Milbank dishes out COVID bonuses to London junior lawyers

By on

Associates can receive between £5,800 and £30,800, depending on experience

Junior lawyers at US outfit Milbank are to receive “special one-time bonuses” in recognition of their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hefty cash rewards — which will be distributed to associates across the US, Asia, São Paulo and London — range from $7,500 (£5,800) for 2019 qualifiers, through to $40,000 (£31,000) for 2012 qualifiers.

Associates working below 80% utilisation (inclusive of pro bono and legal work on behalf of the firm) will receive 50% of their bonus, while those swamped in recent months (over 110% utilisation) will trouser an additional 50% of their reward rate.

“Our entire firm has pulled together in response to the pandemic and the unique business challenges and opportunities that it has created,” Milbank said in an email announcing the bonuses. “In light of our success, and in appreciation of the efforts made by our lawyers, we have determined to pay our associates in the classes of 2012-2019 a special one-time bonus.”

Milbank has been approached for comment.

The 2020-21 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

Milbank’s London lot aren’t short of cash. Legal Cheek‘s Firms Most List shows newly qualified lawyers earn an eye-watering salary of $190,000 (£132,000), making them among the highest paid juniors in the City.

Milbank isn’t the first firm to dish out COVID bonuses. Fellow US firm Davis Polk has chucked the same cash bonuses at its US associates, although rewards for non-US lawyers will be determined separately, while Cooley has also coughed up extra cash in recognition of its lawyers’ efforts, including for those in its international offices.

By contrast, a number of UK-headquartered firms, including members of the elite magic circle, have cut or frozen junior lawyer pay as they look to negate the financial impact of the shutdown.

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Newsletter



Totally phat.



Will any other US firms or has anyone heard of others (beyond Cooley and DPW) matching this?



K&E, L&W and the rest will match this including in their London offices. They all did so in 2018 when the Cravath scale went to 190k and summer bonuses were announced.



Debevoise and Kirkland have matched



Kirkland expressly did not match … yet (probably will in end of year):



Similar scheme at Kirkland. US firms really are in a league of their own.



Does anybody know if CMS are likely to do something similar?





CMS Associate

CMS employees got their full bonus payouts split between July and September pay packets.


Sad Law Student

Aspiring city lawyer, lets be honest with ourselves. This is a great bonus on top of a whopping base nq pay packet. Why would anyone choose to work at MC or even a lower ranked US firm (JD) when you could get this kind of dough??

The simple answer is we don’t choose. There are too many applicants/or we aren’t good enough for US elite standards.

Sad but true. #please,employmemilbank



Don’t think this is entirely true: applying at TC level does come down to luck among other things, since there’s hundreds upon hundreds of polished, A*A*A* and 1st class degree applicants out there.

Lateralling over at NQ level and above is a different story though, as from that point onwards it does increasingly come down to experience gained and how well can you market it. Naturally someone applying from a provincial shop won’t have the right CV for a lev fin or PE role at K&E, even if they are a bright and talented lawyer, because they never got exposed to such work in the first place. A candidate at your regular City firms like CMS or Pinsents should be perfectly fine.


Emotional Law Student

Don’t take my words as gospel as I’m only going off of what I’ve heard, but having spoken to a number of GR / HR people I don’t quite think it’s as realistic as you say to switch from CMS and similar firms to a top US firm. The main thing at NQ level and beyond is the experience you get – if it’s similar to the experience people at the target firm get (in terms of client names, complexity of deals, value of deals), then you can switch no problem.

But the reality is, you WON’T get the same experience at CMS as at, say, Sullivan & Cromwell. Looking at Chambers’ UK rankings, CMS is Band 2 in mid-market M&A, while S&C is Band 3 in high-end M&A (and it’s a known fact that US firms are often under-marked in legal directories in the UK, so realistically they’re between Band 2 and 1). What types of deals can a CMS NQ shows that will impress S&C? Certainly not a 250mil pharma merger when the person reading their CV just closed a 14bil energy deal.

The reality is, where you train will very much determine where you can switch to in the future. You’re just kicking the can of rejection and disappointment down the road if you join a mid-tier firm now with the ultimate goal of making it in moneylaw – it’s just very unlikely to happen.


whomst md

lmao thx for the info fresher, back to your introductory lectures u go.



Yeah it’s not realistic, and then there’s stacks of folks at K&E from Addleshaws and CMS. Go blow one mate 😀 😀 😀



Talking nonsense mate – and why would you move US for dull corporate or finance work.



Well, there are many other considerations … I turned down a top US package for something well below MC (average top 20 UK/international firm) for the sake of quality life and more interesting work. Depending on the area (and your competence of course), you would be surprised how easy it can be to get into a top 10/20 US firm at NQ-2PQE level. I agree that if someone wants to become a transactional lawyer then there’s little point in doing similar (-ish!) hours at a magic/silver circle firm for less money (although I never understood why wouldn’t you just join a PE house instead of being their solicitor/slave). However, in contentious or regulatory work, one can get a better overall deal let’s say at S&M than at Latham for example (that is only of course if good salary + interesting work + ok life sounds better than just simply amazing salary and not much else).



