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Sidley Austin hikes London junior lawyer pay by 33% to £120,000

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‘MoneyLaw’ movement continues to rock the City

pay

Sidley Austin has upped the pay packets of its newly qualified (NQ) lawyers to a staggering £120,000.

Up from (a still magic circle busting) £90,000, this equates to an increase of £30,000 or 33%.

The Chicago-headquartered firm — which offers around ten London-based training contracts each year — appears to be responding directly to a number of pay hikes by US firms in the City, triggered by New York-headquartered giant Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

Earlier this summer, Cravath upped the pay of its US-based junior lawyers from $160,000 (£110,000) to $180,000 (£124,000). A host of top US firms — including Sidley Austin (email below) — quickly followed suit, matching what was dubbed in the US legal press as the “Cravath pay level”.

Email

But the good times didn’t stop there. Many firms have chucked the same pay increases at their London-based cohort. Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, Latham & Watkins, Simpson Thacher, Kirkland & Ellis, Davis Polk and Akin Gump NQs all now pocket a cool £124,000.

Not quite matching the coveted £124,000 pay level, London’s Sidley Austin lawyers will have to make do with just £120,000 for the time being. Trainee pay at the US giant remains unchanged with those in their first year taking home £44,000, rising to £48,000 in their second.

Late last year Sidley Austin — the firm where President Obama met his wife when she supervised him during a vac scheme — announced another large pay increase, upping NQ pay packets from £75,000 to £90,000. So in less than one year Sidley has boosted London NQ pay by a whopping £45,000. Alright for some.

79 Comments

Anonymous

That’s nothing, Irwin Mitchell just bought a coffee machine for the communal kitchen!

(44)(0)

Corporate toiler

Hah, that’s pathetic. Here at Slater & Gordon, we were all told we must buy as many of the firm’s shares as possible to pump up the price so the chief boss can dump his stock and go cruising.

Wait, this was meant to be about benefits? Oh.

(41)(0)

NQ baby

Meanwhile at Squire Patton Boggs the NQs pocket a cool £62k.

Excuse me while I go cry.

(8)(2)

Anonymous

What are the hours like? genuinely wonder if law is worth it at that level.

(9)(1)

3PQE

They’re dependent on department, but usually 7pm exit max. Still utterly useless pay when compared to the US big guns. I’m ready to jump ship.

(3)(2)

Anonymous

Is that not the price (pun intended) to pay for the work/life balance?

If you’re leaving at 6-7, 62k sounds reasonable. I wouldn’t have thought that firms would pay you 80k+ as NQ lawyers, if you leave that early. US trainees/NQ seem to leave at 8/9 at the earliest.

Anon

Over in legal aid we dream of the 21k we’ll possibility get as an NQ which will marginally help pay the eye watering monthly student loan fees *crys and wipes article from memory*.

(5)(0)

Observant (In-House)

Where are you based?
City?

I, straight out of LLB, got a Legal Assistant position with an actual career development scheme (contribution towards LPC etc) in Cardiff that pays the dreamt £21k.

(0)(0)

Jones Day Associate

You’re making it rain bro, just like Gordon Gecko.

(6)(0)

Eversheds NQ

At least we get free ice cream…

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Lololololol

(4)(0)

JonesDay NQ

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(8)(0)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

Hog's Love

Typical LC, censoring all the top bantz.

(8)(0)

Anonymous

“…the Firm…”

Capitalising references to the employer in internal notes in this way is wonderfully self-important. It’s like capitalising ‘God’.

And multiple use of wanky capitals in some dreary outfit’s memos becomes sinister.

(2)(0)

Scouser of Counsel

Yawn.

Meanwhile back in the real world…

(6)(0)

Anonymous

I deeply regret training at this hell-hole. Having to consistently work weekends is a terrible affair

(7)(0)

Anonymous

That’s funny, I spoke to about 10 of the roughly 20 current trainees on my recent vac scheme and almost all of them said weekend work was a rarity…

(1)(4)

Anonymous

One of my best mates is a trainee there and I barely see them. Do you really think any trainee (at any firm) with a slither of sense will say anything negative about their firm to a vac schemer? All it takes is you mentioning it to someone and they are facing the consequences.

