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Quinn Emanuel ups London junior solicitor pay to £125,000 as US summer salary war rocks the City

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Will others follow?

US litigation boutique Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan has upped the salaries of its London-based newly qualified (NQ) lawyers to £125,000. The move, which equates to a rise of £10,000 or 9%, follows a series of monster pay hikes across the pond over the past fortnight.

Last week, Quinn matched fellow US stalwart Milbank and upped the salaries of its American newbie associates to $190,000 (£143,000). A host of firms have gone on to do the same in their US offices, including Freshfields and Clifford Chance.

This magic circle duo have not, however, extended these pay hikes to lawyers at their London offices. As things stand only Milbank and Simpson Thacher have matched these increases globally, including in London.

As Quinn’s rises hit press, Legal Cheek reached out to the firm to find out whether it was upping London pay too. Keeping its cards close to its chest, Quinn would only confirm it paid its London solicitors in sterling and that its salaries remain very competitive.

The 2018 Firms Most List

Several days on, Quinn has now said it’s bumped London NQ salaries to £125,000.

Legal Cheek’s Firms Most List shows Quinn’s NQs are now £1,000 better off than their counterparts at Latham & Watkins, and a full £5,000 above those plying their trade at Cleary Gottlieb or Sidley Austin. However, aspiring lawyers take note: Quinn doesn’t currently offer training contacts in its London office. So if you’re looking to land a six-figure role at the firm, you’re going to have qualify elsewhere first.

Other firms to bump US associate pay to the new £143,000-equivalent include Cravath, Sullivan & Cromwell, Skadden, Davis Polk, Weil Gotshal, Jones Day Ropes & Gray and Sidley Austin.

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77 Comments

Anonymous

Uncle Sam wants YOU to sell your mind, body and soul to a US firm for a measly £125K.

When you’re working twice the hours of someone else, and are paying 40% tax on that second dollop, suddenly £125K doesn’t feel like a lot.

A&O 1PQE

Ah, the classic argument.

Get a grip.

I work like an absolute dog so would happily do it for an extra £50k if it meant the odd extra weekend.

Contractor

Go contracting, more money less tax. less stress.

Anonymous

Jealousy is not an attractive trait.

A&O 1PQE

It’s not, but I would like to be able to own a home at some point – can you blame me?!

Anonymous

LLL

Anonymous

When will Dechert raise salaries? 95k is NOT ACCEPTABLE.

Anonymous

White & Case needs to increase our compensation. I have been absolutely enslaved in banking working the same hours and weekends my peers at Kirkland do, but for almost 40k less. Outrageous.

W&C HR

We will be in touch tomorrow to discuss your concerns in further detail.

Anonymous

All I see and hear from everyone in the comment is : greed, greed, greed, greed.

I want more because they pay billy in that firmmore. Seriously stfu and stop mosning . Greedy b*stard

Lod Denning

You must work for a personal injury firm in Manchester.

CMS

To Dechert – I agree

Anonymous

Dechert is a lower tier US firm – it won’t match

Anonymous

No one at QE is being worked to the ground – seriously.

Anonymous

Any news on what firms like King & Spalding or Steptoe & Johnson pay in London?

Anonymous

Steptoe pay mid-city rates. It’s essential a UK firm that was acquired by a D.C firm.

Anonymous

What’s that? £80k-ish?

Anonymous

If you’re lucky…

Anonymous

You’re talking utter smack. A mate of mine just moved there from Covington & Burling (£100k NQ) and he’s on hefty six figures, around £120k as a 1PQE. Hardly mid-city pay rates.

Anonymous

Covington is at 95 on their website…

Anonymous

I know a couple of people there and that just isn’t true. It’s probably not as bad as the corporate/banking firms though.

Anonymous

DONT CALL ME MANU!!!!!!

Uncle Sam

Pull my finger… see what happens!

