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Ashurst and Simmons & Simmons have joined Allen & Overy (A&O) and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in freezing pay in a bid to stave off further job cuts.

Ashurst told staff earlier this week (9 March) that all non-partner lawyers and support staff will see pay held at 2008 levels. The firm abandoned associate lockstep about two years ago to focus on rewarding individual merit, but there will also be no increases this year.

Ashurst is also dropping its newly-qualified (NQ) rate from March onwards by just over 8% to £60,000 from £65,000.

Simmons, meanwhile, is freezing both the level of its associate pay bands and lawyers’ progression through the bands from 1 May. However, it is creating a special bonus pool to reward top performers to compensate for the pay freeze.

The firm is still to make a final decision on NQ pay but it is thought it will drop from September this year from £63,500 to less than £60,000.

A&O is also looking at dropping its NQ rate in response to the pay freeze it announced last month, which would otherwise this year give NQs the same level of pay as those with one year’s PQE.

Other leading City firms including Norton Rose, Link-laters, Clifford Chance (CC), Herbert Smith and Lovells said they will not be deciding on salary rates until around the end of April, although many predict that CC will be freezing salaries.

Simon Bromwich (pictured), managing partner at Ashurst, said: “You have to manage overheads and it makes a big difference to our cost base if we implement this freeze. Everything helps at the moment – so far we have avoided a major redundancy round and hopefully we won’t have to, but you cannot guarantee anything.”

Additional reporting by Sofia Lind and Emma Sadowski.

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Ashurst on the Legal Week Wiki

Simmons & Simmons on the Legal Week Wiki

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