London NQ pay at Skadden hits £133,000

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Rises for rookies too

The London office of US law firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom has boosted newly qualified (NQ) solicitor pay by a healthy 13%.

The uplift means Skadden’s junior lawyers now earn £133,000 a year, up from a previous rate of £118,000 — an extra £15,000.

The additional cash sees the firm’s London lot leapfrog their peers at a host of top US outfits including Milbank (£132,000), Sidley Austin (£130,000), Weil Gotshal (£130,000), Cleary Gottlieb (£120,000), Davis Polk (£120,000), Ropes & Gray (£120,000) and Shearman & Sterling (£120,000).

However, the London offices of US firms including Akin Gump, Debevoise & Plimpton , Kirkland & Ellis and Latham & Watkins continue to top the NQ pay league. English-qualified rookies at these firms earn a salary of £143,000 straight out of their training contracts.

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Trainee salaries have also increased. Those in the first year of their training contract now earn £50,000, up from £45,000, while those a year ahead now receive £55,000, up from £50,000 — rises of 11% and 10% respectively. The 22-office-outfit takes on around ten trainees in London each year.

News of the pay boosts come just 24 hours after Clifford Chance raised its NQ salary to £100,000 (including discretionary bonus). This follows a similar move back in May by fellow magic circle player Freshfields.

Matters of cold hard cash aside, Skadden scored well in our Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey, notching up an A* for perks, as well as As for quality of work, peer support, office, canteen and social life.

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Wanna be US trainee

Ladies and Gents,

It is happening, But seriously how many of you think this is going to last/ Hoping that Brexit does not happen, i can see this remaining (haha) and other firms following suit.

Now a question for anyone to answer: How does one get into Skadden, cause I know they dont look at trainee contract application at all (word of the recruiter). What does firms like Skadden, Kirkland, Sidley and Weil look for ?

Please help

US Firm NQ

Do a vacation scheme. Skadden, W&C, many other US firms hire almost exclusively from vacation schemes. Otherwise they look standard lawyer/banker pack – international outlook and interests, interesting work / volunteering experience, languages, being in / managing societies in the Uni etc.


Is that true? Which US firms dont even look at TC applications and hire only from VS?


Most of the US firms hire trainees predominantly from Vacation Schemes (definitely W&C and Skadden). This does not mean they do not look at applications though, just that doing a vacation scheme is the best way to apply.


W&C hires from TC applications


So youre saying English firms are more likely to take on a candidate applying directly for a TC than a US firm would be, provided the candidate didnt do a VS with them, all else being equal?

Thats kind of disheartening, I really had high hopes of applying directly for a TC with US firms. Would you say they require something “extra” to take you without a VS? What would that be? A first? lots of work experience?


A satin, tight asshole and a keen interest to give it away at all times of the day.

Do that and you’re hired my dear.


Regardless of Brexit, it is sustainable for all of the firms you have mention with the possible exception of Weil (for being a thoroughly unhappy shop – nothing to do with Brexit).


You don’t want to work at Skadden. Sweat shop of the highest order.


They say this about every firm that pays NQs more than 80k 🙄😂


You’ve got no idea what you’re talking about mate. Skadden is next level


Their workload, at least for trainees, seems to be a lot less intense than equivalent firms like Kirkland, Latham, Weil etc though.


Complete and utter nonsense


Kennedys is a nice firm. They don’t pay much, but it is nice work and nice hours. Some nice crumpet too.


How are the scones?


Skadden makes the MC look like a high street firm when it comes to beasting.


Oh how about I just Brexit all over your face and you can lick it up? Dog.


Did a) Skadden agree to throw some pennies at your special brew fund; or b) you give up waiting for Skadden to give in to your titanic bargaining position because we were laughing at your for not publishing this story yesterday?


And it begins.

Anyone know the nq rates of lesser known US firms such as Faegre Baker Daniels, Holland & Knight and Lord Locke?


Two Vietnamese dong per quarter.


Locke Lord ROFL


Holland & Knight hire trainees?


If I was earning that amount I would definitely spend the majority in drink and women.

The rest I would squander.


I would save.


I would invest


Someone showed me their payscale 6 months ago and that was their NQ rate then. This is very very old news.

Kirkland NQ

Aw, I remember earning that little. Keep going guys, one day you may be on the partnership big balls fast track driving a Lambo and spending the weekends in St Troopez.


“the weekends in St Troopez”, eh?

Why, you must be a very clever individual indeed.

Kirkland NQ

That’s what the partners at the ‘land seem to think, that’s why I’ll be head of PE by 28 and managing partner by 30.

