Trainee pay at Sidley Austin hits £55,000

By on

Rises of up to 7% for US outfit’s London rookies

The London office of US law firm Sidley Austin has upped trainee pay by as much as 7%, Legal Cheek can reveal.

The Chicago headquartered outfit confirmed first year trainees will now receive a salary of £50,000, up 6% from £47,000, while those in year two will earn £55,000, up 7% from £51,500. The rises are effective from 1 June.

Legal Cheek’s Firms’ Most List shows that today’s money move puts the firm’s year two trainees on an earning par with their peers over at fellows US players Debevoise & Plimpton, Kirkland & Ellis, Milbank and Sullivan & Cromwell. Sidley’s newly-qualified (NQ) lawyers earn a recently improved salary of £130,000.

The 2019 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

Sidley, which offers around 15 training contracts each year, scored As for quality of work and perks in our latest Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey, and Bs for training, peer support and partner approachability.

Matters of money aside, the 20-office outfit is perhaps best known for bringing Brack and Michelle Obama together; the former US President met his then-future wife at Sidley’s Chicago office where Barack was a vac schemer and Michelle a junior associate and his supervisor.

Confirmation of the rises come just weeks after Freshfields upped NQ salaries to £100,000, a rise of £15,000 or 18%, in what has been described by some as an attempt to bridge the pay gap between the magic circle and top paying US outfit’s in the City. Announcing its own pay boost last week, US law firm Shearman & Sterling confirmed it had upped junior lawyer pay by 14% to £120,000.

For all the latest commercial awareness info, and advance notification of Legal Cheek's careers events:

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Hub


Irwin Mitchell Indentured Servant

Wow Christ

Sidley Trainee (PoWder KinG)

Phat whackkk




Wow, Latham starting to lag behind.

Brown Circle

Another day and the traps already reek of ass fumes again. Where is the cleaner ffs?!?


Just dropd a gargantuan deuce, literally two lbs lighter


More than regional associates get at some firms


Very few regional NQs on more than 55k.


None are mate.


Trade-off is that regional associates pay less tax and FAR less on housing. Their take home pay is still higher.

You would need around 36,126.76£ in Manchester to maintain the same standard of life that you can have with 55,000.00£ in London


That’s a very useful website, thank you for the link. It helpfully puts into context the differences between London and regional salaries.


Benefit of earning less is paying less tax…. hahahaha mate


But they’ll still be earning more regardless dumbass


I’d say more than associates get at MOST regional firms.


Will this constant (seemingly endless) wage war be sustainable when the next recession inevitably hits?


Yes because these firms focus on hugely profitable, busy areas of law and not high volume, churn and burn work for institutional and/or plc clients.


Thanks for the astute analysis bro


It is. Don’t qualify into pants areas of law at pants firms.


Thanks for the technical terminology bro


Fuck off


u mad?


No. Fuck off. Cunt.




Complex securitisations were profitable work with busy departments before 2008.

If there’s an economic change which makes sponsor backed buyouts less attractive to the banks, these firms will suffer. For now though, they’re onto a good thing, and if there’s a crash they’ll have to cut some people, just like happened in ‘08. That’s just how it goes.


The firms who do the bank-side work on LBOs will suffer you mean. The sponsors have billions of cash they need to do something with, so the firms acting for them should be fine whatever.


Not if investors can’t fund their drawdowns. This happened in the 2008 crash and funds simply did not issue capital calls and spend the cash that they supposedly had.


Will be fine for the moment. Capital raised is down on last year but still high against historic levels.


Dear Alex/Legal Cheek team,

This thread is interesting, and might be suitable for one or more articles, perhaps in conjunction with external law firms seeking to raise their profile (but not at the expense of turning off comments, please: they are often as useful as the articles). Some possible topics:

1. What factors are driving increasing salaries in the London legal market?
2. To what extent do high salaries reflect the reality for most aspiring lawyers? (i.e. perhaps an analysis of those completing LLBs/GDLs, those doing the LPC, and then training contract numbers and retention rates on qualification).
3. What are the different types of firms, and how do they differ: US firms, Magic Circle, Silver Circle, Mid-tier, Boutiques, smaller commercial firms, high street firms, claims farms, etc.
4. Which practice areas are experiencing most growth?
5. Which practice areas are most vulnerable to shrinkage and redundancies, and in what circumstances?

I certainly would have found this useful a few years ago, and much of it I’d still find useful.


My point was that if there is a sudden crash and investors can’t fund drawdowns, then funds will not be able to spend the cash they supposedly have in the form of investor commitments.

That is a different issue to year-on-year trends of capital raised in the market.


