A&O Shearman follows Magic Circle rivals in raising NQ pay to £150k

Transatlantic firm equals Clifford Chance, Linklaters and Freshfields but still lags US firms at the top of the market

A&O Shearman has raised pay for its newly-qualified lawyers in London to £150k. 

The increase from the firm’s previous rate of £125k sees it match identical raises at international Magic Circle rivals Clifford Chance (CC), Linklaters and Freshfields announced in recent weeks, and means that Slaughter and May is now the only Magic Circle firm paying its NQs £125k. 

The pay bump extends to A&O Shearman’s trainees, with a rise from £50k to £56k in year one and £55k to £61k in year two, again matching raises at CC, Linklaters and Freshfields. The increases are effective 1 May. 

“Our ambition is to be the firm of choice for the best, most diverse talent,” said Denise Gibson, A&O Shearman's London managing partner. “Our compensation structure gives us flexibility to reward expertise, performance and wider contribution and is designed to be highly competitive to reflect the markets in which we operate. Trainees and NQs are a key part of the firm’s future and A&O Shearman provides unmatched opportunities for them to build successful careers.”

A&O Shearman was born at the start of this month out of a merger between UK Magic Circle firm Allen & Overy (A&O) and New York stalwart Shearman & Sterling, in a move that created a law firm with nearly 4,000 lawyers globally and revenue of around $3.5bn, putting it among the top five law firms in the world. 

A&O was the far larger of the two in terms of revenue and lawyer headcount but Shearman boasted higher profits per equity partner (PEP) – $2.48m to A&O’s $2.25m. However, that reflected its roots in the world’s most lucrative legal market rather than its place in the pecking order of top US law firms, many of which boast PEP above $5m. 

Being anchored in the US market gives those top firms the firepower to offer their junior talent in London eye-watering sums, with Quinn Emanuel recently matching Gibson Dunn’s market-topping £180k NQ salary. 

Not far behind them is an elite group of US firms which have increased pay for their London NQs to £170k or more. Akin, Fried Frank and Milbank all pay their NQs £177.5k according to Legal Cheek, while six more – Vinson & Elkins, Kirkland & Ellis, Latham & Watkins, Paul Hastings, Davis Polk and Weil – have rates ranging from £170k to just shy of £174k.

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