Leader

It always has to be first, doesn’t it? Clifford Chance – the first of the City’s leading law firms to achieve a transatlantic merger (with Rogers & Wells in 2000); the first into Canary Wharf; the first of the magic circle to enter 2000’s salary war; the first to institute a pay freeze; and now the first to go the other way and drop the wages of its newly-qualifieds


It must be pretty annoying for its rivals to always be playing second fiddle to those pesky Clifford Chancers, so determined to be seen to be setting the agenda – or at least to be first across the finish line.

The firm’s successes created an air of resignation among the rest of the magic circle, apparently happy to play follow-my-leader and unwilling to undertake anything radical unless Clifford Chance had first tested the water.

So perhaps the decision taken by Allen & Overy, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Linklaters not to follow Clifford Chance’s lead in dropping newly-qualified solicitors’ pay is laying down a marker to say: no more. It is time to stand on our own two feet and not be led by those cocky Chancers.

Certainly, Clifford Chance will not be so keen to play on the publicity generated by its move, which was after all a cost-cutting exercise. But what effect will 2,000 really have on future applicants to the firm when they come to weigh up their options?

The difference between 48,000 and 50,000 is certainly not much – and if it’s simply a case of ‘show me the money’, then you will already be joining the queue outside every available US firm foolish enough to pay its newly-qualified lawyers almost 90,000 – but it will make applicants look at what motives might be behind the move. And with so little to differentiate the top firms at this level, it might just help make your decision for you.

Finally, before you jet off on your summer holidays, please take time to complete our Student Attitude Survey – you never know, Lawyer 2B could be picking up the cost of your flight.