Slaughter and May revamps associate pay scales and raises NQ rate to £115,000

Move comes after Freshfields increased NQ salaries to £125,000 as talent war heats up
Portrait of Steve Cooke

Senior partner Steve Cooke

UK Magic Circle firm Slaughter and May 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 (PQE) levels, with newly qualified (NQ) lawyers seeing their rate increase next month to £115,000 from £107,500. 

Those salary hikes come alongside a package of measures designed to support better work-life balance and career progression. The firm has also addressed the compression within PQE levels by widening the spread between the top and bottom PQE ranges.

Steve Cooke, Slaughters’ senior partner, said: “By raising salaries significantly, putting forward some concrete proposals in relation to work-life balance, and strengthening support for career development, we are recognising the importance of our associates at all levels.”

In addition, the firm has committed to paying bonuses twice a year and has updated its pay scale model so that associates progress through PQE levels every six months.

The package of measures also includes the development of a working practices code to reinforce the firm’s principles around work-life balance, as well as a more supportive structure that will enable more effective conversations around career progression.

Last year, Slaughters introduced a trio of part-time working programmes for associates to improve their work-life balance. Associates can reduce their hours by up to 20% during specific periods, such as school holidays. They can also take advantage of a project-led scheme that allows for unpaid holidays between large transactions, while a third scheme allows associates to job share.

The firm has also recently introduced targets as a spur to improve the diversity of its senior ranks, although this year's partnership promotion round saw only one woman make the grade out of eight successful candidates.

Earlier this month, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer bumped up its NQ rates by 25%, taking salaries for new lawyers to £125,000. 

The increase in NQ salaries underscores the ongoing war for talent among the UK’s top firms, with the pressure now on Allen & Overy, Linklaters and Clifford Chance to follow suit.

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.

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