True, slightly different, but where institutional investors are piling into alternative assets looking for places to deploy their capital – and pushing for segregated accounts etc., a sudden crash isn’t going to affect these sources of capital so much.


Brothers! Sisters!!

Oh fuck it, I’m voting Lib Dem

Random passer-by

Ha. Very funny and topical. Better than the usual rubbish.


Brack Obama?


Brothers! Sisters!

This greed needs taxing to pay for the common good!

Jeremy Corbyn will tax this greed at 85% to pay for nurses and teachers pensions!!!!!

Solidarity with Palestine!!!!




How is Sidley to work at? Is the money worth it?


Top firm, top dolla, prestigious (more than any MC firm).

Sidley topcock

Sweaty , delicious , hardcore , erect , amazing , deals so many deals , fuck yea , no life , divorced but don’t care

Kirkland NQ

I am all of those things and not divorced. Although I have never been married in the first place and haven’t had sex in months.

Imperator Caesar Birkenheadus Augustus

Fuark ye , MOJs so many MOJs , PICKO mate , list control , sweaty , instastar


Not a bad salary for a 22 year old…Think how bitter regional Associates must feel reading this article.

If you go to a top Russell Group university and apply to a top firm in the regions (DLA Piper, SPB etc.) over an elite US firm in the City you’re bonkers.

White Shoe HR

Top Russell Group University? If by that you mean Oxford or Cambridge, that’s quite a sensible point. Otherwise, we’d recommend applying to a ‘range’ of firms.


^ has never worked in city law. Everyone who has understands why some choose not to


“top firm in the regions”

Wats dat?


What if you don’t want to live in London, with its absurd living costs, high crime, dreadful quality of life and mostly vacuous people?


Very true. But surely it’d make more sense to work in London throughout your 20s on a high salary, and then be able to buy a large house in say a Birmingham or Manchester and work there once you have a family in your 30s?


I’d rather spend the best years of my life somewhere where I can enjoy them, rather than spending most of them in the office and the remaining ones commuting to a miserable one-bedroom flat in Wapping or Bermondsey.


Wapping is pretty nice you turd


Wapping is actually pretty cool these days.

Regional NQ

You’re mad deluded if you think you’ll have a lovely flat and work life balance up north. Decade in London, then bail x


Does working in a US firm even set you up for life? Say you save 30-50k a year depending on seniority. How long do you have to do it for it to ‘set you up’


With compound interest at 5% it takes 15 years to save 1 million quid at 50,000 per year. This will get you 50,000 per year if invested, but you will still get taxed on that. You could leave it in a pension until 55 and buy an annuity protecting 25% from taxation.

Unfortunately none of these massive salaries take into account that you lose almost half in taxation (well over half of the money over 100,000 due to reductions in personal allowance) and random costs like pensions / commuting etc. The average trainee is now late twenties, and you won’t be able to save 50,000 a year even if you earn 150,000 unless you make some drastic lifestyle cuts.

You’ll be so cross at your life you’ll spend a ton making yourself feel better and youl never progress to the 1mil + money which would set you up for life quickly without succumbing to lifestyle inflation as you go out for dinners and drinks climbing the greasy pole.

Whatever law job you do, your going to have to work until 55 if you want the lifestyle you have whilst working.

Latham NQ

Harsh but so true. I mean, all this powder cant pay for itself damn


How are you going to achieve a guaranteed 5% rate of compound interest?


Stocks and shares isa (over time) and peer to peer lending / similar to peer to peer platforms


Lmao good luck with that brooo


>”Unfortunately none of these massive salaries take into account that you lose almost half in taxation (well over half of the money over 100,000 due to reductions in personal allowance)”

Unless, at about 2-3 PQE, you escape the UK and work in BVI, Cayman, Channel Islands, or – frankly – anywhere which doesn’t have such a brutally punitive approach to penalising success by confiscation for redistribution to others. I believe that the UK has the worst tax regime of any common law country. The key to escaping, apparently, is (a) selecting your practice area and firm accordingly; and (b) choosing your partner wisely: there’s no point marrying someone whose career is limited to the UK.

See Robert Walters’ guide to offshore locations here:


It’s supposedly dead easy to make that move…but who wants to. Must be a reason why its easy?

CI Lawyer

I have been working as a corporate associate at a large Channel Islands for just under five years. It is a very doable move to make – I moved immediately upon qualification having completed a training contract at relatively large south eastern firm (for a home counties firm, that is).

