Akin Gump ups London NQ salaries to $202,500

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US MoneyLaw mania continues to rock the City

Akin Gump has upped the salaries of its newly qualified (NQ) lawyers to a bumper $202,500, as the US summer salary war continues to spill over into the City.

The new coveted six-figure sum means the firm’s new associates this side of the pond will receive a dollar-pegged pay packet of around £145,000 — although the full effect of the rise is somewhat dampened by the uncharacteristically weak dollar. Akin Gump confirmed to Legal Cheek that it reviews this rate every quarter.

Further up the ladder, lawyers with one and two years post-qualification experience will receive a salary of $205,000 and $215,000, respectively, while the firm’s most senior associates will earn $365,000. All increases will be effective 1 July 2021.

In a memo announcing the extra cash, Akin Gump’s chairperson Kim Koopersmith thanked lawyers for their “incredible contributions” and playing a “vital part” in the success of the firm.

And it’s a double-windfall for the firm’s lawyers. In April, the US titan dished out special spring bonuses of up to $64,000 in recognition of associates’ “exceptional contributions” over the past year.

The 2021 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

Legal Cheek‘s Firms Most List shows Akin Gump dishes out around six training contracts annually, with trainees receiving a salary of £50,000 in year one and £55,000 in year two.

The fresh pay rises come after fellow US outfit Milbank fired the starting pistol on MoneyLaw 3.0 by upping junior lawyer pay to $200,000, or roughly £143,500 for its London lot. It didn’t take long for its cash-splashing rivals to react, with Davis Polk quickly setting a hefty new benchmark of $202,500.

A whole host of US players have taken similar steps in recent days, matching either Milbank or Davis Polk’s rates.

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Look at what Skadden just did… 😉



What did they do?



Raised to $205k by the looks of it.
Does anyone know if this has been rolled out to Skadden’s London office too?



Skadden, Milbank, Akin, Proskauer, Goodwin, Paul Hastings, K&E, and STB all pay their US rates to London associates, so this will be rolled out to the London offices of all these firms (once they’ve matched the scale in the US, which most have already).



Fried Frank have also raised in London to the same scale.

Big Law #vibes

Yes, as of yesterday 🙂



The memo didn’t include London, but we will see


PE World

Separate email was sent around bruh.

US Invasion

No matter how much they raise salaries people (students) on here will always be bashing these types of firms. The reality is that even Akin is now inevitably in a league of its own – both in terms of remuneration and deal quality – compared to all other MCs/SCs.


Stop talking nonsense 1st year

Akin is in a league of its own for deal quality? Ahhahahahahahahahahaah


US Invasion

A firm that pays this much, how can it not be in a league of its own? A higher salary = better clients = better deals.

It’s just facts, not trolling.

Don’t understand how people still view MCs as better even though it’s -40% the salary and a lot of quantity (over quality) deals.



Do you have any idea how the legal marker even works in London??

High margin gimp work for PE houses does not equal deals “in a league of their own”. The MC will always lead the way in this respect. Transition to a US firm after MC training if you value the money.



This is so stupid it must be a troll.



Weil you better do something right now before I get angry.


Weil came in already ;)

They already raised.



To what?



Why are 1PQEs making only £1500 more than an NQ? Didn’t some clown on here say earlier that most firms boost pay by £20k at each level LOL.


US guy

It isn’t really 1PQE as Legal Cheek have reported. September starters will be $202.5k, then will move on to $205k in the new year.


Bombay Bad Boy

Legal Cheek are being misleading. US salaries increase each annual year, not by reference to qualification level. Somebody who qualifies this year in September will be on the 2021 level of the salary scale i.e. $202,500. Then in Jan 2022 they will move to $205,000 whilst still an NQ.



“New associates will received £145,000”.. er but Akin NQs were on that before…..

These increases are a PR stunt on this side of the pond because the consistently weak pound keeps the salaries effectively the same


US guy

Lots of US firms don’t peg to the dollar, so associates at those firms will be seeing a nice increase



It’s not a PR stunt. It’s a pay raise. FX currently means you don’t feel it in the sterling you take home. In the future you very well might feel it.

