Magic circle firm Linklaters has increased the pay of its newly-qualified solicitors (NQs) for the third time this year, as the tussle for junior talent reaches new heights. 

From November, NQs at Linklaters will be paid £107,500 a year, plus a performance related bonus. The practice cut NQ pay to £90,000 last year in response to the pandemic, before upping it to £92,500 in April 2021. In July, it increased its starting salary again to £100,000.

First year trainees will be paid £50,000, rising to £55,000 in their second year.

Linklaters is now the highest paying magic circle firm for new associates – but still lags behind a number of firms head-quartered in the US. In July, for example, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan hiked the starting salary of London associates to over £146,000. Those with one year of post-qualification experience (PQE) will receive £154,000 and those with two years' PQE will get £166,000.

Commentators are now starting to question whether repeated pay hikes for NQs are sustainable. Speaking to the Gazette last month, Tony Williams, principal of legal consultancy Jomati and former managing partner at Clifford Chance, said there was ‘probably less pressure on fees in the last six or nine months than there has been in the past’.

‘Clients were just more anxious to get deals done than argue as much about fees. I don’t think you can expect that to continue.’

However, City firms have stressed the need to stay competitive as US firms attempt to poach talented graduates.