Cleary Gottlieb ups London junior lawyer pay by 11% to £133,000

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US outfit’s rookies handed extra cash too

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton has upped the salaries of its London-based newly qualified (NQ) lawyers and trainees.

The ‘white shoe’ US firm, a grouping that is broadly analogous to the UK’s magic circle, confirmed salaries for its NQs have risen 11% from £120,000 to £133,000. Rookie pay is also up: first years earning £50,000, a bump of 4% from £48,000, and second years receiving £55,000, a rise of 6% from £52,000.

The 2020 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

Legal Cheek’s Firms Most List 2020 shows Cleary’s NQs are among some of the most well-remunerated in the City, pulling in the same levels of cash as their counterparts at fellow US player Skadden (£133,000) and £1,000 ahead of those plying their trade at Milbank (£132,000).

Money aside, the 16-office-outfit secured A ratings for quality of work, peer support and office in this year’s Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey. Cleary, which dishes out around 20 training contracts annually, posted Bs for training, perks, canteen and social life.

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Kirkland NQ

Lol, nice try, come back when you can get a Lambo as an NQ.



Lol I can get a lambo on my trainee salary, peasant


Trainee from Cambridge

Lol, I can get a Lambo on my trainee salary, peasant


Jeremy Corbyn

Brothers! Sisters!


We need eco socialism now!!! The climate emergency won’t wait!!!

Global heating needs redistributive socialism !!!!

These greedy wages will pay for nurses?!



Laughing Arab Sheikh Dude

Lol, nice try. Come back to me when you own a 50m motoryacht and enjoy relaxing on it for summers in St Tropez.

I can piss on your Lambo from the sun deck.



LC you guys are behind – this has been out for over a month now.

I wrote about this on the Covington salary update in the comments and the following day you changed it , but it took you 4 days to write an article about it.

You can do better. Bring the news to us , not us bringing it to you.



Anybody know when will CMS bump up NQ whack? £73k is poverty pay, I regularly queue up at foodbank fam


Ligma Partner

Record profits + low morale but too much inertia to leave = unhappy lawyers and very happy equity partners.

There is no incentive for the firm to change while lawyers will still take the overwork for underpay.



Anyone know PEP for CMS?



Anyone know about other US outfits not mentioned anywhere on LC? Such as Proskauer/ Cads?



Who cares about them ffs?



So you don’t know…


Matthew Mc

You gotta be pumping those numbers up those are rookie numbers


Matthew Mc

Alright alright alright



Seriously Jones day and white and case need to increase asap



Our trainees get other perks of a non-monetary nature.


Curious Jack

Such as? W&C’s main pro is there intake size, which has its obvious pro’s that other US outfits can’t compete with. Other than that, what else?



You obviously did’t get the joke.


Pissed trainee

I’m pretty sure all other firm offer non-monetary perks as well. White and case has lost its prestige. It ranks lower than Dechert of Paul Hastings in my view, currently working here

Also they lie about taking 50 trainees. That is an aim, they are only taking 35 and slowly (not) increasing to reach the 2020 goal. The pay is crap and we need to increase the salary.

Jones day is just a joke . More money would be great


DWF are the best

Whey will pay more in tax than Squire Patton Toilets earn.



If you’re not putting at least 20k of that salary in a pension you’re doing something wrong



Cool, now off you go back to your LLB textbooks mate



None of the US salaries are right that I’ve seen in the legalcheek firm thing. My firm is v wrong. I even sought to correct them by mailing to the tips email but no action taken. Pretty sure Milbank pays top of the market I.e Kirkland level or close, definitely not less than Cleary. In any case all have been paying in the mid 130s since at least early to mid way through last year. Some upped early this year.

What I don’t get about this website is that it’s obsessed about salaries but then always gets them utterly wrong. Don’t know if it’s just a wind up.


Curious George

Anyone know salaries at other US outfits not mentioned anywhere on LC? Such as Proskauer/Cads/Mofo etc?



Milbank pays $190k which is pegged to the pound annually – for last year the pegging meant the £ equivalent was £136k


Angus, Exeter University LL.B.

When will the other US firms hovering around £120k up?


LLB Student

Serious question, what are people’s opinions on Cleary? I’ve seen some discouraging stuff recently with them firing the Paralegals and some partners retiring, but they still seem to have a strong practice in London.


Join at your own risk

Total sweatshop, possibly the sweatiest of all the NY shops in the City. Chock-full of turbokhunt partners who will skin your scrotum alive.


LLB Student

If I had a penny for every time someone here said a firm was a “total sweatshop” or had “psycho senior associates / partners”… That genuinely doesn’t mean anything.

I meant how is their reputation, quality of work, etc? I know it’s a sweatshop but so is virtually every other firm in the City, and this firm in the City just happens to be in the top 0.1% when it comes to salary, so I’m sure most associates will have the means of consoling themselves.



