Clifford Chance is to pay a salary of £85,000 to newly qualified lawyers. That is not the top of the market’s NQ salary range, but it is a very long way from its lowest point. Most of the profession inhabits a different world.
Is all forever well in this fortunate and seemingly untouchable part of the profession? In fact the legal market’s upper end has been anything but immune from change and risk. The memory of Dewey & LeBoeuf’s implosion should always be front of mind.
The headache for senior management is that lawyer salary inflation does not enjoy a direct correlation with top-end instructions. Hiring good people at these amounts is a ticket to compete for work, not a guarantee of securing it.
Under pressure from clients, elite firms have had to look at nearshoring and offshoring options, sending out work which would once have occupied a superannuated NQ in headquarters. For many, chances of partnership’s rewards will be more elusive than in the past; for others, less tempting.
Lawyers have a reputation for being risk-averse. In fact, leading firms make huge investments in staff and buildings worldwide in the hope of winning work, which they then assume they will be paid for. Fingers are firmly crossed that a recession does not arrive at the wrong time.
Is £85,000 too much to pay a newly qualified lawyer? The fact is, no one knows.