Legal Business Blogs

CC bumps starting pay to £63,500 with bonuses giving junior associates chance to earn over £100,000

Despite generally gloomy market conditions there were renewed signs of underlying confidence at top London firms with Clifford Chance (CC) joining its peers today (4 June) in announcing rises in associate and trainee pay and bonuses for the year ahead.

The firm is the last of the Magic Circle to announce pay changes across the board, adding an extra £2,000 to newly-qualified (NQ) lawyers’ pay packets, up to £63,500 from last year’s £61,500, a rise of 3%.

The next largest rise was made to second-year post-qualified experience (PQE) lawyers, who will take home £1,900 more, totalling £78,200. The firm also increased first-year PQE pay by £500 to £69,500 and third-year PQE by £800 to £87,800.

CC was the only City firm to detail its associate bonuses for 2013/14, awarding maximum total compensation of £76,200 to NQ lawyers and £90,350, £101,660 and £114,140 for first, second and third–year associates respectively. Trainee pay also rose to match its peers, increasing first and second-year salaries by £1,000 to £39,000 and £44,000.

The firm’s increase to NQ pay puts it just behind Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which is offering NQ associates £65,000-£72,500, and Linklaters on £64,000. Slaughter and May is offering NQ associates £63,000 while Allen & Overy currently pays £61,500 after taking the decision to freeze base salaries at last year’s level.

CC London managing partner David Bickerton said: ‘The London office has had another successful year. We continue to win great mandates from our clients and, again, have been more highly ranked by the directories than any other firm in the UK, Europe and globally.

‘It’s important to invest in our future trainees and we hope that by providing enhanced maintenance support, those individuals will be able to focus fully on their studies and develop the skills to become the outstanding lawyers that we require for our business. This is part of our overall commitment to breaking down any perceived barriers to entering our profession.’

The firm also substantially raised its maintenance grants for future trainees on its legal practice course (LPC) and graduate diploma in law (GDL), hiking the LPC grant from £4,900 to £7,000 while the latter rises from £5,000 to £7,000.

CC’s unusual decision to set out its bonus packages in detail will be seen as part of a bid to position itself as a choice recruiter of aspiring lawyers against City peers and US rivals.

Despite a run of job cuts at major UK law firms in recent weeks, the Magic Circle has so far avoided such measures and this year announced the first notable rises in underlying pay rates for associates since the boom. Despite this, real term pay for junior lawyers in the City has generally fallen by more than 15% since 2008 due to a combination of inflation and cuts made in 2009 by many firms to associate pay bands.