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US Heavyweight Law Firms Still Lead the Pay Rate Pack

US Heavyweight Law Firms Still Lead the Pay Rate Pack 4
US Heavyweight Law Firms Still Lead the Pay Rate Pack 5

Pay rises continue in London as two further firms lift their legal pay rates in the hot London market, but the US heavyweights still lead the pack in the money stakes.

Clifford Chance recently lifted its associate rate to £100,000 and was the second of the Magic Circle firms to lift its starting pay following Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer who had made a similar increase for associates.

The pressure has come from US law firms who have aggressively increased pay rates to attract legal talent, particularly for the newly qualified (NQ) solicitors. The Clifford Chance lift was from £91,000 including bonuses.

Now US giant Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom has lifted its NQ pay rate to £133,000 from £118,000 which places the Skadden fold at broadly the same level as the big US firms: Milbank, Sidley Austin, Ropes and Gray, Shearman & Sterling and Cleary Gottlieb.

But the really big earners in the NQ pay rate stocks continue to be the other US heavyweights, Akin Gump, Kirkland & Ellis, Latham & Watkins and Debevoise & Plimpton, who earn well over £140,000.

 Kirkland’s starting pay rate is £143,000, while Latham & Watkins offers its City associates $190,000, according to Legal Business.

While the pay rate increases may excite the interests of young lawyers, it also comes at the cost of smaller associate teams required to hit higher billing targets.

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