The War on Wages: Can Regional Firms Compete?

This year has been unprecedented for a series of things. About a dozen or so Prime Ministers, war in Europe and England winning a World Cup. Specifically, however, in the legal field there has been an upheaval and that upheaval is remuneration.

A Shake-up in the Regions

Salaries in regional markets have never been as high as they are now. This upheaval was initiated by DLA Piper when it made the bold move of increasing its NQ salaries in regional offices to a market leading £65,000 (and Associates above naturally seeing an equivalent increase).

This shook the regional legal market and catapulted other competitors to match DLA so as to still attract talent, but just as equally not lose it!

Eversheds, Pinsent Masons, Addleshaw Goddard and even more mid-tier firms such as Trowers & Hamlins and Gateley have significantly increased their associate salaries so that now it’s not unjustified to say the market average for NQs is between £55,000 and £65,000. Which to repeat again is unprecedented in the regional market.

What If a Firm Can’t Compete?

So where does this leave firms who haven’t or simply can’t match these increases? As a Recruiter, I’m aware there a still firms that haven’t made the increases to match the new standard, and while a good few of these firms are respectable practices engaging quite a lot of the time in great and leading work, they simply are in danger of losing out on talent to the bigger payers.

What compounds to this is that the bigger pay checks also do not necessarily correlate to bigger hours. Some of the firms mentioned that have increased their wages, still retain great cultures that promote a good work/life balance.

This all means that, right now, the competition between firms has never been so fierce. The cut throat nature of this legal space ultimately means those firms that are not offering what others will are in a position where they can’t effectively attract talent and perhaps worse… keep their current!


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Kean Smith is a Legal Recruitment Consultant working with Lawyers and law firms in the UK as part of Interlink’s Regions Team. Get in touch with him for a confidential discussion about your career at, connect with him on LinkedIn or read his full profile.

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