Debevoise boosts London junior lawyer pay to £143,700

By on

NQ rises keep on coming

Debevoise & Plimpton‘s junior lawyers in London have been handed sizeable pay rises as US firms continue to splash the cash this side of the pond.

The New York headquartered outfit has upped the salaries of its newly qualified (NQ) associates from £134,800 to £143,700 — a rise of £8,900 or 7%.

More experienced associates have been handed fresh rises too. Those who qualified in 2020 receive an uplift of £10,600 to £145,400, while juniors with an additional year of experience under their belts now earn £152,500 — again an extra £10,600. Elsewhere, lawyers who qualified in 2014 will see their salaries increase by a hefty £17,800 to £248,300.

Secure your place: The Legal Cheek Summer 2021 Virtual Vacation Scheme

Legal Cheek‘s Firms Most List shows Debevoise offers around nine UK training contracts each year, with trainees earning a salary of £50,000 in year one and £55,000 in year two. It chalked up A*s for training and quality of work in our latest Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey, as well as As for peer support, perks and partner approachability.

Debevoise isn’t the only firm upping pay. A host of US firms have thrown extra cash at their stateside talent in recent weeks, with many — Milbank, Simpson Thacher, Sidley Austin and Vinson & Elkins, to name few — dishing out the same (or similar) rises to their UK contingents.

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Newsletter



Are we seriously getting a separate article for every US firm that does this?



After that that really isn’t too much at all. There is almost zero money in law. That is a London salary and to buy a decent townhouse in Kensington is going to cost you 8 figures these days. Even with salary increases it’d take decades.



Yeah, that is why I didn’t go in to law ultimately. I also need to spend quite a lot of money on custom trousers to accommodate my unusually large male member so I had to be on a 7 figure starting salary minimum.


Bantah & Harmony

Excellent, 10/10.



You’ll certainly trigger people with that comment.

A career at these firms will certainly make you financially comfortable. Earning hundreds of thousands a year gives you a standard of living considerably higher than 99% of the population.

However, that’s not true wealth. Yes you’ll have a very nice flat in a desirable location, but it will still be the size of a shoe box. People on here seem to think a career at a big law firm means they’ll be driving around in lambos but I can guarantee virtually no lawyers driver those kind of cars because it’s not financially sensible.

Ultimately, you’ll never have to worry about money again but you will never be truly rich.


US associate

Making partner at a US firm and bringing in a couple of million a year for 15 or so years and you’ll certainly have Lambo money. Yes, you’re not going to be hedge fund rich but certainly a multi million pound house and Lambo (if that’s you’re sort of thing) rich. Of course, the percentage of lawyers who end up earning that money is small, but then again, how many people who go into finance end up earning more? I’d argue just as small a percentage.



Has it always been like that? Seems almost pointless to enter a career where most leave within 3-5 PQE to either downgrade or move to another profession.

The fact that a significant proportion of partners in the City are salaried is shocking. I can’t imagine being beasted for 2 decades to end up on 300k with a ‘Partner’ title.


Inside joker

Quite right, Tilly. Some don’t even bother qualifying, having done a 2 year TC.

PE World

Can anyone shed some light on Debevoise in London?

Every person I encountered with knowledge of the firm always spoke highly of Debevoise. Apparently, everyone is incredibly smart but the environment is not aggressive at all but rather very collegiate. They only mentioned that it is a somewhat of a “posh” place to be.

I know their IDR is top-notch, and they also do some PE work? Would anyone consider transitioning to here from another top-rated IDR/PE US London shop?

Please no trolls. Genuinely curious about the firm in London and worldwide!



What is IDR?


Bombay Bad Boy

International dispute resolution



Internal Dispute Resolution


Obvious Comment

International Dispute Resolution


Sheffield Hallam PR Team

Back to your personal statement son, UCAS Clearing is opening soon.



Their corporate practice heavily focuses on PE/Private Debt investment management/fundraisings, which are less known in the UCAS world because they don’t grab as many sweet FT headlines but are, imo, much better than cookie cutter PE corporate deals from a career/professional perspective. No harm in cold-messaging junior associates on Linkedin if you’re truly interested.


NRF vac schemer

NRF raised to 98k





Financial Services Associate

Not sure why you’re laughing. NRF is one of the top firms in London (MC level ) and one of the top firms in the US. We have the same quality of work, the same, if not better lawyers and we don’t have to pay them as much because they love working here so much.


NRF Smells

The only people that think NRF = MC are people that work at NRF.


Long-term game

the question then becomes what salary progression they offer. Thing is, a senior associate at a US firm will be making £300k at 6PQE (year 8 on the US associate scale). The figure is a base of £250k + £50k bonus for hitting billables (and can go beyond).

How much does a very senior NRF associate make? £150k? That is literally half!


Not Actually Fat

NRF crappy bonus system too


Curious US NQ

White & case? Dechert? Rooes?



Is Rooes a top firm?


Not Actually US

Do those pay NY rates?



£130k, some of which was upped a few years ago, so yes…



Paying 130k at NQ does not equate to paying NY rates. As an NQ, you may not yet have a full idea of how salaries work as you get more senior, but by the time you are mid level at any of the firms you’ve listed, you’ll be earning quite a bit less than a mid level at eg Kirkland, Akin Gump, Latham, etc


Clapham omnibus ticket inspector

When doing the rounds this morning I overheard that Dechert has matched Davis Polk at $202,500 for this years NQs. However unsure if that will translate to the U.K. lot getting uplifts.


Bigger fish

*K&E associate has left the chat* again…



It doesn’t matter in a vacuum, stop being so money obsessed.

What matters is (i) practice area; (ii) how much you earn (associate); (iii) partner /in-house prospects and associated earnings.

