19 Apr 2022

Pinsent Masons ups London NQ pay more than 20% to £92k amid ongoing salary war

Salary for regional NQs grows by 36% to hit £61k

Pinsent Masons logo on the side of building

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Newly qualified (NQ) associates working in Pinsent Masons’ London office are set to see their salary grow 23% to £92,000, as the UK firm becomes the latest to hike pay for its most junior lawyers amid the ongoing legal salary war. 

The increase from £75,000, set to come into effect in September, means Pinsents’ London NQs will receive an extra £17,000 per year. 

Their counterparts in the firm’s regional UK offices, meanwhile, will see their pay grow an eye-catching 36% from £45,000 to £61,000. That puts Pinsents just behind DLA Piper and Eversheds Sutherland, which recently upped regional NQ pay to £65,000 and £62,000 respectively, but a step ahead of US rival Squire Patton Boggs, which in February boosted pay for its regional rookies by 10% to £55,000, as reported by Legal Cheek

A spokesperson for Pinsents said: “We recognise the importance of remaining competitive to attract and retain talent, of which remuneration is a factor.” 

The latest salary increase for Pinsents’ London NQs puts it slightly ahead of fellow UK firms Ince and Stephenson Harwood, both of whom pay their most junior City lawyers £90,000 following raises announced toward the end of last year, and on an equal footing with Dentons. But it is slightly behind Addleshaw Goddard, CMS, DLA Piper, Eversheds Sutherland and Norton Rose Fulbright, all UK firms that according to Legal Cheek are in the £95k club following salary hikes. 

And it is still well behind UK Magic Circle firms, with Linklaters boosting salaries last September to £107,500. That was matched by Allen & Overy a month later, The Law Society Gazette reported, and a month after that by Clifford Chance. 

Slaughter and May, meanwhile, announced last week it is raising associate salaries by up to 20% following a review into pay and benefits for non-partners. The pay rises will apply across all post-qualification experience levels, with NQs seeing their rate increase next month from £107,500 to £115,000. 

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer bumped up its NQ rates by 25% earlier this month to take salaries for new lawyers to £125,000, understood to be the highest among the Magic Circle.   

The salary war in the UK, anchored by strong financial performances by firms over the past year, largely reflects the ongoing battle to stand out in a hypercompetitive recruiting market, especially as firms grapple to keep lawyers happy in the face of surging work volumes. Even so, UK firm NQ rates are still dwarfed by salaries paid by US rivals, which have also been steadily increasing their pay, often in step with an even more intense salary war in New York.

Earlier this year, Fried Frank increased its NQ salary by 10% to £160,000, just behind Goodwin Procter, which currently pays newly qualified lawyers £161,500 – believed to be the highest on offer.

Nick Robbins, founder of legal recruiter Nicholas Scott, told GLP last November that firms are trending towards an increase in base salaries with a reduction in the percentage of total compensation coming from bonus structures, adding that associates tend to be more attracted to higher base salaries as opposed to the hold of the retention bonus system. 

“Salary rises are being driven by the need to compete in the merry-go-round of associates moving, but it is really the new reality of the New York law firms' influence and their levelling up of associate compensation packages on a worldwide basis,” he said. 

 

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