NQ salaries face cut

NQ wage cut idea floated as pressure on rates builds

Who will blink first? That was the question last week following news on TheLawyer.com of a move to cut newly-qualified (NQ) lawyers’ pay.

An HR seminar hosted by recruitment consultancy Edwards Gibson focused on the negative impact high salaries are having on the profession. In particular the recruitment consultants highlighted the loss of “hundreds of millions of pounds worth of non-premium work” to growing in-house teams and outsourcing operations. The theory that NQ wages in lower-margin areas of work should be cut as one possible response to this trend was posited.

Principal Scott Gibson claimed that for certain areas NQ salaries are too high.

“We’re seeing in-housers saying ‘I’m not paying that’,” he said.

But which firm would dare to break ranks and be the first to slash pay packets for lawyers working at the junior end of lower margin practices?

At the seminar, anyone considering such a move was keeping schtum.

The backdrop to this? The weak market in London, driven in part by the rise of in-house legal departments that are, says Gibson, “sucking work out of law firms”.

The NQ gold standard for a serious City offering is around £60,000. Edwards reckons firms should vary salaries according to the profit generated by the practice, and offer a base salary of £50,000. “One-size-fits-all compensation does not make economic sense,” he said.

For Cobbetts, Dewey and Halliwells it may not have saved the day, but it might have been a good start.