London associate market heats up as NRF boosts NQ pay to up to £114k

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The war for associate talent in London has become more crowded as Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) has joined other top firms in raising pay for newly qualified solicitors.

The global firm will raise its basic NQ pay by 9% to £87,500 on January 2020. With bonuses of up to 30%, the raise means the best-performing City NQs at NRF will get to take home up to £114,000.

NRF said that providing competitive pay is vital to attracting and retaining high quality people, a focus of the firm.

The latest pay raises for new lawyers in London were kicked off by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in May, when the firm raised NQ pay by 18%, or £15,000, to become the first of the Magic Circle firms to pay NQs £100,000, plus bonuses.

Not to be outdone, Clifford Chance was the first to match Freshfields, announcing a raise to £100,000, including bonuses, from £91,000. Slaughter and May followed, boosting its package, which already includes bonuses, to £100,000 from £83,000. Allen & Overy and Linklaters have also increased NQ pay from £83,000 to £100,000.

Ashurst has also announced a pay increase for new lawyers in London. It boosted their packages by 9% to £105,000 in July. That month, Anglo-Australian giant Herbert Smith Freehills also increased NQ pay to up to £105,000.

City firm Macfarlanes has increased NQ pay to £85,000, with bonuses boosting possible pay to more than £110,000. Travers Smith’s new package for new lawyers now pay between £93,500 and £110,500.

Even the Magic Circle’s US peers, some of which have even bigger pay for new lawyers, have also increased their NQ pay. Shearman & Sterling has boosted its NQ package by 14% to £105,000. Top-performing NQs at trans-Atlantic firm Hogan Lovells can now also earn up to £117,000. Global giant Baker McKenzie boosted its NQ pay by 23% to a minimum of £95,000, with bonuses bringing pay to more than £100,000. Simons & Simons also upped its package to £75,000, with bonuses allowing top performers to breach the six-figure mark.