Covington & Burling boosts NQ pay for London lawyers to £120,000

by Bernice Carolino 02 Nov 2019

Covington & Burling has boosted the salaries of its newly qualified (NQ) lawyers in London by £20,000, for a total of £120,000, up by 20% from last year’s pay.

Not just anyone can enjoy this hefty NQ pay, however, as the US-headquartered firm only recruits eight trainees in the UK per year.

The pay war in London for new lawyers has been well documented. This year saw a cascading trend of London firms boosting salaries, starting in May with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which was the first of the Magic Circle firms to offer an NQ salary of £100,000. Following this, Clifford Chance, Slaughter and May, Allen & Overy, and Linklaters all raised their NQ salaries to £100,000.

The competition only grew fiercer from there. Ashurst and Herbert Smith Freehills have raised their NQ salaries to £105,000, Macfarlanes has boosted its NQ salary to more than £110,000, and Travers Smith has raised its NQ salary to as high as £110,500.

The US-based firms have also been raising their pay for new lawyers. Shearman & Sterling raised its NQ salary to £120,000. Hogan Lovells then raised its NQ pay to £117,000. The trend only continued from there, and other international firms have increased their pay to young lawyers to stay competitive. Recently, Norton Rose Fulbright revamped its NQ salary package to pay top performers up to £114,000.

With this latest increase, Covington & Burling has matched the current NQ pay of other prominent US firms also offering £120,000, including Shearman; Ropes & Gray; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.

Covington & Burling, an international law firm founded in Washington DC in 1919, has boasted several high-profile clients, including but not limited to the Commonwealth of Australia, the State of California, and Philip Morris & Tobacco Institute. Covington & Burling’s revenue in 2018 was over US$1bn, following a decade of speedy financial growth.