adjustment" on top of their $160K starting base.

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  • How much does an associate (1st and 2nd year) make at a firm like Hogan Lovells? (including bonus)

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