Salary survey: large London/international

Many of the larger London firms match – or get close to – the magic circle when it comes to salaries for newly-qualified solicitors. At 1-3PQE level, the gap is still narrow. For example, Ashurst , one of the few large non-magic circle firms to release its 2015/16 pay increases so far, will give 1PQE associates in the region of £72,000, 2PQEs will be paid £81,000 and 3PQEs will be paid £92,000.

The latter figure is only £500 off what a 3PQE Linklaters lawyer at the bottom end of its salary bracket would earn – although a high-performing Linklaters third-year could earn up to £6,500 more than an Ashurst one.

The gap between the large international firms and the tier below them – the mid-sizers – is more apparent. At 4-6PQE level, for example, mid-level associates at the larger firms can expect to be paid around £10,000 more than their counterparts at mid-sizers.

Discrepancies between different practice areas also start to become more evident at 4-6PQE level, with corporate and banking associates typically earning around £8,000 more than their colleagues in litigation and real estate departments, and over £15,000 more than those in employment, pensions and benefits.

This trend continues at senior associate level. The average salary for a 7+PQE associate at a large London firm is £18,000 behind their peers in the magic circle firms and about £9,000 ahead of those at the London mid-sizers.

Once again, 7+PQE associates in banking and corporate departments earn more than the average – around £10,000 more than litigators and £16,000 more than employment lawyers.

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