Eye-Watering NQL Salaries Sends London Law Partners’ Hearts Sinking

Eye-Watering NQL Salaries Sends London Law Partners' Hearts Sinking 2
Eye-Watering NQL Salaries Sends London Law Partners' Hearts Sinking 7

Erica Watson – How fair can this be? Two senior partners earning vast amounts of money complaining about the somewhat lesser vast amounts being paid to junior lawyers?

But true it is as two senior lawyers make their views on current salary levels in London law – prompted by US law firms stepping up their pay rates – go public over the eye-watering pay levels that have been reached.

Pinsent Masons’ senior partner Richard Foley was quoted in the Financial Times saying salary levels had reached “unsustainable levels” and he hit out at one US firm is offering its junior lawyers £142,000 a year.

And Michael Chissick managing partner at Fieldfisher said his “heart drops when I see newly qualified lawyers in US firms earning more than some of our partners”.

Firms like FieldFisher have taken steps to cut staffing and pay levels although most of the large law firm partnership earnings have largely continued unabated in terms of their pay levels.

NQ pay packets for both firms sit at £67,500 and £72,500, respectively although the work hours at the US law firms are generally longer.

But the pressure from US law firms has placed even more pressure on the local UK practices to compete on the pay front.

Kirkland & Ellis — the highest grossing law firm in the world with revenue of $4.15bn last year — started with its payment to junior lawyers of £142,000 a year.

And New York-based White & Case this month announced pay for newly qualified lawyers in London would be increased by £25,000 to £130,000, starting from January, according to the FT.

Lawyers with two-years of experience will receive a £30,000 rise. In August, fellow US firm Dechert increased its London salaries for newly qualified lawyers to £120,000, a 3 per cent increase. 

And so it goes. But it seems the London-based law firms are choking on the increases in a world that has continued to change with the pandemic.

Eye-Watering NQL Salaries Sends London Law Partners' Hearts Sinking 8

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