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US law firm duo dish out COVID bonuses to London lawyers

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Associates at Simpson Thacher and Akin Gump rewarded up to £31,000 for lockdown endeavours

UK lawyers at two US law firms have been handed substantial bonuses.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett’s London lot will receive the same cash rewards as their US colleagues — $7,500 (£5,800) for 2019 qualifiers, through to $40,000 (£31,000) for 2012 qualifiers — in recognition of their hard work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are immensely grateful for your hard work and perseverance under these trying circumstances,” the firm’s chairman, Bill Dougherty, wrote in a memo to staff. And it appears the special windfalls won’t affect year-end bonuses at the firm. “We do not anticipate this special bonus will impact year-end bonus levels, which we expect to be at least consistent with last year’s amounts,” Dougherty continued.

Fellow US outfit Akin Gump is splashing the cash, too, with lawyers in London, the US and Hong Kong receiving bonuses on the same scale as those dished out by Simpson Thacher. The rewards will be paid next month and won’t impact year-end bonuses.

The firm’s chair, Kim Koopersmith, said: “We are extremely grateful for all you have contributed to the firm and our clients this year. The level of commitment has been intense as we work to meet the needs of our clients every day. You have been making extraordinary contributions in the most challenging of circumstances.”

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Last month Legal Cheek reported that Milbank associates across London, the US, Asia and São Paul, were set to receive “special one-time bonuses” of between $7,500 and $40,000, in appreciation of their efforts during lockdown. Davis Polk, meanwhile, chucked the same cash bonuses at its US associates, although rewards for non-US lawyers will be determined separately. Cooley has also dished out extra cash in recognition of its lawyers’ efforts, including for those in its international offices.

News of the COVID bonuses come just days after two senior law firm partners criticised the soaring salaries earned by some junior lawyers in the City.

“My heart drops when I see newly qualified lawyers in US firms earning more than some of our partners,” said Michael Chissick, managing partner of Fieldfisher. “They don’t need to pay that. It’s not a market rate. They are creating a new market.” Meanwhile, Richard Foley, senior partner at Pinsent Masons, branded the level of pay at some law firms “completely unsustainable”.

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