If you can predict future FX rates, you should go and make a lot more money doing that than lawyering.


Econ 101

@Hattie It’s that fact that the pound has become stronger, not weaker, that has kept salaries fairly static.



NRF to raise soon to stay in the fight I would expect. One US firm raises the other top ones have to follow.


NRF are shameless

Yeah NRF already have raised to 200k , but will only impact 3 US offices. DLA has done the same

It must really suck to be at one of these swiss verin firms in the U.K. knowing your colleagues in the US are getting paid literally double your salary. And often for lower quality work, for NRF in particular their best work is done in London


NRF in US?

Why is NRF work in the U.S. “lower quality”? Not attacking, just curious as to what kind of work NRF (a predominantly non-US firm) would do in the States compared, for example, to London where it has a very large presence.


Sad Projects Lawyer

It’s more to do with the market they work in – projects, natural resources and energy. They’re still generally considered one of the best global oil & gas firms, including in North America (especially due to historical industry links from legacies Houston-HQ’d Fulbright Jaworski and Calgary-HQ’d Macleod Dixon). Kind of taboo subjects these days and quite frankly not as lucrative as it was in the 1950s – 2010.

In ye olde days the oil majors and the big players that worked in their periphery didn’t even look at the details of lawyer bills because they were so profitable. Lawyers basically could charge whatever they wanted. Now funds/lenders are the only ones that can really do that. Given “prestige” in law (at least in North America) is typically tied to how much you can bill an hour, o&g/projects is not seen as top shelf anymore. The growing social stigma around o&g doesn’t help perceptions of the practice area either.

Now, the highest billing practice areas include PE and LevFin deals, acting for the funds/sponsors. Having CVC Capital Partners listed as a client is arguably more desirable than such famous NRF clients like ExxonMobil


PE World

Thank you for the in-depth response. Finally a lawyer and not a student replying. Good day to you!

Oil & Gas Enthusiast

Legendary and insightful response. Thank you.


Mayer brown and Bakers are matching Davis Polk scale….but will continue to pay its U.K. NQs 100k less. Disgusting


Fed up

I know firms like Fieldfisher, RPC, Pinsents, Clyde & Co, Wombles and the lot operate in a completely different market place, but it is absolutely insane that a busy half-decent lawyer in the London offices of these firms will work a 11 hour day for less than half the salary of their counterparts at these MoneyLaw firms, who are probably working maybe 2-3 hours more. The figures get even more insane when you look at the wages of mid to senior level associates. It would take 12-15 years at the above firms to get an annual income of a 5 year PQE at Akin.

Something must change – either anyone in the City paying less than 80K NQ throws a 15-20% wage increase to all associates/salary partners, or they admit they can only compete as a “life style” firm and shut down all services and IT at 5:30PM sharp. Basically the new Government Legal Services life.



1. If you’re at any of those regional firms, you aren’t working anywhere near as hard as any US junior.

2. You’re assuming that the people at those firms are even half as bright as those who get into MoneyLaw firms. They are paid what they are worth. Fieldfisher doesn’t have to increase the salary because there is a massive oversupply of Russell Group 2:1s who will take what they can get and still work 9-7/8. US firms are competing for a much smaller pool of talent so there is actual pressure to stay salary-competitive.



The pool of talent for US firms is limited by their working practices.



Yes. Talented people are notorious for not being able to work hard for long hours. Bet you’re one of those clowns who think they could get into a US firm if they wanted to but convinced themselves that the hours were too long. Be honest with yourself. You had no chance.



It’s more a question of will than ability.

I never had a chance. Never considered it.

Still bored.

Yes, they work past 6 so you would never get a look in.



Past 6? Why? Is there some sort of event on?


Working at a MoneyLaw firm does not equate to being intelligent and/or actually a good lawyer.

I did a law conversion with someone who is now 2/3 PQE at at MoneyLaw firm who was not only a highly objectionable person on a personal level but who also “only” had a 2.1 from a Russell Group (which you unreasonably deride). He was by all accounts incredibly dense, not very bright, and according to those who trained with him at a non MoneyLaw firm, pretty crap at the actual day job. He then moved to MoneyLaw because he’s a complete narcissist and was willing to take a pounding on a daily basis.

