White & Case ups NQ solicitor pay to £130k — a boost of £25k

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Trainees and associates also handed sizeable rises

White & Case has upped the salaries of its newly qualified (NQ) lawyers by a whopping £25,000.

Despite the financial uncertainty the coronavirus pandemic has brought upon City law, the US giant confirmed its London lot will now start lawyer life on £130,000 — an uplift of 24% from £105,000.

Legal Cheek‘s 2021 Firms Most List shows the new six-figure sum puts White & Case juniors on a pay par with their peers at fellow US outfit Ropes & Gray.

The firm, which offers around 50 training contracts each year, has also upped pay for trainees. First years will earn £50,000, up from £48,000, while second years will receive £55,000, up from £53,000. The rises are effective from 1 January 2021.

A spokesperson for the firm said: “White & Case is an elite global law firm which offers careers that are highly attractive to lawyers in London — the challenges of working globally on market leading matters and cases, enjoying promotion opportunities and the benefits of the wide range of practices we have here.”

The 2021 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

They continued:

“Following discussions with partners, we are increasing legal salaries in London, including for trainees. The salary increases, which are effective from 1 January 2021, are another demonstration of our position as a leading law firm globally and in the City.”

Those further up the ladder are also cashing in. Lawyers with one year post-qualification experience (PQE) will earn a salary of £137,500, a rise of 25% from £110,000, while two-year PQE associates will see pay move from £120,000 to £150,000 — an extra £30,000 or 25%. Increases for those between three to nine year PQE will be on a “discretionary” basis, according to the firm.

Legal Cheek reported in July that White & Case had opted to keep NQ salaries steady despite many of its City rivals, including members of the elite magic circle, opting to cut pay in response to COVID-19.

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Strong move and good on the firm to properly remunerate their junior staff. Let’s hope some UK firms follow suit.


Grad wrecker

Big move!!!



This is just affirms that US > MC and SC. The latter have been cutting salaries whilst US have kept them at the same level if not increased during the pandemic. Doubtful MC and SC will follow suit



100k post tax (with 4% pension and student loan) is 58k. That’s not including bonus which eg at Freshfields is additional. 120k post tax (and pension/student loan) is circa 64k.

6k more (if that when accounting for bonuses) to work in a dog eat dog environment working 70-80+ hours a week (and spare me the “that’s a myth trope”, I know associates who have made the switch) …. I’ll pass.

Realistically, any associate at a top firm is doing just fine financially and there’s a lot to be said for having some time to actually spend your earnings.



That’s not true at all. You need to read up on your firms. In any case, this is a huge wage for people who are in the early stages of their career. City law forms aren’t for everyone but I don’t think people can start moaning about junior level pay!



Of course they can, Tina. Just because someone earns £100k for doing a job doesn’t mean they aren’t entitled to complain if the person doing the same job next to them is earning £200k.

Being well paid in the context of the general population does not necessarily mean you are well paid in the context of your peers, Tina. Whether you consider the salary “huge” is completely irrelevant.


US Associate

Except most of the elite US aren’t on 120k, are they? That figure also conveniently supports your narrative as it’s between 100 and 120 that the personal allowance is eliminated making the post tax increase at that level particularly small.

Most US elites are 135-145k NQ plus a bonus of c.5k. So 74k instead of 58k giving you an extra 1.25k a month to spend or save as you like as well as 30% more money going into your pension. Then there’s the substantial increases as you progress, with base at 6PQE coming out around 250k base plus c. 30k bonus.

Are the hours longer? Yeah on average probably, but not by much. If you think its night and day working at MC vs US elite in terms of hours you’re wrong. Who do you think is across from us on the deals?

I know I’d rather have the extra money. If you want to get out after 6/8 years for a more relaxed role it’s very easy to, having already build a solid financial base (if you’re financially savvy).



Silly, silly fresh @US Associate

“Who do you think is across from us on the deals”.

Yes other firms work on the other side but, on average, the MC teams will have many, many trainees and associates working on a matter, each tasked with smaller parts to focus on. For many of the US transactions, it is simply one trainee from the department, one associate and a partner checking in once in a blue moon.

How is the amount of work one is expected to put in remotely the same?

Get outta here


Captain obvious

Except white and case now pay £130k not 120 and take more trainees and NQs than many UK firms , and have a full service practice in London…


FBD Corporate Associate

Also, most NQs at FBD don’t get a bonus or get about £2k (usually less). Bonuses only go north of £10k at 3PQE.


FBD Partner

If you don’t like it, leave.


RIP The Magic Circle




alright for some 🙁


Dead by 40

Don’t be disheartened by it. Most NQ’s at US firms end up burnt out by 30/35 due to the massive working hours. The pay is good because the job reduces your life expectancy. I am happy at a high-street firm earning 40k because I get in and leave at a good time of day. 40k is still a lot of money and I am still able to save and pay into a private pension. US firms need to entice new solicitors because the retention rate is so low.



Many people don’t classify White & Case as elite. Usually it’s cut-throat US firms like Kirk, latham, skad, weil etc, or, magic circle firms. Does this salary increase change this?


Third Seat Trainee

Oh be quiet, Tim.



Get lost bully.



So someone tries to intimidate me, and generally make anti disabled comments and I’m supposed to be quiet and apologise to them for existing? You are sick, and an utter disgrace. Apologise immediately or I’ll report your comment.



Kirkland is not elite in London; anyone/everyone gets in, even people from firms like Addleshaw Goddard.

Plus it was also one of the few firms that’s resorted to stealth layoffs during the pandemic.


