In part two of our autumn 2019 retentions round-up, we report on the latest announcements by leading firms, some notable NQ salary increases and an interesting statistic revealed by Eversheds Sutherland. (read part one here)
Global firm Eversheds Sutherland added some attention-grabbing spin to its retention announcement this autumn. As well as stating that 39 out of its 49 NQs are staying put (80%), the firm revealed that 70% of these are female and 26% are Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME). This compares to its BAME figure of 18% in 2018.
Evershed Sutherland’s HR director Lorraine Kilborn said: “We strive to attract individuals from a range of backgrounds and perspectives, unlocking talent that can provide us with a competitive edge in an increasingly global legal market.”
Perhaps this announcement is a sign of things to come and something other firms will follow. Or perhaps not.
Macfarlanes has repeated its perfect spring 2019 retention score, with all 25 of its NQs remaining at the firm. They will start on a newly boosted basic salary of £85,000 per annum with the opportunity to earn between £98,600 and £110,250 once individual and firm-wide bonuses are taken into account. The firm says 98% of its staff received bonuses last year.
International firm Hogan Lovells is retaining 28 out of 31 of its qualifying lawyers this autumn (90%), two in Birmingham and the remainder in London. The London qualifiers will start on £90,000.
The London office of Ashurst is keeping on 20 out its 24 NQs (83%), a slight dip from its 93% this time last year. They will start on £84,000 although this could rise to £105,000 depending on bonuses.
International outfit Stephenson Harwood has revealed an impressive score of 92% in its London office, with all but one of its 13 qualifiers accepting offers to stay with the firm. They will start on £75,000, a figure that could go as high as £97,500 once bonuses are factored in.
Clyde & Co meanwhile is retaining 37 of its 43 trainees (86%) of whom 33 will be based in London, three in Manchester and one in Guildford. It too is upping NQ pay, in this case to £70,000 (an uplift from £65,000).
There has been a flurry of pay hikes for NQs in recent weeks. There will be smiling faces at US firm Dechert, which has boosted salaries for its London-based NQs to £116,000 from an already impressive £100,000. As if things couldn’t get any better, lawyers at the firm are now allowed to wear jeans to work. The firm believes this is about “inclusivity, empowering our people, and attracting the best talent”.
NQs at Addleshaw Goddard will now be on £75,000, which places themselves alongside their counterparts at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, Dentons, K&L Gates and Stephenson Harwood and £2,000 ahead of those at CMS and Squire Patton Boggs.
Gowling WLG has raised NQ pay to slightly below this level for its London lawyers (£71,000 from £66,000) and £44,000 for those in Birmingham (up from £42,500). This brings its London NQs alongside Bird & Bird, who recently announced an uplift to £71,000 (a bump of 15%).
These improved pay packets are certainly good news for NQs but an article in the Financial Times suggests they could be causing tensions to rise at some firms.
The FT reports that anonymous senior associates at Slaughter and May and Clifford Chance are unhappy about uneven pay rises. One unnamed Slaughter and May associate is quoted as saying: “We are seeing real compression in pay. The headlines are all about the newly-qualified pay, but there’s been very little uplift for lawyers who are two, three, four and five-years qualified.”
Clients are also said to be unhappy about it. Linklaters managing partner Gideon Moore commented on Freshfields’ decision to increase NQ pay in May by saying: “Clients have been clear that they don’t want to pay for the increases.” “But,” he added, “like it or not you have to be seen to be competitive in that first wave of salaries.”