Anonymous

Now that CC and Freshfields have raised US associate salaries, hope they’ll also raise their English associates’ salaries too

Anonymous

For 75-100 NQs and at all other levels? Will surely cost a fortune.

Anonymous

They have to balance that against the lost sunk training costs when associates leave for US firms and also the recruitment costs of replacing these associates and training them up again.. surely these costs aren’t cheap?

Anonymous

200-250k per trainee.

s&msenior

The problem is that the best US firms are much more successful/profitable than the Magic Circle.

Take Kirkland. It can afford to pay its associates roughly double Magic Circle rates. In spite of that, it still has the second or third highest partner profits in the world – the average K&E partner makes more than a Linklaters and Freshfields partner combined.

The Magic Circle are losing this race and many of my best colleagues have moved to top US firms. The rest of us are left looking on enviously.

Anonymous

The US firms only a recruit a small number of trainees and associates in their London offices relative to magic circle. So with only limited spaces available, the magic circle firms can take the risk of paying below US firm rates knowing only a few will be able to trade up successfully relative to the masses who will still be stuck at magic circle or may want a less intensive work-life balance.

freshiesnq

Haha that’s not likely. My basic is 75-80k. A trainee from my intake turned down Freshfields and went to Kirkland. She gets £140k.

Anonymous

My intake at FBD is coming up to qualification and quite a few are seriously thinking about moving. Well over £50k difference for what is basically the same hours

Anonymous

How easy is it to do that if you’re an MC trainee?

Anonymous

Depends if you have the training experience to qualify into one of the needed US firm practice areas for the individual firms. Only a few generally will make it straight out of NQ to a US firm, probably the exceptional ones. But it becomes easier to make the jump at more years PQE albeit still no easy feat overall since the US firm spaces are far more limited than magic circle and silver circle opportunities at associate level.

usnq

I was an FBD trainee. I qualified in March. I was lucky, I had two NQ offers from US firms. It’s not an easy as you might think as there are a lot of MC trainees and US firms are very picky at NQ level. The salary difference is vast though for very similar hours – I’m on £141k (varies depending upon exchange rate) and my FBD friends are on £80k.

Anonymous

Out of interest did you line it up before or after you were thinking about FBD qual? Obviously the latter get things sorted very quickly so just intrigued how you could keep all options open and still get a US position

usnq

Yes, the FBD NQ process is pretty quick. I didn’t say that I kept all options open – I declined my FBD offer after I got my first NQ offer from a US firm and I ended up accepting the second US firm. Quite a few trainees in my intake didn’t actually apply to stay at FBD. There are a lot of internal issues at FBD right now – unhappy associates, general feeling that the firm is stagnating etc.

Anonymous

Is trainee development still managed by the same person or have they fixed that problem?

Anonymous

I don’t see that – it’s more that they’re paying associates in the US literally double what we get, which is completely unsustainable

Anonymous

“US litigation boutique”

Quinn Emanuel firm is NOT a litigation boutique – it’s a BigLaw firm pulling in almost a US$1bn that does litigation only, that’s it. A litigation boutique is a small law firm like Enyo Law, Stewarts Law, or in the US, firms like Kobre & Kim or Dovel & Luner.

Get it straight Tommy goddammitttt!!!

Anonymous

At what rate are you considered well-off? 60k +?

Anonymous

I’d say a combined income of around £120-130k is comfortable for a DINK household.

That way you’ll be able to life in a pleasant area of London, enjoy flash holidays, and still save a decent amount per year.

However, put kids into that equation and you’re sh*t out of luck. To think of putting your son/daughter into some suburban gladiator academy that they have the cheek to call a ‘state school’…

Anonymous

60k’s a reasonable watch budget, get you a mid range Patek.

Obviously it’s a 0 short of being decent net income.

Anonymous

Depends on what well-off means to you. For me well-off starts at 90k gross salary in London. Take home is about 60K a year. For that I can be independent and quite comfortable.