Nothing to do with intelligence at all.


Good Argument!!!

So, you knew someone who was stupid working in MoneyLaw which means that intelligence has nothing to do with working in MoneyLaw? With arguments like that, no wonder you went down the solicitor route rather than the barrister one.



It dispels the myth of trolls on here that only the best and brightest go to MoneyLaw. It’s complete BS. There are brilliant lawyers at MoneyLaw. And crappie lawyers at MoneyLaw. In the same way that there are brilliant lawyers working at national firms and crap lawyers working at national firms.

You don’t necessarily need to be elite to work at MoneyLaw. They’ll take whichever mugs want to sell their soul (and fair play to those that do). But it’s nonsense to suggest that those at MoneyLaw are automatically better than anywhere else.

They aren’t.

Wrong premise

Nobody argues or seriously believes that ONLY i.e. 100%, the best and brightest go into MoneyLaw. Not a single person believes this. Everyone knows that nepotism exists or that some dumb people get in. This is just a completely nonsensical premise.

The more genuine argument that is made is that there are far more bright and intelligent people i.e a greater proportion, working IN MoneyLaw, than OUT of MoneyLaw in the legal industry.


Depends how far you are looking. I’d suggest that if you are looking at Magic Circle / Mid-Atlantic / Silver Circle firms in the city, the difference in ability is negligible. If you start factoring in national firms / high street then obviously the position changes.

The MoneyLaw firms also focus on large corporate deals/transactions, which aren’t generally the most intellectual of practice areas. Go to a litigation / arbitration / tax practice and I’d wager many of them would be more bright and intelligent that those churning through documents at MoneyLaw.


All very true. There are undoubtedly oxbridge geniuses at the US law firms (more likely to be in the litigation departments) just as there are in the top and mid tier firms. Corporate work is pretty similar across the board and you will undoubtedly be doing very good, very complex work at US firms but at its core most corporate work is relatively simple and cookie-cutter. You need to be intelligent but US firms don’t operate on a higher intellectual plane than the others and I’m sure most of their employees would acknowledge this (to the extent their egos allow). Endurance is a virtue more than intelligence.

The idea that they must be the best because they are the best paid shows all too great a faith in free market economics and the rationality of the legal market and individuals within it. There are super-intelligent hardworking people at my thoroughly mid-tier shop who just don’t want to be beasted à l’américaine because working till midnight a few times a month is enough.



What firm do you actually work at? I’m genuinely curious what kind of firm has such a good work-life balance that you can be so active in the comments section of LC articles yet still requires people to work until midnight on occasion. Presumably it’s one with enough employees that anonymity shouldn’t be a problem.





Lawyer at moneylaw

The skillset required to succeed at the US MoneyLaw firms isn’t necessarily one of being more intelligent than a mid level or MC lawyer, it’s more about your personality and ability to master the culture. A mid level MC associate is probably just as intelligent as a mid level US law firm associate and the annual hours are probably only slightly higher at the US firm but the day to day at the US firm will be very intense, sink or swim, all hours emails/callas, extremely responsive, much less support both admin and junior associates etc, much more dynamic and fast paced than the MC. Some people just cannot or do not want to deal with that and that’s pretty obvious from the type of person you will find at the MC versus the US firm and also why most people do about 5 years at the US firm, save up 500k and quit.



Lol at the idea of saving £100k a year after pension, NI and tax is taken into account.. more like half of that at best…



LMAO clear you have never worked at the MC.

“much more dynamic and fast paced than the MC” nonsense. It’s the same shit, for different people, where you have to do your own secretarial and trainee work for more money.



For the avoidance of doubt, after c. 5 years at US firms, you’ll save c.300k including the equity you put down on your mortgage. So you may have 150 in the bank or investments and 150 in your flat.

Appears to be a gross underestimation of income tax from above comments. There is actually about a 16k difference between 100k MC pay and 135k after tax, for example, or 22k difference between 90k silver circle pay.

