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

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

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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.

10 Comments

Anonymous

Crime doesn’t pay.

(9)(1)

SullCrom Swagg

Epic remuneration package no doubt, although I’m afraid the trainees and NQs at the firm will be required to sacrifice half their ballsack, a couple of pounds of flesh and all weekends in the year for this kind of wedge.

(13)(0)

Anonymous

What nonsense you speak SullCrom Swag. Being an NQ at a firm like S&C is no harder than any other top tier corporate law firm. Long hours and demanding clients and colleagues? Yes. Interesting intellectual work with smart people? Most of the time. Menial repetitive tasks? Sometimes at the junior end. Pound of flesh and ballsack removal? No. And frankly, for £100k+ at circa 24 years old with a proper career path ahead of you, that seems a good bargain no? If corporate law destroyed everyone who worked at the top 20 law firms, they wouldn’t survive as institutions (but instead they do, in fact they thrive, with literally thousands of the best and brightest having 40+ year careers). I can see why this kind of article inspires jealousy though, but at least recognise it for what it is…

(15)(6)

US 3PQE

What a delusional and naive comment. Multiple surveys report lawyers suffering from some of the highest levels of stress, depression, unhappiness and workplace exhaustion, but Mr Anonymous here thinks it all fine and dandy.

Sorry to break it to you, but it is definitely not. There is a distinct reason the remuneration levels of White Shoe firms headquartered on Wall Street/Midtown are so high – their associates are flogged with 2000+ billable hour targets, often on top of remarkably high levels of student debt at 7-8 per cent interest rates. Without the money no one would bother to be worked that hard.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean everyone working for such a firm will be ‘destroyed’, but such income does carry its sacrifices. And finally, one can also settle for a Mid-Atlantic/Midwestern firm – less pay, but also less billables to pull off.

(8)(2)

Anonymous

Are you and ‘US NQ’ the same person by any chance?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Outrageous sexism as per usual – where is the reference to chopping off womens’ bits !
Sigh.
Etc.
Etc.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Incredible money for an NQ.

The firms get their money back though. Even if they are only charged out at £150 – £200 per hour they will be bringing in fees of £200,000 – £300,000 a year. On more lucrative contracts this could be closer to £400,000.

(6)(0)

Anonymous

The amount of money suggests it is compensation for giving up your social life and health.

(13)(0)

Anonymous

Yes, when you achieve hermit status they give you half a million.
And once dead it is a million a year.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Interesting deletion of another comment on this thread!!!

(1)(0)

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