Salary survey: magic circle

The magic circle’s salaries at the junior end of the spectrum are well publicised. In the last month, news has been gradually coming out about the latest round of increases. Newly qualifieds (NQ) pay now stands at £70,000 at both Clifford Chance and Slaughter and May while Linklaters ’ newly-qualifieds will be paid £68,500.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer runs a salary band system based on ‘career milestones’. It froze its band for associates this year, with salaries for CM foundation lawyers (the equivalent of NQ level) between £67,500 and £77,500. The final magic circle firm, Allen & Overy , has yet to announce its rises.

Salaries are pretty well known for those with up to three years of post-qualification experience (3 post-qualification experience (PQE)) level at the magic circle. Once again Freshfields has frozen its salary bands and Allen & Overy has yet to reveal its rises, but at Linklaters 1-year PQE wages have grown by 5 per cent to £74,000. At 2 and 3PQE level there is a merit-based component, meaning that second-year qualifieds could earn between £83,250 and £88,000 and third-years between £92,500 and £98,500.

Slaughters , meanwhile, gives 1PQEs a £75,500 salary, handed 2PQEs a 10 per cent rise to £87,000 while the salary for 3PQEs rose to £95,500. Clifford Chance also boosted wages at every level: 1PQEs will receive £75,500, 2PQEs will be paid £88,000 and 3PQEs £98,500.

Further up the spectrum pay rises become less uniform and are more rarely released into the public domain. There is little to suggest, however, that the practice area the lawyer works in has an effect on remuneration.

While some other large firms match the magic circle at the junior end of the profession, by senior associate level a gap has opened. Magic circle lawyers with more than seven years PQE earn considerably more than seven-plus PQEs at other large international firms in London. At the time of our survey in April, the gap was about £18,000. Magic circle senior associates do, however, make considerably less than those at US firms in the City. Lawyers of 7+ PQE at American firms earned, on average, £27,000 more than their magic circle peers.

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