Legal Business Blogs

Freshfields freezes associate pay bands – move puts firm behind Magic Circle peers’ NQ wages

Within days of Clifford Chance (CC) announcing its pay bands in the associate salary race to match Magic Circle peers, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has decided to freeze salaries for junior lawyers at 2014’s levels.

The firm is giving a small boost to its trainees with pay for first and second year rising £500 to £41,000 and £46,000 respectively, but pay for newly qualified’s (NQ) and one year post qualification experience (PQE) lawyers – cumulatively known as career milestone (CM) foundation – is being frozen at £67,500 – £77,500. The firm’s CM1 band, which covers lawyers with between two and four years’ PQE, will get £87,500 – £100,000 while CM2, which covers more than four years’ PQE, will get up to £115,000. Typically covering lawyers with around six years’ PQE, the CM3 band is still set at £120,000 or more.

The decision sees the firm paying NQs less than rivals, namely Slaughter and May, CC and Linklaters, who have all revealed what they will be paying their juniors, with Allen & Overy being the only Magic Circle firm yet to announce. However, the firm is still leading on pay for those lawyers with greater experience who have progressed up its CM bands. 

The pay freeze follows a previous hold in associate pay in 2013. The firm introduced the CM pay bands in 2012 to replace the previous system of pay based purely on PQE, claiming it was a more accurate way of reflecting both the lawyer and business roles that associates perform. Progress between each milestone is tracked using seven key elements, including technical skills, people and team skills and project management.

The pay bands for Magic Circle firms so far:

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

Trainee Year 1: £41,000

Trainee Year 2: £46,000

CMF: £67,500 to £77,500

CM1: £87,500 – £100,000

CM2: £107,500 – 115,000

CM3: From £120,000

Clifford Chance

Trainee year 1: £42,000

Trainee year 2: £47,300

NQ: £70,000

PQE year 1: £75,500

PQE year 2: £88,000

PQE year 3: £98,500

Slaughter and May:

Trainee year 1: £41,000

Trainee year 2: £46,000

Newly qualified: £70,000

PQE year 1: £75,500

PQE year 2: £87,000

PQE year 3: £96,500


NQ: £68,500

PQE year 1: £74,000

PQE year 2: £88,000

PQE year 3: £98,500