Most of the NQ roles in US firms are in crappy transactional areas like structured finance, leveraged finance, high yield, securitisation, even M&A and restructuring. Those areas are usually dull as ditchwater, require very long hours, very client driven which means you have to be available to jump up and down all the time, and often have crap prospects (not M&A).

The burn out rate in those sorts of roles is high – you can be in them at a US firm or two for a few years, save some additional cash, but usually end up elsewhere, i.e. back at a UK firm. Exit options in finance are very poor generally except for banks doing more of the same and still pretty crappy hours.

After tax after killing yourself for a few years (say 3-4 as a junior), you’ll save a bit, but probably about 50-80k more than the MC, and save about 300k by 5 assuming you are in a minority who lasts that long.

Up until this latest set of pay rises, salaried partner at a US firm was about 270-300k, and full partner c.1mill, but your chances of getting made up are probably statistically less than 1%.

If you’re in an advisory area in a US firm, fair play.

Re Debevoise, it’s an OK firm. Bit tumultuous. Disputes partners and left for Lovells last year. Sacked off half its disputes team who disbanded elsewhere.

By the way, there are other ways to make as much, if not more money, in disputes than US, which don’t have critical mass to do anything, or are conflicted from taking half the stuff on.


City NQ

Any recommendations for a first-time lateral?
– 140k a year with premature burn out doesn’t really moisten my loins.

I was thinking of Silver C – or smaller like Stephenson H, Squires or Travers – anyone have any insight on these firms?

Do NRF and Bakers actually have the same annual targets as big-boi US firms / MC?



Perhaps temper your expectations and have a glance at Bristows, Stewarts, Kennedys.



On what basis is the chance of getting made up less than 1%? That seems very low given the associate to partnership ratios at many of these firms, even account for a high churn rate of associates.



You don’t appear to have worked in one of these firms but are a student who has made up his or her mind browsing a couple of law firm websites.

Associates go in-house or move to smaller shops. Some become partners at smaller shops. The 1% – and it is less than that – is a guesstimate of your chances of becoming partner at a US firm. Most US firms have almost all of their partners lateral in based on market reputation and their business case, some rarely make up their own. It happens.

You can find most of the market reputed partners in Legal500. There aren’t many even across all practice areas.

Becoming partner is a crap gig for the most part especially at a US firm.

Yes, if you want to become partner in a lower tier firm and earn less than you did as an associate, your odds greatly increase.



This is actually BS. Your chances of getting made up at Kirkland once you’re 6 years qualified, assuming you’re good and stick around long enough, is 100%. Yes, they’re NSPs, but it’s still a ‘Partner’ title and a springboard to further progression at that firm, a lateral move, or a move to a good in-house position.

Similarly with other US firms, assuming you’re (1) good, (2) able to stick around long enough and (3) in a team that’s growing or in any case has the capacity to make up new partners, you will most likely get made up.

I’m at the stage where I’m seeing people I trained with pop up all over the place with partner or counsel titles. The vast majority of people I trained with have stayed in law, mostly in private practice. Some have bounced around from job to job and, if you’d had to guess who those people would be early on in the TC, you would have got it right.

This isn’t a game of dice or a random probability game. If you are good and stick at it, you’ll start getting the positive hints at appraisals around the mid-level and eventually a promotion. If you’re thinking of things in statistical terms rather than based on what you are happening to friends and colleagues around you then it probably is time to do something different.



You are not who you say you are. You are not an associate. You haven’t worked at K&E.

K&E is one firm in the market which is well known for promoting everyone to salaried partners. It cans a lot of associates after 3-5PQE. Partners were on before the recent raises 300k. It is a token role. It is not a springboard to further progression. No one gets made up. The equity is tighter than a butt’s duck. Kirkland is probably the worst example in the market of “further profession”.

US firms sack off a lot of associates after 5PQE. Too expensive, clients don’t want to pay nearly 1k an hour, and they need juniors to churn and burn. The ratio of juniors and mid levels to seniors is extreme.

They promote very very few to salaried partners and fewer still to equity, if any ever. And you don’t get there by turning up to work; you need to have a formal business case, have a coalition of partners in London backing it, AND you need to get vetted and have approval from the US, including meeting various partners. Equity you need to have a book of business.

There is no way on God’s green earth you are an associate.

Line by line

Taking your sentences in turn:

Wrong, wrong, right.

Right, probably right, I don’t know, that’s harsh, of course it’s a springboard (just look at how many ex K&E NSPs are scattered across the city in leadership roles, wrong (technically although the sentiment is correct), right, probably right.

Right (although they do their best to propel them into good in-house roles where they’ll be a source of work), wrong if you’re good at your job and can still add value at those charge out rates, debatable and depends on the firm.

Overblown and therefore wrong, obviously right, obviously right.


Lambo Mambo

Go back to your Norton Rose blockchain work little cretin. Leave the big money to the big boys.


Fresher Watch Ltd.

Calm down and take your meds son, supper won’t be long now.


Forever Associate

What I am waiting for is some serious investigative journalism on the pay rates of NQ – 5 (if not more) PQE for all the firms on the Most List. Transparency is needed, especially as the model of salary progression for the first 5-10 years of a UK lawyer’s career does not appear to be uniform across firms.

I know for a fact that at some of the City firms mentioned on the Most Lists of paying NQs ~£75k still pay less than £90K base at 5PQE, which I think a lot of potential applicants on this site would be surprised to hear about.

Almost all of this data for the lockstep annual pay increases is available in the USA for lawyers. Yet we only get NQ data and drip fed rumours about pay at various associate levels at one or two firms.



Been looking for this as well. If more people added their salary data to that Third Way tool ( it might become more useful.

What are people seeing as annual % increases post-NQ? At my place it’s sometimes been less than inflation…


Comments are closed.

Related Stories