US law firm wooed magic circle partner with incredible annual package worth £5.3 million

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Whopping sum guaranteed for three years, according to report

A US law firm secured the services of a top City lawyer after offering him an annual package reportedly worth $6.9 million (£5.3 million).

Finance specialist Jonathan Brownson joined the London office of Cahill Gordon & Reindel earlier this summer, having spent 25 years at magic circle player Allen & Overy.

Legal Week (£) has now published details of the apparent deal that prompted the switch.

The US outfit agreed a very hefty annual package of £5.3 million guaranteed for three years, according to the website, citing two unnamed sources.

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The report goes on to claim that US player Shearman & Sterling was also interested in securing the services of the Leeds Uni law grad, offering a package worth around $5 million (£3.8 million).

If accurate, Brownson now boasts the same financial might as a plethora of premiership football players, including Everton shot-stopper Jordan Pickford and Chelsea defender Marcos Alonso.

Brownson, Cahill Gordon & Reindel and Shearman & Sterling did not respond to our requests for comment.


Bill Ackman

*checks his earnings for 2020 so far, laughs hysterically*



It’s laughable isn’t it, this “incredible annual package”. Your average Managing Director at Goldman or Lazard makes multiples of that in a good year.


Gold plated johnny

But they haven’t had a good year for some time!


whomst MD

Uh huh. You read the news Johnny?


Curious Georgey

Hey all, can we start a conversation about junior partner salaries. What do junior partners or those with circa 10 years NQE earn in top american and uk firms. We always hear about equity partners ,but no one talks about the other normal guys ?



If your firms PEP is ~£0.5m and NQ salary is £50k/year, what can you expect a junior partner to make? £100k/year? £200k/year? Really have no idea.



This is very firm dependent. Somewhere like Kirkland, with boatloads of junior partners in a Hunger Games for equity, will be very different to Slaughters where getting the nod means getting equity.

For the first four or five years or so post partnership, assuming you’re not a superstar, probably 300 to 500 at silver circle type firms. Considerably less at nationals, bit more at the MC.

It’s very bonus dependent though, as ultimately fixed share is meant to be a proving and training ground for the equity, not a permanent state. This is particularly so in the primary teams, maybe a bit less for deal support departments.



Junior partners make close to or less than senior associates. The carrot is brought a little closer to their face, but they still can’t quite reach it.



The most junior partners in US firms will be on a fraction over senior/special counsel rates.



Ok at regular, but solid City firms partnership starts at around £160k-£180k. Think WFW, SH, BCLP and some US practices with a small London presence. Shipping firms Ince, HFW, Clyde % Co, around £140k.

Not sure the likes of Macfarlanes and Travers Smith, probably around £180k though.



Surely this is an underestimate? A junior partner is on the same level as a US NQ?



I used to be very involved in this in a past life. Numbers may have moved a little from a few years ago. But Macfarlanes and TS are not that high. Remember I gave the day 1 number for partnership.



Welcome to the real world of partner salaries for a junior partner. The US numbers don’t represent the market in the UK at all.



have you never heard of the salary disparity between US & UK firms?!



This seems wrong though L, Macfarlenes, TS partners would probably be around £260+



I used to be very involved in this in a past life. Numbers may have moved a little from a few years ago. But Macfarlanes and TS are not that high. Remember I gave the day 1 number for partnership.



Just not true though, is it?

Admittedly it’s a little out of date, but the point remains that only a handful of staff at the banks and corporate advisories make £5m+. Obviously there are top brass on £10m+ but they represent a vanishingly small number. Your “average” MD is probably on a similar amount to an equity partner





Future Legal Influencer at LinkedIn

This really does read like a BBC transfer deadline day special report, even without the incredible money.

It has got me thinking that maybe we should just do away with hires save for a a 3 month window from August – October.

LC can set up a deadline day livestream to track movements and talk about the fans wanting Freshfields to grab that up-and -coming Capital Markets partner from Mayer Brown. Meanwhile, legal influencers, will make their cameos to break the stories of Gordon Chung being promoted straight to Global Chair at Baker McKenzie. At the last hour, we can go live to the Square Mile for images of Henrietta’s “As an art student, I have always wanted to work at Macfarlanes since I found out my dad was a partner” press conference.



Meanwhile a poor NQ from CMS is sat in Kirkland’s car park at 10:59pm on deadline day trying to force through a move to the legal titans.



I can honestly say this is the funniest comment I’ve read in a while. Gave me a much needed laugh at work haha. Not a bad idea though


Kirkland NQ

Is that all? That’s about what the guy who refills the paper in the printers at the ‘land can bank.



Sure, Jan!



Maguire and Higgs went for more when they joined K&E.



No one gives a toss a*shat.


Solicitor chump

Where are all the Oxbridge grads talking about intellectual second rate? Stick to the commercial bar nerds, transactional law isn’t for you socially awkward, black letter law obsessed, geeks.