You shouldn’t just look at the money. If you’re the type of person that can’t handle becoming literal property to partners and clients doing 70 hour weeks then the money won’t mean a thing.



Would love some free money whilst working at lower than 80% utilisation.


US lawyer

This is incredible, especially if it is in addition to the annual bonus. The message that US law firms are cut throat and awful to work at just isn’t true. It’s a myth the MC peddle to stop their associates jumping ship. We’re at times of Great Recession and the US law firm associates are getting whopping bonuses in return for their hard work from home during COVID. If you’re at 100% utilisation coping with everything that’s going on and still smashing out deals this is well deserved. Good one.



According to the LC survey, you will work 12 hours a day at Kirkland and 11 hours a day at Linklaters.

Differences like that can be explained by the fact US firms don’t have any lawyers doing pensions, blockchain, sports law, climate change, MTN updates or investment grade debt. Those are fine areas to practice in, but they’re just not as demanding as PE and restructuring.

And even if you do work harder at US firms, think about the compensation you receive for that extra hour a day. A six-year qualified associate at a US firm will make at least USD 465,000 this year (base, autumn bonus and year-end bonus combined).



You can’t really rely on the LC survey. That survey is arriving and leaving the office times. I work at a US firm and I can sometimes do 09.30 – 5:30 in the office, hit the gym and then work from home into the evening.

Also, to the poster above > you’d be surprised how many junior associates and (and partners) who are now at the top US firms who originally came from regional / little known firms, at NQ/2PQE level. It’s all about your personality and ability to cope with the environment of being responsive under pressure – often people from regional firms are better than this than the robots at the MC.



“six-year qualified associate at a US firm will make at least USD 465,000 this year”

Yea you’ve pulled that number right out of your arse mate, more like 300k tops. A huge number no doubt, but not nearly this close to half a lion rofl



6PQE on Cravath scale is $305k base + $80k bonus and (this year) $37k special bonus or $55k if 10% overutilised.



Here is the publicly-available Cravath salary scale + Cravath year end bonus + Milbank autumn bonus (base/50% premium):

NQ – 190,000 + 15,000 + 7,500/11,250
1PQE – 200,000 + 25,000 + 10,000/15,000
2PQE – 220,000 + 50,000 + 20,000/30,000
3PQE – 255,000 + 65,000 + 27,500/41,250
4PQE – 280,000 + 80,000 + 32,500/48,750
5PQE – 305,000 + 90,000 + 37,000/55,500
6PQE – 325,000 + 100,000 + 40,000/60,000
7PQE – 340,000 + 100,000 + 40,000/60,000


US Associate

“at least USD 465,000”

Not likely. Not sure where you’re pulling this figure from (assume you’re someone not actually working at these firms) but it looks more likely to be around USD 350-400k on average.



Bonus presumably relates to lat FY. Let’s see what occurs next year…



Ah, a financially illiterate law student. The point is they have the cash to pay that bonus, rookie. Compare that to the precautionary cash flow measures taken by UK firms such as salary cuts / freezes and partners delaying distributions. The actions of UK firms, whilst prudent and sensible, are not a ploy to allow them to pay big bucks bonuses next year. They actually aren’t profitable enough to do this.

Unless the economy collapses due to a second wave / no deal, US firms will continue to pay out extortionate amounts.



You must just be purely illiterate, then. Bonuses are Mostly discretionary and subject to cash flow. How leveraged a firm is doesn’t matter.

They’re also paid after FYE, because… you know… they’re based on your performance which can’t be fully measured till it’s done, unless they pay for a part year then top up. Regardless you clearly hold no experience of actual remuneration committees to judge others.



These bonuses relate to this FY – most US firms have Jan-Dec financial years (not April-April as in the UK as the US tax year follows the calendar year unlike the UK).



Pensions not “demanding”….LMAO


PE Don

It’s really not mate… even in MC.


Reality Check

LIES, LIES and more LIES dished out by US firms and recruiters to try to persuade people to join a US firm at all costs. There are many people who have been laid off via stealth dismissals by US firms to avoid the headlines and to continue pushing the idea that US firms are in a league of their own. Do not believe them! You will never hear about stealth dimissals being reported but they are happening on a large scale, at a certain firm in particular.





Good Samaritan

STB now paying the special bonus also:



But how does Cravath pay translate to Uk pay for London US law firms as in will a 6PQE be on £400k?


Not missing biglaw

If you’re US qualified in London you get Cravath + bonus + cola on top which is around 60-100k depending on the firm. So its the best deal and not just financially — lifestyle much much better than NYC.


Comments are closed.