And bonuses are tied to 2000 hours and not 1500-1600, so you may get bonus at one firm but not at a US. And the bonuses aren’t great at the junior end anywhere but you’re looking at an additional 10k.

Also retention is bad at US firms. The one I trained in had about 15% of the same associates there by the time I turned 1PQE. The focus is also on transactional practice areas like structured finance, securitisation, leveraged finance and banking which are dull as ditchwater.

I wouldn’t get your panties in a twist over monetary raises like this. Your associate career isn’t all that long anyway, and the real money is made either as partner or offshore. And yes, it is better to a salaried partner at Travers earning 200k than a senior associate at a US firm taking home with bonus 280k.


John D Crow

How dare you post sense on Legal Cheek. How dare you actually break down the numbers instead of harping on and on about the same headline figures. This is not acceptable content sir.



Nice bruv you probably trained at a fake US firm like Jones Day. Good luck convincing yourself that the massive salary hit you took was worth it. Enjoy living in Zone 6.



“A mid level MC associate is probably just as intelligent as a mid level US law firm associate”

Blimey, get over yourself.



Lol at all the commentators missing the point.

US firms are firms you work at for a few years max. Literally every US firm out there has atrocious attrition rates. Trying to compare them to firms with hours that are viable long-term is to just miss the point. Unless you want to end up being stressed, fat, underslept and single in your 30s (“oh wow that’s winning at life!!!”)

Action plan for the pros (yeah, kids, be greatful):
1. Qualify anywhere decent (SC/MC/US/other big international – doesn’t matter)
2. Qualify into a miserable corporate or finance seat that’s in demand by US firms
3. Spend as many years there as you can stomach/want
4. Move to US firm
5. Handle the beasting for as long as you can take/need (everyone’s financial priorities are different!)
6. Move back to old firm/lower-ranked firm to make partner/in-house or leave the profession to do something worthwhile in your 30s

It’s literally that simple folks. Those who can stand the awful hours can opt into being beasted by US firms for a bit and leave. It can be 1 year, 2 years, 3 years. Who cares. You don’t marry your firm and you don’t need to pick between MC and US firms. All of these comments presuppose that the firm you train at is the firm you’ll be at when you’re 10PQE when that’s just not the case.

PS for all those banging on about intelligence at US firms: if you were truly intelligent and capable you’d have gotten an IB analyst role and would be out-earning any Kirkland/STB/loser associate in your early thirties (total comp of £300k 7 years in with no LPC and no two years lost to earning peanuts as a trainee). VPs at these banks also work better hours. So yeah, losers, you picked the wrong path, should’ve gone to a target and gotten a GS offer x



Nice one, John. Where do you work?


Reality check

Absolutely not true. Numbers are all right but IB VPs at GS, etc., get absolutely beasted. I’m talking 9 am – 12/1 am every day with consistent weekend work. It’s much worse than law (even at a US firm).

Only difference is analysts get worked even harder, which is part of the reason why there is almost zero retention from analyst to associate level at those BBs.


Anon NY

Genuine question: In the long term, do these NQ raises make a career at US law firms more promising (monetarily) than a career at the Bar (top chambers in particular)? I get that pupillage awards are smaller, but I was wondering if in the long term, barristers 5 years into practice end up with more that solicitors at these US firms at 5 years PQE.



Look, no-one who is going to value a career at the commercial bar is going to want to go for the pump-and-dump lifestyle in a finance/PE/funds etc practice at one of those firms. The talent pools just don’t overlap.



Earning more money early on does allow more interest on savings/ pension/ investments etc to build so the retirement pot is larger. But that’s not helpful if you crash and burn after 5-7 years PQE due to stress and go teach LPC courses for ULaw/BPP for 40k a year.

Also, don’t forget there are (at the very least) 10 times more 5PQE associates at US firms than 5 year call tenants at “top chambers” that pay in the manner you’re suggesting. If you’re asking now, you’re not getting into those chambers.

If I was a university student today in the penultimate or final year of my degree, at a decent RG uni with a strong 2:1 expected, and I wanted the greatest statistical likelihood of future financial success as a qualified lawyer, I would likely try to pursue life as an in-house lawyer at a financial institution.