A nice one bed flat in a lovely part of London that’s at max a 20 minute commute door-to-office costs 1500 a month in rent. You can get a west end club membership from 1500-3000 a year these days. An incredible Michelin star dinner, maybe a brunch, and several cocktails once every weekend with friends will set you back about a grand month (assuming you’re consistently paying for yourself). Still with enough left over for 1 or 2 ski trips a year plus a week-long getaway to visit the family who live abroad. Interests rates are stupidly low so there’s little point of saving a lot these days… just enough put aside a month for a rainy day pot. The residual is for standard bills and paying off any long term loans more quickly (car, private student loan, that sort of thing). Once any debts are cleared then you can start a fancy suit/watch fund.

Remember that any firm that pays that kind of money will also likely increase your salary every year or even 6 months if you’re lucky. These “MoneyLaw” American firms are also known for decent bonus structures if you reach their insane billable targets to qualify. If you’re at 90K+ as a NQ-3PQE you’re going to do just fine in life. If you’re into the whole live with a partner and start a family BS then the 120-130 combined income (if take home) listed above is accurate.

Anonymous

Finally a sensible comment, completely agree.

However, if one factors kids in, I don’t think £120k will quite cut it if one wants to get them set up in private schools, go on nice family holidays, have a family home etc.

£200k+ and you’ll probably be ok.

Anonymous

Tax this greed +50%

Jeremy Corbyn will ensure this greed is diverted to legal aid

Redistribute it to those who need it most

Anonymous

What utter rubbish.

Corbyn. Sympathiser

Bugger off fascist oppressor, we socialists have the right to free speech. Face the truth and stop trying to spread your fake news propaganda. JC will make the world a better place and force the rich to give to the poor.

Anonymous

*Shrugs shoulders as earning under £50k at DWF in regions at 6pqe*

Anonymous

No way, really?!

Anonymous

Sadly yes.

Anonymous

In the regions that buys huge horse though, right?

Anonymous

*house

Anonymous

Lol no it doesnt, unless its in Birmingham.

Anonymous

In a big city it doesn’t get you beyond a small flat if you are self funded without help from family or friends on the deposit.

Equestrian Northerner

It might buy you a horse, though…

Anonymous

Any half-decent commercial lawyer (read: non-negligent) making less than six figures after 5 pqe is being taken advantage of. London, Manchester, Bristol, Leeds, doesn’t matter; the quality of work is expected to be the same, so the wages need to reflect this. Look at the wage difference between Gowling WLG Birmingham and London despite the legacy Wragge office in Birmingham being the firm that saved the useless London LG partners from tanking it. DLA Piper in Manchester and London is a similar story: the quality of work is still high in the Manchester office and I assume they have some quality clients, yet the associates accept such a massive pay difference. I wonder how the equity partners differ…

Anonymous

To whom it may concern,

JDP4rtner/other aliases is presently on summer vacation (hiking in the Appalachians) and will be unable to add caustic wit to the comments section for the next two weeks. In the event you need to contact him or his secretary, both are available at frontdesk[@]couplesretreats.com

Anonymous

At these firms you’re basically paid to be able to deal with high pressure high stakes and to be responsive 24/7. The lawyers at US firms are no better technically than their peers at the MC or other city law firms but to survive as a mid level or junior associate at a US firm you have to be able to operate at 100mph with lilttle supervision at all hours of the day and not be afraid to put your neck on the line to get a deal on. That’s the difference and that’s why you’re paid so much more

Anonymous

Surely not at a nice cosy West Coast firm – the Orricks, Lathams of this world.

Anonymous

Lathams is more Wall St than most of the traditional “white shoe” firms. After all, them and Kirkland, those plucky Chicago kids, broke the mold for being the first firms to break the 3 Billion usd mark. You don’t do that being an easy going employer. Many of the law firms with offices on the American West Coast still have a billable hours target of 1900+ per year.