The brightest go to the Bar. Transactional solicitors just cobble together boilerplate deals and litigators delegate the law to counsel and sit at the back of court. Really dignified.



An 8 pqe at a top US firm in London will be in about 245k + 80-100k in annual bonus so around £320-350k gross per year – not bad at all for a mid-30s person. An NQ is on around 140k + 20k annual bonus so around £160k. It obviously varies across firms but is substantially higher than MC/UK firms even after tax.



Not bad at all, that’s bloody excellent at any age let alone a mid 30s person ?


Truth Serum

Lol, the way some of these students on here talk is so funny. £350-£400k salary is not something that the majority of people in this country can even dream of. Most City lawyers will not even make that amount at the peak of their careers. There must be no more than 150 associates in the City earning this, if that.



I am 8 pqe at a Wall Street firm in London. I am on 190k with a guaranteed bonus of 30k. I asked other mates at the same level at similar shops, and they are on the same, give or take 5k on the basic and 10k on the bonus. Nobody was starting at 245k: that is what you get as a junior partner.



You ae plain wrong. Look at Cravath, Millbank, Kirkland etc. The salary for an 8PQE is around 230k. Cravath and Millbank just paid a 30k covid bonus to 7/8 PQEs + annual bonus for a 7/8 PQE on the Cravath scale is about 70-80k. That means the total monies for 2020 for a 7/8 PQE will be about 340k. It’s all publicly available knowledge and I am at one of those firms. 190k for an 8PQE is def at the lower end for a top US firm.


Take a look at this flog

Yeah, ‘Millbank’ innit.


US Associate

Speak for yourself but our 8PQE base is 250k, as of September.

6PQE is 235k.

Not sure how you’re defining Wall Street firm but for context we’re top 10 vault 100 and from what I gather most other firms at our level pay pretty much the same too.

In short, 250k at 8PQE is not unusual at elite US, despite your anecdote.



You are not telling the truth. No US firm in London pays an associate a base of £250k.


US Associate

The figures put forward by “US Associate” and “Lawyer” align with those at my firm. I am at an elite US firm in the City. It pays 7PQE associates a base range, with the top of that range being £250k. There is then a minimum £100k bonus added to that.

Alice M

I also am at an elite US firm and am 9 PQE. People at my level are paid £220k base and around another £20k in bonus. Oct 2020 5.46pm is correct in his assessment of what someone in the year below me would earn at my firm and a firm of similar standing.


“No one is paying 250k base”. They are, though.

Cravath scale tops out at $340k (at 8 years). Several US firms in the City (including Kirkland) pay that amount at monthly or quarterly spot rate of exchange. At present rates, that’s £263k.

Bonuses top out at $100k, or £77k. You can also earn a further $25k (or £19k) for going way beyond 2000 hours. You also get the odd surprise mid-year bonus (like Akin did this week, with $40k (£31k) for each 8PQE+ Associate). That’s a base of £263k and total comp of £390k. I know that to be the case – I worked at one such firm for several years until 2 years ago, and have several friends in the 8PQE band who remain there.

Not saying it’s right/wrong/normal in the City. But it is untrue to say it isn’t happening – there are several sizeable firms paying those rates.


Lmao quit smoking that ganja mate, those numbers are utter bunkum



And I am sure you are all worth every penny


Hooray Henry

only most US firms operate an up or out policy, so most 8PQE people are likely to be fired if they don’t make that jump to partner.


2 pence

Tbh people need to realise this really the elite rate, I find sometimes law students can get disillusioned thinking this is the norm.



What salary do you need to afford a rolls Royce or Bentley?


Alex’s parking lot attendant

If you live in the car and avoid paying rent, it is surprisingly affordable to lease one.


Kirkland NQ

Old men’s cars. Lambo or nothing.



I am amazed that anyone who went to Leeds university earns that sort of money. He must thank his lucky stars every morning.


Hooray Henry

he went to university/entered the law in a time when that wasn’t really an issue. Same as commercial barristers with desmonds. really not comparable to nowadays


Annoyed associate

Yep, no Leeds graduates make it into City firms these days. None make partnership. They are all cleaners and answer the phones…..

I say this as a Redbrick grad who didn’t go to Leeds Uni, you kids are idiots. The stupidity of your snobbish statements are ridiculous.



Comrades. We must prepare to rise again and face the excesses of the City. Do you know how many school meals we could find with this salary?


Donkey Kong

For Firms at the top US firms in London (Weil, Latham and Kirkland) it’s deffo possible for an associate to earn 250k – ofc a very senior one


lolbraham lincoln

Yeah, 250k, not 400k unlike some of the jokers seem to claim and believe


True facts

250 + 30 Covid bonus + 80 annual bonus = 360 (gross) so just near enough/just under 400k.


Hooray Henry

Only most people won’t get anywhere near that bonus level, because the billing hour targets are set way too high. The fact that that is the theoretical top bonus level does not at all mean most people get it.



What do Latham pay their senior associates and junior partners?


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