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Fieldfisher boss: ‘My heart drops when I see NQ lawyers in US firms earning more than some of our partners’

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Six-figure pay packets ‘unsustainable’, agrees Pinsents senior partner

A pair of top City law firm partners have gone public with their concerns over the eye-watering sums of cash being earned by some junior lawyers.

Michael Chissick, managing partner of Fieldfisher, described to the FT (£) how his “heart drops when I see newly qualified lawyers in US firms earning more than some of our partners”.

Legal Cheek‘s Firms Most List shows how US outfits lead the way in the City salary stakes, with firms including Vinson & Elkins, Akin Gump, Kirkland & Ellis and Latham & Watkins, all dishing out £145,000 plus.

“They don’t need to pay that”, Chissick continued, “It’s not a market rate. They are creating a new market.”

Richard Foley, senior partner at Pinsent Masons, seems to agree. “The levels of pay in major private practice law firms are completely unsustainable,” he reportedly told the Innovative Lawyers Summit on Thursday.

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Foley continued:

“You see stuff in the press about £125k as a starting salary for an NQ… If I was on the other side of the table, I would be thinking how much more value am I going to get from that person?”

While those starting lawyer life at Fieldfisher and Pinsents earn considerably less than their US counterparts — NQ pay packets currently sit at £67,500 and £72,500, respectively — it’s widely acknowledged that those plugging away at US law firms will be expected to work longer hours, and therefore, earn more. Our Firms Most List shows one US outfit has an average leave the office time of 21:46pm.

The pair’s comments come just weeks after US law firm White & Case upped NQ salaries in London by a whopping 24% to £130,000. This comes at a time when many UK outfits, including several members of the magic circle, were cutting rookie pay in response to the pandemic.

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