It’s a dumb question. It’s a very competitive firm. When you have an offer between two firms, one being Cleary, the question then becomes relevant and the answers is whatever is the lesser of the two evils. But since they have about half a dozen or so trainees and make about the same number of offers with almost all, if not all, being accepted immediately, it’s not a real worthwhile question. Interviewing there, asking questions, reading Chambers student are places to start.


LLB Student

Thanks, that’s actually a much more helpful answer. I guess to narrow the question even further, since everyone knows they’re a prestigious US firm, I should have asked how does Cleary compare to other firms of a similar calibre in London? Eg Weil, S&C, Milbank, Skadden. Especially given the recent changes at the firm, such as firing of paralegals and some partners retiring.

There was a comment on here recently stating Cleary is “on the rocks” in London. Why is that? Because if it’s just the above mentioned changes, while not being ideal, that doesn’t indicate to me anything of the sort.

I’m planning to apply to lots of these firms – and let’s face it, if any one of them makes me an offer I’ll probably accept it on the spot, but it’s still good to know these things, and as frivolous as the LC comment section can be, I find I sometimes get nuggets of wisdom on here that I don’t think I would have found anywhere else.

PS: the article says they offer 20 TCs annually but you’re saying they only do around 6?


Rephrasing a dumb question still makes it a dumb question.

FTAOD, you evidently haven’t bothered with Chambers student yet as directed. It says there are 26 trainees spread across 2 years presumably in four intakes. Maybe someone will be an intake of 10 but whose bloody do because you’re not going there.

LLB Student

I did check Chambers Student and what it says there disagrees with what LC says here as well as what the commenter above says. Chambers says 26 total (so 13 annually), LC says 20 annually, commenter says 6 annually. I’ll go out on a limb here and say Chambers’s assessment is probably most accurate… But these are all incredibly important questions for those thinking of applying and I think most students would appreciate having more transparency and up-to-date info on such matters. And sometimes asking on legal forums is a good way to find out…

And I still don’t see what the “on the rocks” comment was about.



Until you do vacation schemes in places of interest you have neither a good chance of getting an offer nor a reliable way of judging which you would suit you in the long run. As an example, my boy who was able to pick and choose (Oxford scholarship/double first etc) didn’t apply to Cleary after he did their vacation scheme. Ask him why and he would just tell you that he didn’t particularly like it.



The actual numbers (from an ex-Cleary trainee): year of 2019 trainees (who started in 2017). There were 16 at the start, only 9 qualified in September 2019. Two left during the contact, one not on good terms. One deferred. Four were let go (as publicised by this website).

This is against a backdrop of associate numbers falling to. In 2017, there were c. 100 associates. The office move in 2018 brought more desk space. There are now c. 55 associates. Partner levels have not changed much, c. 20.

What does this mean? It means they haven’t got the model right. London is a very competitive market (far more so Manhattan where some institutional relationships, e.g. Sullivan/Goldman, Cleary/TPG and Simpson/KKR and Blackstone, are very entrenched. In London, fees are tight and under pressure. Firms like Kirkland and Latham win business by offering specialised, we’ll staffed if lean teams at the top of their game (e.g. both are band 1 finance teams). Cleary has a model of charging very expensive fees (c. £550/600 for junior associates, up to £1,300 for senior partners) and therefore not pitching for commoditised work. The work the London office gets, thus, is piecemeal and/or very bespoke, which leads to inconsistency in hours, content and development. The lack of hours targets also leads to gaps between associates (some will do 1,500 a year and others nearer to 3,000 in the same practice group). This, combined with a very closed partnership and never doing the same piece of work twice, over time discourages associates from staying. How do market yourself to be a new partner if you’ve only done on PE deal or LBO in 2 years? Which clients want to hire these partners to do regular work.

Cleary is a brilliant brand. It thinks it is premier along with Cravath and Wachtell in the US and Slaughter in the UK. But that brand just doesn’t translate to results any more.


LLB Student

You know it’s comments like these that make me believe one can actually find some useful feedback on legal forums sometimes, no matter how frivolous they might be at times. Thank you.

So what could Cleary, or any firm in a similar position, do here, according to you? They should just lower fees and accept standard, grunt, commoditised work so as to ensure a constant stream of work between lawyers and departments?

The other option is somehow becoming as specialised in certain areas as Kirkland / Latham, but that would lead to even more bespoke / piecemeal work coming the firm’s way. Also how do you even become “top of your game”? By forgoing the lockstep system entirely and following KE in eat what you kill in the hopes of attracting that one workaholic who will bring with them a slew of new clients? For many high-quality lawyers, that’s precisely the reason why they DON’T want to go into firms like KE.


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