(5)(0)

Pongo

Maybe you never see them because they think you’re a cunt?

(8)(7)

Doge

So hard, much edge.

You must be popular.

Predictable and boring

Yawn…..

Tyrion

Lol. Vac schemes are make believe. I did 3 at city firms and had a great time. Drinks, tours of London, friendly associates and partners. This crap doesn’t last once you start the job. Just be realistic about what you will experience, cash for hours. How much cash, how many hours? And prestige too with great exit prospects if you last long enough. But don’t expect niceness.

(5)(0)

US NQ

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(1)(0)

Tyrion

Do tell. Is it really worse than the magic circle though? Thats the key for me. We work like dogs in the MC for half your pay so I want to know if we actually work half your hours.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Following on from what I said about my recent vac scheme – most of the trainees were working 9-8pm Monday to Friday as ‘normal hours’. Obviously these were subject to substantial increase if the department became busy, and the hours in certain departments seemed to be worse (eg global finance). Otherwise it didn’t seem that bad at all.

Take it with a pinch of salt though as it was only a brief snapshot.

(1)(1)

Bobby

9-8 as normal hours is acceptable for me. However you will find that often these associates are not working normal hours. I find that hours are more 9.30 to about 10.30 every day. Plus I would say about 4/5 nights a month working to midnight or later, and also about 2 out of 4 weekends in the office.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

Dang that’s nasty. But I guess it pays well.

Anonymous

and the fact that those guys may well sit around surfing the web and doing nothing until 5pm, when a massive steaming pile of turd lands on their heads and they have to cancel their evening plans at short notice and stay in the office until 3am.

Anonymous

There’s a reason they pay so handsomely – it gives them scope to have you at their call whenever it suits them. Trainees can never complain that they’re being overworked as they’re getting remunerated better than their peers. Trainees have admitted to working weekends on Target Jobs – it’s the reality of large US firms! Decided what you want in life…

(3)(1)

Anonymous

God you lot really talk a load of rubbish. I’m an associate at the firm. The office is generally quiet by 7 with pockets of teams who are late. Weekend work happens, I’d say much less so than magic circle firms, but when it does generally it involves working remotely for a few hours here and there or just being responsive on your blackberry, with some departments worse than others during a big transaction. To the people that say trainees at the firm work weekends consistently – typical made up comment from an underpaid magic circle lawyer trying to justify the pay gap. Truth is you get far more responsibility at the big paying US firms, which doesn’t equate to more hours but means more pressure and also means you’ll be out the door unless you are very good at your job. As for this report – Sidley is actually quite far behind a lot of the US firms who are using far better exchange rates. Cravath NQ’s for example are on about £132k, not the £124 reported.

(12)(4)

SullCrom Swagg

Interesting point, although Cravath does not have any UK-style NQs per se, since all their lawyers are US-qualified and rotate to London mostly through two-year secondments, with a limited permanent staff. The pay is thus constantly matched to the US, as if they never left the NYC HQ.

Just thought I’d set it out here so there’s no London Met LLB hopefuls asking about where can they apply…

(10)(0)

Anonymous

One of my closest friend works there and he has worked numerous weekends – it’s not a “made up comment”, it’s just fact. I do work for MC and yes, it would be nice to have similar pay, but it’s naive to think that my statement about weekends is some bitter outburst. Even when he’s not working on weekends, he’s expected to check his email. US firms are notorious for the long hours – just look at some of the partners who perform all nighters

(2)(3)

Anonymous

I call BS!

Who has a Blackberry these days????

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Paha good evening Sidley HR

(3)(2)

Anonymous

Generic response

(2)(2)

Gashman

True tho. You can smell the puffery from a mile away, maybe Sidley monitor these sites for rogue employees…

(3)(2)

Anonymous

You’re deeply mistaken if you think anyone gives a toss about the baboons in the legal cheek comments…

(2)(0)

Irwin Mitchell HR

That’s what you think…

Pongobulb

Addleshaw and all the other ‘proud’, ”top’ UK firms you are slowly being left behind by real global law firms.

And you know what – you deserve it. You cannot boast about foreign offices etc and then come brexit not increase salaries by a lot of anything at all.

