Herbert Smith Freehills hikes top-level City NQ pay to £90k

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Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has hiked salaries and bonuses for junior lawyers to take the maximum total compensation for top-performing newly-qualified (NQ) lawyers to £90,000.

The firm has rolled bonuses and base salary together for 2016-17, with associates receiving different total packages depending on performance. More than 50% of associates will fall into a category known within the firm as ‘high-performing’.

Total compensation for high performing NQs will range from £82,000 to £90,000, while high performing lawyers with one year’s post-qualification experience (PQE) will receive between £87,000 and £95,000.

Those with two years’ PQE will receive between £97,000 and £107,000, while high performing three-year PQE associates will receive between £112,000 and £122,000 including bonus.

Meanwhile, trainee salaries have been increased to £44,000 for first-years and £48,000 for second-years.

HSF’s UK, US and EMEA managing partner Ian Cox said: ”These compensation packages reflect both the strong performance of the London office during the past 12 months and investment in the firm’s future.  In order to continue advising our clients on their most important transactional, contentious and reputational matters we need to ensure we attract and retain the best legal talent in the market.

“Offering competitive overall compensation packages at all levels is a major aspect of bringing the best together as we continue to build a world-class professional services firm.”

Earlier this year, Linklaters became the first magic circle firm to announce UK associate salary rates, publishing figures showing total salary plus typical bonus payment ranges for associates in their first four years with the firm.

At Linklaters, high performing NQs can expect to take home marginally more than those at HSF, at £91,000 on average, while the total package for average performers will be £81,000.

The salary and bonus for an average lawyer with one year PQE is £90,000, with high performers on around £101,000.

Last month, Cravath Swaine & Moore kickstarted an associate pay war among US and magic circle firms when it hiked its first-year US associate pay $180,000 (£124,000) a year.

The move has been followed by a host of US firms, including Milbank, Weil Gotshal & Manges, Cahill Gordon & Reindel and Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison.

Meanwhile, Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Freshfields all raised their NQ pay in line with Cravath.

Herbert Smith Freehills 2016 junior lawyer compensation for high performers (2015 salaries excluding bonus in brackets)

First-year trainees: £44,000 (£42,000) Second-year trainees: £48,000 (£46,000)

NQs: from £82,000 to £90,000 total cash (£69,000) One year PQE: from £87,000 to £95,000 (£74,000) Two years’ PQE: from £97,000 to £107,000 (£87,000) Three years’ PQE: from £112,000 to £122,000 (£96,500)