Kirkland NQ

Yeah those recent hires in document production seem to be doing great.



Tim, nice but dim


W&C Associate

Pleased the firm have acknowledged they have been off market for the past few years, and not just raised by 5 or 10k. Given the hours are no worse than MC, there are real partnership prospects, and it’s not just a glorified English law local counsel office for a NY behemoth, this is a very good salary. Glad we are competitive again.



Will the increase be felt at the higher ranks? I hope so. I’d be pretty put out if I was running a deal as an 8-9 year qualified and I’m only getting £20k more than the guy marking up the CP list!



This is the second comment which suggests that you haven’t read the article, Tina. Naughty naughty.



How so? I have read it. It says it’s discretionary. That does reveal much.


Third Seat Trainee

Not a bad firm-wide email to receive on a Monday morning.

Anyway, back to running these redlines.



Big slap in the face for JD



I tend to initiate said slaps. Handsfree.


JD Equity P

Top bantz, 10/10 my boy.


Whomst MD sizelord

Phat dollah, total size move. Congratulations to W&C, they’re swinging the big dolla D again


Interesting comparison

This time last year, 3 firms sat on the £105k mark for some time: Jones Day, Shearman and W&C.

Shearman was the first to move, increasing to £120k in early 2020. Decent.

As COVID hits, Jones Day drop down to £100k. Shock.

Finally it’s W&C’s turn to decide what to do, and fair play it goes hard.

Considering W&C offer the most TCs of any US firm and more than many UK firms, it is arguably the best law firm for graduates… and that absolutely kills me because some of the most unbearable people on my course just got TCs there



Numbers of TCs available does not equal being the best for graduates. If it makes you feel better, those insufferable colleagues will be beaten within an inch of their sanity while working at W&C.


A&O 3rd seater

Wished I’d taken a TC at a US firm instead. A&O’s 90k salary for NQs (realistically 80k+ given part of the 90k is a ‘sign on bonus’) looks depressingly low compared to W&C or even Ropes. Maybe it’s time for the MC to start cutting fluff departments (eg Fuse)? Don’t see how they can justify paying NQs 50% less than US firms in exchange for broadly similar hours in corporate or finance.


Cheap labour

Agreed. The MC used to be able to justify offering slightly less by offering lots more TCs, but now they barely even have that to shout about



All those second rate minds. If they had any talent, they would be at the Bar.



I have zzzeeeeeerrrrrrroooooooooooooooo interest in being a barrister



I’m fine with that.



Big recession flex



Although the increasing divergence in remuneration between the US and the rest looks pretty mad on comparison charts I don’t think it will really have much of an impact on firms such as those in the MC. They’re still not going to have much issue attracting some of the most talented undergrads and I’d wager the amount of people that have the luxury of choice between a firm like W&C and MC is quite low – most probably only receive an offer from one firm?



Maybe at some middle England Poly. Sizeable amounts of people in my cohort (myself included) had 3+.



You sound like a right geek.



I’ve just accepted a TC and of the 10 or so on my VC who were offered I think there were two with more than one offer… six figure firm



US firms winning lool, sorry UK firms ??


LLM Student seeking TC

Strong move.

Will attract even more ambitious grads away from MC. Slap in the face to other major firms.

Still not quite as good as true elite firms. Those who are spoilt for choice will still end up at such firms.


yea boi

Once the Covid restrictions on travel ebb away I can W&C cleaning up the best candidates, imagine getting paid such phat wadd and travel to exotic locations like associates at this firm do. Proper international career, not some poxy US shop satellite office paying loads to hotbox you over fund boilerplate docs like a fool


Q Anon

You write like a recruiter.


LLM Student seeking TC

Not a recruiter. Just another grad trying to start my career.

Given our current economic climate, W&C has made a bold play. I respect that.

Now I know their serious, I’ll start drafting my application.



“Their”? Remember to proof said application.


Creative thinker

With the inevitable retention and attraction of stellar quality of trainees/junior associates that is bound to follow, I’m sure Deutsche Bank will be falling over itself to start paying W&C for its trainees/NQ time again (even after the inevitable rate increase to pay for salary bump).



As background to this for those who aren’t aware, when it reviewed its panel in 2017, Deutsche Bank (“DB”) warned firms that it would not pay for trainee and newly qualified solicitors.

DB were idiots. When work needs doing, it should be done by the most junior and cheapest people capable of doing it. DB’s outside counsel rules mean that, when work can be done by a trainee or a Newly Qualified (“NQ”) lawyer, it instead has to be allocated to someone who is 1PQE or more senior. The work stills needs to be done – it is just done by someone who costs more.

DB gets no benefit for their rule. Presumably it bolsters their GC’s ego that he’s not spending money on trainees or NQs, and makes him look good in front of his CEO and CFO, but it’s nonsense. That said, given that DB have squandered money on giving Donald Trump loans that he can never pay back, perhaps financial competence is too much to ask from them.


Macs or DLA???

Macs for £120-125k or DLA for £116-118k which should you take as a 6 PQE?


Captain Obvious

If you’re a 6 PQE asking LC for advice something has gone seriously wrong in your life.



As a senior in-house lawyer who regularly instructs external counsel, this makes me laugh.
We all do exceptionally long hours- that goes with the territory- but if anyone thinks a newly qualified lawyer is remotely worth that salary, they need their heads examining.


Peters Ginger

International firm White Case has introduced sweeping pay rises for junior lawyers, with newly-qualified solicitors enjoying a ?25,000 salary boost.


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