Macfarlanes raises NQ pay to £140k

City stalwart becomes highest-paying UK firm after international Magic Circle rivals

Macfarlanes confirmed today it has upped salaries for its newly-qualified lawyers from £115k to £140k, becoming the latest firm to raise pay amid an ongoing salary war on both sides of the Atlantic. 

The 22% boost makes Macfarlanes the highest-paying UK firm after its international Magic Circle rivals, which upped their rates recently to £150k. It nudges the firm past Hogan Lovells, which raised pay to £135k last month, and sees it pull well ahead of Slaughter and May – the only Magic Circle firm to stick at £125k – as well as Norton Rose Fulbright’s and Herbert Smith Freehills’ £120k rate. 

Macfarlanes’ raises extend to its trainees, who will see their pay increase to £56k in year one and £61k in year two, matching the Magic Circle. The firm has also announced its trainee retention rate, offering NQ positions to 27 of its 32 trainees, for an 84% rate. 

“We are excited to welcome our September qualifiers across a range of practice areas and congratulations to this talented cohort,” said Jat Bains, early legal careers partner. “We are proud to invest in our trainees so that their careers can thrive at Macfarlanes.”

GLP understands the firm has reviewed and updated salaries for other associate bands, though when asked the firm declined to provide details. The salary increases come into effect 1st July with the exception of the rise for trainees, which will be in effect from September.

Despite the raises, the UK firms are nowhere near the top of the market, which is dominated by big US firms that benefit from being anchored in their lucrative home market. Quinn Emanuel and Gibson Dunn are at the top of the pile with an eye-watering £180k rate, followed by an elite group of firms that all pay £170k or more. 

Akin, Fried Frank and Milbank all pay their NQs £177.5k, while Sidley Austin and Goodwin Procter have recently upped their rate to £175k

Meantime six more firms – Vinson & Elkins, Kirkland, Latham & Watkins, Paul Hastings, Davis Polk and Weil – have rates ranging from £170k to just shy of £174k.

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