Legal Business Blogs

Shades of 2007: Freshfields sends NQ salaries soaring above £100k to head off talent threat from US rivals

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is fighting the war for talent by becoming the first Magic Circle firm to raise its pay for newly-qualified (NQ) solicitors to £100,000.

The £15,000 salary uptick is symbolic, given the pressures imposed on the City elite by US competitors in recent years. There will also be a discretionary bonus on top of the new NQ salary.

The move also gives Freshfields the edge on its Magic Circle peers. Slaughter and May last year upped its NQ salary from £80k to £83K to match peers Linklaters and Allen & Overy (A&O), while Clifford Chance (CC) increased its NQ salary to £91k including bonuses.

A Freshfields spokesperson said: ‘We have increased associate salaries with effect from 1 May. Our pay offering is a critical part of our talent strategy and reflects our continued commitment to attracting and retaining the very best talent in the legal market. We regularly review our compensation and benefits across the firm with this in mind.’

Freshfields last month redoubled its promotion efforts, making up to partner 22 lawyers, of which eight were in the City. The round was a significant lift from the previous year, when only 12 lawyers were promoted to partner, including five in the City.

Those promotions were a sign of a wider trend, with A&O, CC, Freshfields, Linklaters and Slaughters collectively making up 120 partners in 2019, a significant 35% increase on the 89 promoted at the Magic Circle last year.

This year, the group has also made up noticeably more women lawyers after an embarrassing 2018 for many. For its part, Freshfields promoted six women, equal to 27% of the new partner intake.