Capped at £150k

In-house lawyers (even at major IBs) do not make that much. You will also never make GC as that role is reserved for partners moving into private practice with ties to the bank.



Money and lifestyle at the commercial Bar is significantly better than at a US firm, unless you manage to make partner.

Frankly, even barristers at half-decent civil sets will be pulling in MC associate (or slightly higher) levels of remuneration from a relatively early stage.

Twitter is full of far too many barristers complaining that pay levels are too low and that is absolutely the case for legally aided work. However, it is a pretty well-kept secret quite how high billings and receipts can be just doing civil work (general or specialist e.g. IP, top employment sets, top defamation sets etc).

All with the (often illusory but nevertheless true) benefit of self-employment meaning no psychopathic partners or senior associates to deal with, plus absolute freedom to choose working hours (often long but nevertheless free choice as to when they happen).

The commercial bazzas make blisteringly good money.


This is all true

The comments section on this article is such a cesspit. It makes me despair.
Any of you would be lucky to get an offer from a US or top U.K. firm. Statistically most of you will NEVER get into these firms, and yet the majority of you are happy to criticise both.
“Oh yeah I’d never work anywhere like Lathams or Sullivan, they like work their associates so hard and they just like sell their soul. LOL have you seen how much they earn post tax what losers.” There’s a reason that these firms are the most sought after positions in law. It doesn’t need to be explained because it’s evident why. The same goes for MC and SC firms. Get over yourselves. You would bite their hand off if you got an offer from any of them.

The same goes for people bashing others for wanting to work in the regions or at a smaller firm. What is wrong with you? Why do you even care what other people want to do with their lives?
And no, it doesn’t make you any less intelligent for working at those firms. Those working in US and U.K. firms are not supreme beings, they just chose a different career which can earn you money faster.

Why are people even trying to compare the intelligence of US and U.K. associate intelligence? Are you drunk? I’m just so confused how you think that you can make a valid argument about that.

And LOL at the posters chiming in about investment bankers as if they’re some sort of deities. Jesus, have you met a junior in IB? This isn’t Wolf of Wall Street. Those guys are actually worked to the bone in ways unimaginable in law. And if you think they swan into work for 7 years and just become a VP you are severely mistaken. Funnily enough one of my friends quit a role at a BB bank because he couldn’t hack the hours – and he works at a US firm now and finds it easier. There is a big difference.

This comment section is really quite tragic. It’s filled with clueless students, bitter failures, jaded underachievers and naive morons who are going to have a massive shock come adult time. It would be funny if people are joking, but they’re clearly not at this point.



Finally a decent response


Live and let live

Finally a sensible comment – I also despair at these comments and can only hope that they are primarily written by students who have yet to experience the real world. If any of them are written by lawyers in their 20s and 30s then I feel sorry for them. I trained at a MC firm and stayed there for a year or so in an advisory practice before moving to a US firm because I wasn’t enjoying my job and wanted to work in a smaller team – I also didn’t appreciate getting paid considerably less at my MC firm than my US counterparts for working similar hours. For what is is worth, its now many years later and it was the best move I ever made – I much prefer the less hierarchical and more dynamic culture and don’t care whether my deals are front page news (who does?!). Each to their own I say!


Welcome to Legal Cheek.

Welcome to Legal Cheek.


Jaded Underachiever

Best comment section I’ve seen in a while. LC isn’t dead after all.



Which areas of private practice are currently most lucrative and offer associates the best prospects?



Apparently there’s this thing called Private Equity which may be worth checking out..?


Forever Associate

A few of my friends in practice have been discussing this lately and I think the general view is the “private practice” element of your question invalidates the rest of your query. Some of the wealthiest solicitors in a secure role that we know work in-house at family offices and PE firms. I digress…

Most lucrative is acting for lenders/sponsors on big deals. They charge whatever hourly rates they want as the borrowers usually foot the legal bill, and it might not even be an hourly rate but a percentage of the amount being borrowed. Huge fees on the table. However this is a small subgroup and availability of roles is generally limited.