Perhaps we are edging to a stage where there will be just the smaller boutiques and larger firms. Those in the middle will have to change their ideas to survive.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Agreed that it will be interesting to see what the City mid-market does here.

(2)(0)

SullCrom Swagg

It merges…or wastes away and dies.

There’s no other way out I’m afraid. Good luck with that Hunton & Williams tie up, Addleshaws.

(2)(0)

Pongobulb

Very true.

Addleshaw. You’re not the “behemoth” you (never) used to be are you…

At least Irwin Mitchell knows it, it has a good larf at itself very often.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Actual take home pay (after tax) rises by about 20%. Still sounds like a hefty rise, but works out as rising from about £1150 per week to about £1400 per week. Nothing that is going to change lifestyle too much, and not as impressive sounding as saying 90k to 120k.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

can still join the lashional front with that

(1)(0)

Real Worldist

Maybe for kids who went to Eton its no big deal, but for us mere mortals an extra grand a month is very useful, particularly for those saving for a first property or paying off student loans. If you are 40 with 3 kids then an extra £1000 a month may be a nice sweetner, but for someone who is 25-30 years old and single (i.e. no kids) that is definitely a life changer.

(3)(1)

Hog's Love

Hear hear, I could definitely do with an extra grand a month.

All that powder ain’t cheap these days…

(2)(1)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(1)(0)

Jones Day Associate

Hah, you’ve got no idea matey. Pop me a visit to Tudor Street to see how it’s done.

Anonymous

The amazing thing is that even if the MC doesn’t raise its salaries, it will still attract the top talent. Sad truth

(0)(5)

Random

For training the MC doesn’t always attract the best, apart from the boys at Slaughters, but will always get high quality applicants. However by 2-3 pqe in finance/corporate type roles, the best jump ship. Again why get beasted for 90k at A&O when you can get beasted at SullCrom or Kirklands for 150k.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

You really think? I’m a future US trainee and most of my cohort rejected MC offers…

(3)(0)

Anonymous

And plenty of future MC trainees reject US firms, and even more don’t bother applying to US firms as it’s well known you can just make the switch whenever you please if you train at a MC firm…

(0)(1)

Anonymous

As a prospective trainee, I’m interested as to whether you think it’s likely that there will be another Magic Circle price hike (i.e. as big as the one initiated by A&O last summer, with the others then following suit) at some point? Or do you envisage the current NQ level at the large UK firms – circa £80-85k – returning to modest growth from now on? Is it really sustainable for the top US firms to pay £30-40k+ more per year? I suppose the real question is whether there will be shifts at about 2PQE-3PQE when associates may indeed jump ship to the Kirklands of this world, which might send a message. Just wondering whether anyone has either any light to shed on the topic.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

*salary hike, whoops.

(0)(0)

Clergs

You’re either a chinny or Trevor from RoF. Either way you can fuck off.

(1)(3)

Trevor's mum

Hey, leave him alone!

(1)(0)

Sage

Paul Hastings will be next to increase.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Covington & Burling perhaps…?

(1)(0)

Bantz bantz baby

Squire Patton Boggs? Reed Smith? Dentonz?

(3)(1)

Facts are Fun

Covington paid second highest in the City (behind Skadden) when it started offering TCs, so perhaps. Although don’t seem to have changed in a while.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

They have already put their salaries up. They have matched Cravath with a fixed exchange rate at about 1.45 – so not quite as good as the Kirkland/Akin/Latham/Millbank /Cravath rates (which are all floating).

(0)(0)

Curious George

When did this happen? It’s certainly not public info from what I can gather.

Curious George

Is that Paul Hastings or Covington?

Trevor's mum

What about Reed Smith?

Anonymous

Have Skadden raised to new Cravath rates in London?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Guys been listening to the US vs MC argument and I must say, one thing to add is the partnership prospects for US vs MC firms. If becoming a partner one day, is something your mind could never entertain then absolutely go to a US firm,but if you believe in miracles, join an MC.
US firms are also incredibly notorious for basically never giving out partnerships, in fact it’s virtually impossible for lawyers not from the US. Looking 10-15 even 20 years down the line, there could be much much more made at an MC firm than a US firm.