I have a few lawyer friends in LA and San Fran, as well as Seattle and even Vancouver Canada. They all get maybe 2 weeks off a year outside of Christmas and they still have to work every third or fourth weekend. I was tempted by the pacific coast life but the UK holiday entitlement is hard to give up.

Anonymous

The fact that you’re moving at 100mph, with little supervision and leading on deals at a much earlier stage relative to your peers at non-US firms is what makes you a technically more capable lawyer, able to do more at an earlier stage and thus US partners can keep teams lean and get more value from you – that is why you’re paid more.

Anonymous

THIS IS disgusting

I’m voting Labour so Jeremy Corbyn can put a stop to this

Tax these salaries, give it to the residents of Grenfell

Anonymous

Fried Frank now paying £143,000 in London.

Anonymous

Incorrect

A&O NQ

Can anyone confirm this?

Anonymous

Is that a US fast food joint?

Anonymous

Very good.

Anonymous

I’m a high street trainee, I want to swim with the big sharks 🙁

MCNQ

MC need to do something. The 80-90K (in total) should be around 100-105 and I think people would feel that’s more reasonable. The gap is opening up further and further and the MC just respond by giving 2-3K pay rises. I think this is starting to catch up with them though (with lots of people leaving etc).

Anonymous

Perhaps the associates should just start walking out the door at 6-7PM consistently. If they’re only going to pay their UK associates 60% of what these American firms are paying out, then it’s only fair the MC associates work 60% of the time the American ones do. Bonuses start at 1400 hours, 1600 hour annual targets, etc. They’ll still be working on big fancy deals but I think the additional quality of life would justify the difference in pay.

links

Yes, I agree but the MC just can’t afford it. They’ve fallen significantly behind the best US firms on profitability and that has made many of the best MC partners vulnerable to being poached. The MC firms know that there are far fewer US associate roles than MC associates.

Anonymous

Yet they match their us associates to Cravath scale and bonus – it’s an issue of allocation of resources. Not all US firms matched the new Cravath scale and bonus. If the MC can’t afford it, it seems only fair that they admit it rather than match it for their us associates and thereafter tell their English associates that MC firm can not afford to them more

Anonymous

“rocks the City” is a bit much.

Craig Ross

Here’s the thing! Don’t the cases – pretty much – decide themselves? How much can a firm bring to a) the facts, and b) the law? Surely there’s a threshold: competence is competence. To pay serious money you have to be charging more than rivals. If I’ve got an issue there’s the facts, and there’s the law. I’m either in the right, or I’m not. How much extra can a high-charging firm bring? Is it just that the sums involved are so great that a 1% increase in the probability of winning is worth paying (say) £500,000 in additional fees?

Anonymous

I take it you don’t practice law

Anonymous

I take it you don’t practise law

Anonymous

I don’t, which is perhaps why I expect answers to questions that make some kind of sense! From what I can see the law is an absolute mess. I remember the complete dismay of trying to find a definition of “plant and machinery” which was reasonably coherent and applicable. It can’t be done. The cases are contradictory.

We had a Court of Session case in Scotland two days ago. Scottish ministers had indicated in repeated public statements that any and all applications to frack for gas and oil would be rejected. On that they were categorical. The judge ruled – seemingly as a matter of public law – that only legislation could constitute a ban, and the fact that ministers had said they’d reject any and all applications didn’t mean that they wouldn’t treat each application fairly and on its merits. Jesus. So if “ban” means “prohibition by statute”, and can’t mean anything else, what the **** were the expensive lawyers for Ineos doing in proceeding with the case?

We had five weeks of debate recently – the Berlinah Wallace case – on the subject of what constitutes murder. I mean, FFS, with the Norman Conquest in 1066 you’d think we’d be clear about what murder is.

So – to answer my own teaser of a question – you employ expensive lawyers because i) the knitted fog they produce, and ii) the kudos of the firm’s name, means that you’re more likely to get a judgment that favours you, albeit at the price of making the case law yet more contradictory, confused and un-usable.

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