First Year Law Salaries Continue to Rise For The Top Law Firms in the US . . And London

Demand for associates continues to push up the legal salaries to eye watering levels

Over two dozen of the largest law firms in America have now raised their pay for associates in a demanding market for associates as the market salary scale continues to rise with the floodgates well and truly opened for big money deals for associates.

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The latest Big Law firms to raise their first year associate pay to $205,000 are Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison after the stage was set by Milbank and Davis Polk & Wardwell.

Milbank, which employs around 765 lawyers, set a previous benchmark in 2018, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The huge salaries can come with a heavy workload; many junior associates at the largest firms bill more than 2,000 hours a year, according to the NALP, which can mean work weeks far exceeding 40 hours.  Milbank LLP set a new benchmark for hiring salaries with an announcement last week that recent law-school graduates at the firm would start at $200,000. Pictured is Milbank's New York offices+3

Milbank LLP set a new benchmark for hiring salaries with an announcement last week that recent law-school graduates at the firm would start at $200,000. Pictured is Milbank’s New York offices 

Additionally, with remote work becoming the norm at many firms, long hours at home have taken a toll on associate mental health. 

Cravaths were reported by Above the Law about the $200k plus pay scale for the 2020 clase, which stops at $350,000 for a seventh-year associate.

Paul Weiss also announced late Wednesday the firm will be matching the associate salary scale set by Davis Polk, including eighth-year associate pay at $365,000 for the class of 2013.

Sheppard Mullin will match the scale for U.S. associates and those overseas who are on the U.S. partnership track, the firm stated in a memo obtained by

The pay rates for London law firms has also increased substantially and the US pay rates have been matched globally although others in the US Big Law league match only the US offices.

In fact, many of London’s Magic Circle law firms which were for so long the dream law jobs for aspiring lawyers are now being lured away by the ‘gargantuan’ salaries offered by US law firms, as The Times recently reported.

A day earlier, other top Am Law 100 firms confirmed their intentions to stick to the Davis Polk scale. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom became the first Am Law 10 firm to match the associate salary increase. DLA Piper ranked No. 3 in the Am Law 100, confirmed it would match the Davis Polk scale while also offering $375,000 for a ninth-year associate in the class of 2012, a firm spokesperson said.

Goodwin announced it is increasing U.S. associates’ base pay, too, starting at the same level for the most junior associates going up to $365,000 for the most senior associates. The firm stated in a memo that it “will continue to pay market salaries to associates in offices outside of the United States,” and that it is “evaluating the impact of the increase to the associate salary scale on our counsel and other professional track attorneys on a case-by-case basis and expect to communicate the impact individually.”

Other Big Law firms like Ropes & Gray; Akin Gump; Norton Rose Fulbright; Mayer Brown; and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati confirmed matches, according to firm representatives.

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