Neel S

You and your cega mock will go far.


No, you’ll be a Wilkie Farr associate with no prospects


?? Just hired two huge partners from Kirkland


Lmao yea ofc

Rich dad

It’s not about salary, but the cashflow generated by the assets on your balance sheet. NQs need a financial education, otherwise you’re merely serfs for the overlord partners.


“…you may be on the partnership big balls fast track driving a Lambo and spending the weekends in St Troopez.”


“You too could be like ‘Kirkland NQ’: second year at a third-rate uni who borrows his mum’s Micra to take a bored girl out to Leigh-on-Sea for the day and has to beg her for petrol money to get home. On the way back she says she’s not interested and is thinking of going out with her ex again because he’s a laugh and has some money.”

Kirkland NQ

Haha great story man. I know you’re jealous, just like everyone else on here. I’ll cry about what you think while I’m relaxing on my yacht this weekend with my model girlfriend.




You’re such a fucking loser holy shit you’re gay


It’s a wonderful salary (and indeed they have always paid wonderful salaries), but it comes at a cost.

It’s a person by person choice on whether it’s worth it, but if anyone signs up thinking they won’t have to make terrible sacrifices then they are sadly deluded. The requirement for constant availability, the extremely late nights and absence of any respect for weekends takes its toll, and that’s before you take into account the culture etc.

It wasn’t healthy for me personally and I was deeply unhappy, which is why I left. That isn’t to say it doesn’t work out better for others or that it isn’t an excellent firm, but basing the decision of where to apply solely on salary is incredibly foolish and something many go on to regret.


Can you please estimate the hourly wage?


3.42 Greek drachma, the exchange rate being as at 12:14pm on 3 April 1978


There’s a fair case that most mid-to-top law firms pay roughly £40 an hour at NQ level. Assume 45 working weeks after public holidays and leave.

Say you’re a mid-tier firm averaging 9-7, an hour for lunch, with minimal weekend work. Working week of roughly 45 hours (you’re probably billing 33-35 of those, but that’s a different point). At £40 an hour that puts you on £81k – about right for a mid-tier NQ package.

Take a US firm where hours are more like 9-10, with half an hour or so for lunch and about 7 hours of work on an average weekend. Working week of roughly 70 hours (you’re probably billing about 50 of those). At £40 an hour that puts you on £126k – again, right on point for a top-tier (not quite Cravath scale) US firm.

The MC is an odd beast – in the right support group you can do a bit better than £40/hour, but if you’re somewhere like SandM Finance you may well be doing the US hours and getting the UK package. Which leaves you more like £30-£35 hour.

But this is an important question. Once you’re earning decent money hourly salary is IMO more important than headline annual figure as it starts to reflect how much of your time is your own.


Also – tax is the huge elephant in the room, almost always ignored. If you’re on £100k and you get a pay rise to £125k, after 40% tax, 2% NI and the removal of the personal allowance (effectively another 20% tax), you only see an extra £9.5k. You can obviously fling the extra in a pension and improve your marginal rate but plenty people don’t want to put too much money in what’s ultimately a tax-efficient savings vehicle that governments of both parties have fiddled with over the years…


I know where you are coming from; really, I do. BUT thats not how you work out what you are paid per hour.

I’ve not seen the contracts, but it probably says: ‘you work this time till that time… you may be required to work outside of those hours to meet the needs of the firm’s clients’.

The pay is apportioned to the standard contract hours. The level of pay given is dictated by the market, and is given really as upfront overtime.

what you are saying is how much your pay is “worth” relative to the time you spent earning it.


Completely take your point, but I have tried to reflect that in my numbers. I’m not suggesting that either of my examples works the same hours every day – just tried to draw out what I think, from personal experience and that of friends at all sorts of firms, is a pretty fair landing.

You could do the maths your way (i.e. you get a basic salary for 9-5, and anything beyond that is overtime) – but I’ve a feeling that the amount of overtime you’d reach would leave you in a similar place to my numbers.

We should also take into account the fact that the intensity of the on-call lifestyle you (rightly) point to itself varies a lot as you go up the salary scale. There are exceptions to every rule – but I think a Skadden NQ has more cancelled dinners and more holidays messed up than, say, someone at Simmons. Completely personal choice as to what suits you. But I do think that headline rates are generally a pretty bad way of working out where you should work.


Anyone here know what Greenberg Traurig pay their NQs? They always seem to have decent trainee associates.


They have a black box system and no set NQ rate or banding for subsequent PQE levels. But it’s below market (in the US and among US firms here).