(0)(1)

Future US Trainee

There may well be a good proportion of US partners, but that’s because trainees have only just started reaching partner level. US trainees are relatively recent and so of course you won’t see a high number of English partners in those offices yet (at least those that trained with the firm and aren’t laterals).

To look at partnership prospects you have to also take into account the leverage of a firm. Places like Weil, Cleary, Davis Polk (at least from the data in the US) have around 5 associates for every one partner. Other US firms like Gibson Dunn, Covington, Quinn Emmanuel have far fewer. Those figures are very likely to influence partner prospects also.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

What percentage of each intake stays at their MC firm for 10-20 years?

Not enough to even entertain that discussion.

If you’re good enough to be ‘made up’, being at a US shop won’t stop you.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Partnership is possible at the elite US firms, just very hard to get. If you’re in the right place at the right time and manage to make yourself invaluable (basically hefty client following or be in the middle of a major case and threaten to walk) then it does happen, but realistically your odds are tiny (but the fiscal rewards vast).

MC is not much better. Slaughters offer the best (proper in the sense of being equity) partnership prospects out of the MC/decent US firms I personally think. It is possible to do it in 7 years from qualification if you’re exceptional and they historically do not make many lateral hires. Worth a long look if your real ambition is partnership.

Also worth keeping in mind that from a financial perspective it is very often better to be a senior associate at an elite US firm than a partner of a mid market UK firm. Said associate can earn (including bonus) substantially more than what said partner can, and unless the partner becomes equity and a pretty high level one they will often struggle to match the associates’ salary. For many money > rank.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

This post couldn’t be more wrong.. I don’t know which US firm structures you’re looking at, but the two I’ve worked at had almost entirely UK born partners in their London office.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Agree – post is a load of rubbish. Looking at K&E in London – they have made up a load of UK equity partners in the last 5 years or so. The first trainee intake there hasn’t got senior enough for even the non-share partner level, but there are a lot of guys there who have been there since 2-3 years qualified and are now equity. Capital Markets aside, there are actually only very few US share partners at Kirkland. Similar stories at Weil and Latham.

As for the question about sustainability – there is one huge key difference people forget. MC firms (and other lesser UK firms) have to support all those fat aging partners who do very little and bring in very little. US firms have a working partnership – you don’t bring in a huge amount of work, and lead the deals, you are going to have equity taken away. The result is huge PEP at US firms and most cash for associates. Its a leaner model, people take on more responsibility from the bottom up and its an up or out culture.

Personally, doing 1800 hours a year as a junior associate doing good work on great money is significantly better than doing the same hours at a MC firm, doing less good work for far less pay (my friend at Ashurst gets absolutely killed on hours compared to me – go figure).

Anyone who thinks doing corporate at a top UK firm vs corporate at a US firm is any different in hours is a moron – US and UK firms face off on deals all the time, do you think the MC associate gets to go home and ignore the deal whilst the US associate sits in the office – quite the opposite, the MC associate puts in facetime watching his/her more senior colleague do the good work whilst the US associate manages the work on his/her from the office or remotely.

The only time there is a difference in hours is if you compare a MC employment team’s hours to a US firm’s corporate team hours – there are also some smaller US firms in the city which are satellite offices just doing US work and the time difference is a killer – but not applicable to Kirkland, Latham, Weil etc.

(6)(0)

Curious George

Which are those satellite offices doing just US work?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Cravath for one…

Anonymous

^funny that; prospects of becoming partner at Sidley Austin are notoriously bad. Can’t speak for other US firms though.

(2)(0)

Elite US mid level

Elite US firm mid level here. £145,000 pa with £60,000 bonus at 2400 billables for the year. Up to you to figure out whether that is worth it. But there are plenty at my shop who do 2100 billables a year, pocket £120,000+ with £30,000+ bonus.

MC money only makes sense if you are only working 1800 or less than per year. Your life will be infinitely better. But I shudder at the thought of that pay cut.

(4)(0)

Concerned mate

2400 billable hours a year is brutal. I know the work is always there and that you don’t faff around with non-chargeable work in those shops, but still 2400 billable hours is a lot. That’s like 8 billable hours a day no assuming you don’t work at weekends?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Yep 2400 isn’t a walk in the park. But it is not as bad as one imagines.

(0)(0)

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