Sullivan & Cromwell shoots to top of UK pay league with record £101,500 newly-qualified solicitor salary

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By Jonathan Ames on

Exclusive: London office of New York firm is now highest paying in City — with closest English firm languishing £23,000 behind


White shoe stalwart Sullivan & Cromwell has become the first law firm in London to pay its newly qualified (NQ) lawyers more than £100,000, Legal Cheek can reveal exclusively.

The New York-based firm has chucked its freshly minted lawyers a pay rise worth more than 4%, taking the starting wedge from £97,500 to £101,500. Trainee salaries remain at £50,000 for new starters and £55,000 for second years.

That increase blasts the firm past competitor compatriots in London — Skadden, Latham & Watkins, Davis Polk and Akin Gump — to the top of the NQ pay league table. The move, while a welcome sign of health for corporate law, will rekindle fears among English firms that their US counterparts are stoking junior lawyer wage inflation.

According to the Legal Cheek Most List, bottom tier junior lawyers at Akin Gump and Davis Polk are on £100,000, while those at Latham & Watkins and Skadden trail on £98,000.

The English firm that comes closest to paying its NQs that Yankee-style gold is magic circle player Allen & Overy. The City firm awarded new associates a whopping pay rise worth slightly more than 18% back in June.

Nonetheless, that took the firm’s NQs to an annual salary of just £78,500 — or £23,000 less than rookies at Sullivan & Cromwell will be wheel-barrowing home.

S&C’s most recent revenue figures showed it turning over nearly $1.28 billion (£820 million). On average, the firm’s full equity partners each trousered annual drawings of nearly $3.7m (about £2.4m).

Meanwhile, in other junior lawyer pay news, fellow New Yorkers Weil Gotshal bumped up its London NQ pay by £1,500 to £97,000. That more miserly 2% pay rise pulled the firm level in the UK capital with Chicago-founded Kirkland & Ellis.

Sullivan & Cromwell declined to issue a comment.