Corvus frugilegus

The sub-heading of this article states that, in addition to a pay rise for NQs, there are ‘rises for rookies too’; given that the article also deals with a pay rise for the firm’s trainees, it’s understood that this is what is meant by ‘rookies’, i.e. NQs are not rookies.

How, then, do we square this with the following sentence from the article, which refers to pay rises for NQs at other firms:

“English-qualified rookies at these firms earn a salary of £143,000 straight out of their training contracts.”

If you’re going to repeatedly deploy these irritating (top, top) buzzwords, at least use them consistently!


Hear here.


Hear hear, moron.

Jeremy Corvid

We need a kinder, gentler comments section.


Slightly baffling that the original irony was completely missed by Anon @ Jun 11 2019 3:56pm


Not baffling at all with the quality of the chat on here


What irony?


My next firm. Just wait and see you haters.


Linda Lu, is that you?


Yep it was, until Legal Cheek decided to remove my username. Idiots.


There have been comments going around that that we had been propositioned by the Legal Cheek team to run a story on our going rates for our New Qualified cohort.

Some of you have said that this proposition asked for consideration to be given in exchange for the spread.

We note that the Firm’s spam filter is currently set to “threat-level: Midnight”. We note that such emails received take approximately 2 weeks to pass multiple layers of the inner circle before being viewed.

We can confirm that the proposition was finally released late last night. Upon receipt, we promptly sent one of our esteemed service staff to present the half-eaten biscuit that Alex had requested.

The rest of the events as they took place are already in the public domain. We will not be available for further comment, and reserve our position on the matter.


Us firms do not pay 143,000. Thats a third year salary. US firms do not convert at market rate but at a much lower rate from the dollar equivalent.


Anyone know if higher PQEs at FBD and CC are getting pay rises too? Surely it’s not just the NQs.


Well duh


Yes its happened

Lulu the Photoshop Extradonaire

Pocket change. I am sailing through proper US firms.

Top boi

Would you grease my cannon? It’s ready to go?


Could anyone who has worked at firms like Skadden/other top US firms in London explain whether the hours are more than the magic circle and whether working at somewhere like Skadden is sustainable? How many weekends would one have to work in a month?


If you are hoping someone is going to come and tell you it’s not that bad, then you may be waiting a long time. Skadden is without a doubt one of the biggest sweatshops going – this is a well-known fact in the City (and internationally). It is also well-known to be aggressive and cutthroat, even amongst corporate law firms. So, if you’re worried enough to be asking this question, it’s probably not for you. Why not just apply to places you actually think you might want to work?


How can a London outpost office be cut throat


I don’t think some of you kids realise how stupid you sound.

You’re right, Skadden in London is nothing but an “outpost”, therefore working there is actually like Disneyland.


30 weekends a month fam.

American Amy

The point is not really how many weekends you’ll “have to work” (not in the way I think you are asking the question anyway). The sacrifice you make with these firms is that you’ll: (1) be working on a weekend to make up for time lost going down the pub on a Friday evening or to make the forthcoming week ever so slightly more bearable; or (2) be on call 24/7 over the weekend which, even if no work comes in, can be quite stressful (as the partners won’t hesitate to give up your Sunday to work). Even when you’re working on transactions, it’s *rare(ish)* to be summoned to the office with the whole team (at most firms).

There isn’t much difference between a mega sweatshop and your usual US firm in this regard, as the partners will still feel like they’re paying you lots of $$$ in order to make that sacrifice.

Also, this type of working (see (1) above) become a habit where it just becomes normal to do 3-4 hours every Sunday.


Right okay- so the hours are similar to the magic circle?

Would it be realistic to assume an average of 60 hours a week at a US firm/magic circle firm? 9am-9/10pm Monday-Friday?


On the hours, it depends on the firm and dept, but broadly yes.

The average is probably right as a mean number, but there will probably be lots of variation – i.e. 10-7 during quieter periods and starting at 7/8 and going past midnight during busy periods.

American Amy

Not from my experience (not that yours is wrong, just different firms). Where I am, it will generally be 9.30am to 8.30pm but with the ability to work until midnight (and people will continue to be responsive on emails until 1am). The fact that there is no “end” when you get home is the killer, the work is just constant and there is always a high chance that a client will ask for a document/call etc “over the weekend” (generally unnecessarily).

Kirkland NQ

To answer your question, no it’s not that nar. My hours are actually amazing – I regularly record over 400 billable hours a month. Unfortunately there isn’t a time code for entertaining my model girlfriends at the Chelsea townhouse, which is why my hours aren’t even better.

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