I didn’t want to spend 3-4 hours per day commuting to the firm’s London office and work 10-12 hours per day for £45k. The recruitment consultant suggested I look into the Channel Islands and it was the best decision of my life. The low tax rate means that associates of my PQE earn the equilvant of around £130k-150k UK gross (that’s inclusive of bonus which is very achievable – most associates achieve this every year). Working hours are generally 9am-6pm. Things ramp up in the run up to Christmas and Easter but the hours are still not comparable to London firms. It’s a good balance for me and I never would have gotten into a silver circle firm with my CV (nor did I want to).

I think a lot of people are put off by size of ithe slands (the population here in Jersey is about 95k and in Guernsey 60k) and the fact that it’s not the 24/7 lifestyle that London has. We have to buy a lot of stuff off Amazon as there isn’t the same range of shops here (it’s even smaller in Guernsey). Groceries and utilites are more expensive but electricals/luxuries are generally cheaper (5% VAT) and house prices are generally lower than London.

People who come over in their 20s and single quite often struggle as there isn’t the social scene like you would have in London (few pubs/bars, but plenty of pubs and restaurants). Most people who stick it out are couples/families (many people join having worked a number of years in silver/magic circle firms).

I don’t think the press helps. They paint the Channel Islands as being a tax evader’s dream but that’s not the case. It’s just the usual corporate/funds mix you’d get in London (most of our work is assistant UK transactions led by silver/magic circle/US firms in London).

Seeing as there are fewer applicants for the jobs here means that you stand a decent chance of being hired. But that’s not to say that the quality here is poor. Those who are don’t complete their probation and generally end up back in the UK.

True facts

Five years as a mid level associate at one of these firms and you can easily save 300k if not more. Leave London and move to the regions as a junior partner with a 50% mortgage on a 600k house paid off in 10 years you’ll be laughing when you’re early 40s mortgage free coming and going as you wish in your Aston Martin in the regions. Maybe even a small bolt hole in the city to live up the good times now and then.

And yes, if you earn 180-250k as a mid level it’s easy to save 5k per month.

Look at this joker

Thanks for the masturbatory fantasy, I had a great wank. Now back to reality please.


Agreed, I had a luxurious fap as well. Then I woke up and realised I’ve still got my first year LLB exams to do. Fuck

Random passer-by

Why not just focus on becoming very good at your job. Then you can become a partner and earn real money, or become a GC/Legal Director and earn big money, or go into industry and earn real money as an exec. You could also use your experience and go offshore to earn the over-inflated salaries in the Gulf or elsewhere as an expat.


You get paid more as a senior associate in a US firm than a partner in the regions or a GC in house or most senior execs in business relative to age. We’re talking 300k + inclusive of bonus. You don’t have to be amazing at law to get this salary you just have to know how to play along , know what’s important and what isn’t and be super reactive. I don’t really care about being the best lawyer or having a mention in chambers. 300k for a few years before I can go climb Everest sounds great!

Real adult

How many firms pay senior associates £300k? Not many at all. Even at Kirkland and Ellis, if you are not partner by 8-9 years pqe, they kick you out. So why focus on earning a high salary for a few years when as Legal Director you can earn £200k for 10 years and then move to a higher paying job for 10 years before getting exec positions in your 50/60s that pay even more. Longer term you earn a lot more. Also, there is something many of you kids don’t realise when you’re coming up with these pipe dreams. Say someone works as a senior associate at a top US firm in private equity or funds, do you really believe that Addleshaw’s Leeds or Eversheds Manchester will be dying to take you on as a senior associate? What could you possibly offer them in terms of skills set that their own internal associates who have been through their process, know their local clients and who they like couldn’t? Uni students overestimate how easy it is to move around as a senior associate from one practice area to the next. When you get senior and want to move around in private practice, you need a following. Firms don’t care how many shiny deals you worked on at Lathams, they want to know how you will help their practice grow and how much you can bring in.

Banker Wanker

Obviously can’t do math / finance which explains why he / she wants to be a lawyer.

Let me tell you simply: PRESENT CASH > FUTURE CASH


Yeah, because that’s how finance works. Fuck future returns. Moron


This is not an unreasonable comment. I’m 6 PQE now. Managed to save up GBP350k all in – all exclusively through MC/US firms in London, with a tiny bit of prudent investment. The real problem is not that – it’s that when you get to GBP350k, you can settle for nothing less than GBP1m within another few years, and so on and so forth.

True facts

Please tell me how this is not true??? If you earn 200k per year that is 9k net per month. Take away 4k for living and you have 5k per month left over to save. After 5 years see how much you have saved.

Perfectly realistic and perfectly do-able.

You must just be jealous cucks. Good luck to you.

Join the conversation

Related Stories