The best “prospects”, being an ambiguous term, I take to mean likelihood of available roles, job security and transferability with still a chance for a high income. In that case, it has been and always will be tax. You will be despised and will never be invited to a dinner again, but tax lawyers easily have the best job security mixed with transferability and high income potential. Given technical nature of the area it takes longer to get up to equity partner level in firms, but once there it is very lucrative. Or you can jump ship and set up a solo practice in a wealthy commuter belt town and easily make 6 figures with regular 5pm finishes. Going offshore, in-house or jumping on the board of a company or auditor are also common options for tax lawyers and all will typically yield a very comfortable lifestyle.


Old Guy

Very useful comment. The amount of money some of the GCs/MDs of Legal at those funds in Mayfair earn is ridiculous (and I’m not talking about the big ones like KKR or Blackstones). Many take home more than partners at Silver circle firms, and they are not even necessarily as accomplished in terms of background. Some even made a start as compliance analysts without formal training contracts. However these jobs are very rare to open up, and someone who lands this gig at age 40 is likely going to still be there at age 65 (in some capacity). Working for a family office can also be very lucrative, again partner level earnings, but you run the real risk of working for a psycho and the type of work you do will vary from the super mundane to the interesting.


Forever Associate

Agree on the limited availability of roles, but if you can swing it, oh baby is it sweet. I’m strongly considering trying to find such a role. I may even go off-shore to get it.

A former colleague, now almost 6PQE, is on just shy of £200k salary at a financial institution. If the firm is sort of near target he gets somewhere between 30-50% bonus. If it hits target he gets 70% and if targets are exceeded he can get anywhere between 1x and 2x his salary. Again, this is the performance of the firm, not the hours he puts in. He has never had to cancel a 7pm dinner since taking the role. His boss (not head of legal for the firm, but like the UK office GC) is on about £350k salary with same bonus scheme and gets additional benefits, easily adding up to £1m at least on a good year.

The highest bonus at my (private practice) firm is like 15% and you have to work crazy hours to get it. With his bonus, that 6PQE solicitor makes more than the bottom lockstep equity partners at my firm (and most City firms for that matter) which takes about 12-15 years to get to.

Oh, and your last sentence describes my own day-to-day experience, and that of every commercial solicitor at my level I talk to as well. Private practice is not glamorous.



Winning the lottery is sweet too. You’re seriously saying that a 6PQE can be making up to 600k and always finishes before 7. Come on bruh.

Old Guy


I’m not saying exactly what Forever Associate stated is completely true, but I did go (unsuccessfully) for a role like that at similar PQE which offered circa £150k salary plus potential 100% salary bonus if targets were hit by the fund. Plus other great benefits. The package was really attractive and it is the bonus that really makes such roles lucrative. But I cannot stress how rare such openings are and these are niche firms/funds not the major players. Often they hire people they know either from secondments or previous relationships, and as I said no one leaves partly due to the sweet nature of the gig and partly because exit options may not be so great as you cannot really transition to something else. They can also go bust and often your colleagues deal-side are snobbish (Oxbridge/LSE/Imperial/Continental Elite) who think they can do your job better than you and very money driven. But you will not be working past 7pm every night, although you will start earlier than in private practice.

Forever Associate


He got in at 4 PQE on a similar pay level you see at that level of these US firms. Firm made target that year so “back-office” bonuses were 70% . The firm had been hitting targets several years in a row so the 70% bonus was consistent. There’s healthy annual salary bumps (again, like the US firm level step-ups), and during Covid they initially were only going to give 30% bonus but ended doing way better than expected by year end so I think the bonus check will be at or near 50%. Beating target happens but not all the time. These are high performance organizations after all so goal posts will be lofty to begin with.

He’s worked late plenty of times, but not even remotely close to that of private practice. I’m jealous.


PE, funds, leveraged finance, restructuring, international arbitration, tax, FS (PE/M&E/funds) reg.


Common Sense Man with a Common Sense Opinion!

Imagine working for a firm named aftet FOREST GUMP!!!!


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