Kirkland & Ellis ups trainee pay to £50-55k as Macfarlanes boosts to £44-49k

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By Thomas Connelly on

A lot of money for 22 and 23-year-olds

The London office of US titan Kirkland & Ellis and high-end M&A specialists Macfarlanes have upped trainee pay packets in simultaneous moves that will see their rookies’ earnings increase substantially.

We can reveal that Kirkland’s year one trainees will now earn £50,000, up from £46,000 (a 9% bump), while those a year ahead will pocket before tax £55,000, up from £50,000 (a 10% rise). The pay boosts — which come into effect next month — put the firm’s young lawyer hopefuls at the top of Legal Cheek’s trainee pay table, and on the same levels of cash as their peers at fellow US firms Davis Polk and Sullivan & Cromwell.

Elite corporate outfit Macfarlanes has made a similar move. First year trainees at the firm will now earn £44,000, rising to £49,000 in year two. Prior to the boosts trainees received £42,000 and £46,000 respectively. The move comes just a month after Macfarlanes raised its NQ pay by a whopping 17%, with new associates now earning a very respectable £81,300.

Although unchanged, Gherkin-based Kirkland’s newly-qualified (NQ) pay is monstrous. Off the back of last year’s MoneyLaw mania across the pond, a host of elite firms, including Kirkland, bumped US year one associate pay to $180,000. Incredibly, some opted to chuck the same rises at their London lot, resulting in dollar-tied NQ salaries hitting a high of £147,000. Kirkland’s newly qualified UK solicitors currently earn just over £140,000 based on current exchange rates.

Kirkland and Macfarlanes have had mixed autumn trainee retention rate fortunes this year. The former recently announced a disappointing 56% score (5 out of 9). Legal Cheek understands that the low figure is a result of NQs being unable to qualify into their department of choice. Macfarlanes, however, managed a very respectable 92%, with 23 of its 25 trainees being taken on permanently as full-fledged solicitors, and the other two getting fixed term contracts.

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