Law firm salary reviews: a bit of an anticlimax

Law firm salary reviews: a bit of an anticlimaxThis year’s first round of associate salary reviews has been an all-round disappointment. Although there were several pay-freezes and a couple of modest increases, unlike during the previous downturn there have been no cuts, as this year firms have been buffered by strong financials carrying through from the first half-year.

Herbert Smith led the pessimism in April by freezing salaries across the board. Allen & Overy (A&O) also froze associate salaries, but managed to remain competitive with its magic circle rivals’ conservative increases.

While last year the magic circle boosted associate salaries by 15-18 per cent, this year saw Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters and Clifford Chance raise their newly qualified (NQ) salaries by only 2, 3.9 and 4.9 per cent respectively.

NQs in the magic circle now find themselves in close proximity, earning between £65,000 at A&O and £66,600 at Clifford Chance and Linklaters.

Despite A&O’s freeze and Freshfields’ cautious 2 per cent increase, their threeyear PQEs earn £92,500 and £92,000 respectively – a little more than Clifford Chance’s £89,500 and Linklaters’ £90,800.

Simmons & Simmons, meanwhile, froze first-year trainee salaries and upped its NQ pay by only £500.

The mid-market saw a little more life, with Bird & Bird hiking trainee salaries by 19 per cent and NQ salaries by £5,000, or 9 per cent, to £60,000. Berwin Leighton Paisner is yet to announce NQ salaries, but in the meantime raised one year-PQE wages by 6 per cent to £70,000.

Olswang has frozen its NQ salary at £62,000.

US firms in London have been a mixed bag, too, with Shearman & Sterling raising London NQ wages by 7 per cent to £80,000, but White & Case trod more carefully with a 2.1 per cent hike to £78,000.