Lawyer salary

Wage rise for junior lawyers ‘just a band-aid’, warns Sir Nigel Knowles

DWF chief calls on law firms to find better incentives to retain talent

Great legal statesman Sir Nigel Knowles has warned against City law firms offering junior lawyers ‘huge’ starting salaries and instead finding better ways to incentivize them or risk losing them to more “enlightened” industries.

In a letter to FinancialTimesDWF’s CEO said:

“Offering more and more money to young people is just a band-aid. It is not a sincere, lasting or healthy solution for anyone. The failure to find better ways to engage people and create a healthier working environment means the UK legal industry risks losing talent to more enlightened sectors.

Continuing in the letter published this morning, Sir Nigel shared the typical efforts of what he considers a more “progressive” company. “These tend to have leadership teams that champion diversity and inclusion, encourage a modern work-life balance, and create physical environments and culture that are far more meaningful than relying on salaries of huge, but ultimately one-dimensional start, and ad hoc payments. ,” he said.

“These days, bright young people have many great options. They could join a fintech, an e-commerce start-up, an ESG consultancy, an advertising agency or a charity. awaken to the realities of modern employees, workplaces and society in general.

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Sir Nigel previously served as chairman of DLA Piper, growing from a small regional firm in Sheffield to, via a series of bold mergers, one of the largest law firms in the world. He left the firm after 38 years at the helm, joining DWF as chairman in 2017. Two years later, DWF became the first law firm to list on the London Stock Exchange, and a year later, Sir Nigel took over as group CEO.

His comments come amid a recent spate of pay rises from the Magic Circle and other UK law firms that face mounting pressure to keep pace with US ‘MoneyLaw’ firms in London. Goodwin Procter tops the Newly Qualified (NQ) lawyers’ pay league, according to our top firms list, offering £161,500 when qualifying. Magic circle firms Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Linklaters and Slaughter and May, meanwhile, are paying NQs recently improved salaries of £107,500.

Sir Nigel is not the first lawyer to worry about soaring salaries for junior lawyers. One of the nation’s top in-house lawyers said last month that junior attorney compensation was “out of control” and that the profession needed to find new ways to attract, retain and reward talent, if not people are going to get hurt.”

In 2020, Fieldfisher’s managing partner, Michael Chissick, made headlines after describing how his “heart drops when I see newly qualified lawyers in US firms earning more than some of our partners”. He received support in the form of Pinsent Masons senior partner Richard Foley, who described soaring rates as “completely unsustainable”.