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Kirkland’s London MoneyLaw pay plunges as dollar weakens sharply

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Junior lawyers bemoan $190k+ dollar-pegged salaries

Junior lawyer pay at the world’s wealthiest law firm has plunged as the dollar slips against the pound, leaving some associates feeling short-changed.

Legal Cheek understands that some junior lawyers in the London office of US law firm Kirkland & Ellis have been less than impressed with their six-figure pay packets over the past six months or so. This is because salaries are pegged against the dollar and given plummeting USD to GBP rates, their pay is coming in less than some of their non-dollar pegged rivals, one source tells us.

Kirkland’s London newly qualified (NQ) rate is $190,000 which converts to just under £134,500, according to today’s exchange rate. But last summer, pay packets hovered around the £145,000 mark, Legal Cheek‘s Firms Most List shows.

The Covid bonuses that were apparently handed out to associates by the firm haven’t done much to dispel the discontent either, a source said. Legal Cheek understands those bonuses have been hit in the same way and the net result isn’t as great as it is at other firms.

“[It has become] hard to sustain the messaging that Kirkland & Ellis pays top of market,” an insider told us.

All this is apparently coupled with “seriously increased workloads” which are “seriously harming morale” at the firm.

The 2021 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

Lawyers across the City have experienced increased workloads as a result of the pandemic and move to remote working, particularly those specialising in private equity, which is a major practice area for Kirkland. Private equity continues to flourish amid the Covid-19 downturn and is reported to have held sway over the firm’s most recently disclosed financial results, which saw global revenue edge closer towards $5 billion (£3.5 billion).

Kirkland does have some of the longest working hours in the country, with trainees and junior lawyers averaging over 12-hour work days, according to our figures. They start work on average around 9:30am and finish close to 10pm. But this is true at other mega-paying US outfits in London whose juniors broadly report similar start and finish times.

And on matters of money, Kirkland lawyers in London remain among the highest paid in the City — even with a weak dollar. Kirkland still places high up our NQ pay league, among other US firms, and above all of the magic circle. It’s also worth noting that quite a few other US firms in London pay their associates dollar-pegged salaries so Kirkland’s lot aren’t alone in this regard.

Kirkland & Ellis didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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84 Comments

Tee Hee

@Kirkland Lambo Owners Association

(17)(0)

GoodWINNERS

Looks like you’ve got some catching up to do, lads. GoodWIN > Jerkland and Smellis.

(14)(5)

Fake Kirks Lads Have Gone Quiet 🤔

OMG just waiting for 1st year fresher now disguised as “Lambo Driving Deal Monster 4PQE Kirks Megabucks Topshot Lawyer”.

(31)(1)

Bob

They are now changing their names to “Honda Civic Driving Deal Monster 4PQE Kirks Megabucks Topshot Lawyer” after this latest news.

(44)(0)

Anon

Alex, if this is the only kind of story we’re allowed to comment on now, then this site is going to become very boring very quickly.

(25)(1)

Lambos of Berkeley Square

***URGENT***

Anyone know how to access the Covid Bounce-back Loan scheme asap??!

(18)(1)

help mi plz

iz Assbursts a good firm to work at as NQ???

(0)(2)

Milbanker

“It’s also worth noting that quite a few other US firms in London pay their associates dollar-pegged salaries so Kirkland’s lot aren’t alone in this regard.”

Exactly. So correct your salary list so that it doesn’t suggest that salaries at Kirkland are higher thank at, say, Milbank.

(19)(2)

Milgimps LLP

Rofl, how’s the boiler room treating you son?

(8)(1)

Anon

Goodwin salary is not pegged to the dollar

(5)(0)

Reality

To those uni students still under the delusion of mega bucks, assuming you have a student loan and 2pc pension contribution you’ll take home around £5.9k per month as an NQ at k&e. For that you can expect to lose every evening and most weekends and have your holiday plans cancelled at a moments notice. You’ll be draining around 2k on rent and bills alone to live in a small studio shack near the office. Personally I would have to receive a lot more $ to make those sacrifices.

(55)(18)

Alan

Good advice this. Get into something like pensions, insurance, employment, etc at a reputable city firm and do a 9-6/7 and get £4.5k after tax for your efforts. Much better deal.

(45)(15)

Copium

How to spot someone who has never been within 100m of any US firm office.

(24)(27)

Anon

“Personally I would have to receive a lot more $ to make those sacrifices.”

Not really relevant since a mental midget like yourself wouldn’t have a chance of being hired regardless. Remind me, when does your next term at Leeds start?

(10)(31)

Rational

It should be obvious this person has never worked a day in their life by the fact that they have assumed a 2% percent ensign contribution. Not only is that a pathetic amount, it’s also lower than the statutory minimum. Also, nobody lives in a 2k shack just to be near the office.

As usual, people commenting are wearing blinders and act like NQ salary is the only one that is relevant. How about making the same argument for someone earning £180k plus $50k bonus at 3pqe at these shops? Or £245k plus $100k bonus at 7pqe? These aren’t small differences. Of course there are sacrifices but the idea that you will not be significantly better off financially is ludicrous.

(28)(4)

Reality check

Not true , employers (including many firms) match well above statutory minimum contributions so 0pc is the lowest YOU can pay in – 2pc actually used to illustrate the highest net income you can expect as an NQ based on the firm contributing above average.

This wasn’t used to generalise what you can expect at all US firms but certainly what you can expect as a transactional lawyer at K&E (just speak to any of them employed over the past year). Add on the ostentatious spending habits and ending up with £1-2k per month in savings doesn’t justify losing all your free time and hairline.

(7)(3)

Rational

Name 1 US firm where you can pay in 0-2% into your pension.

The fact that some people have poor saving skills has nothing to do with the massive savings opportunity that the salary scale represents.

(7)(3)

Please Stop It

This comment is becoming the new “haha US associates earn so much more money haha.” If you want to make big bucks in law whilst working at a practice in London, your best bet is to work at a US firm.

Eventually, you’re going to have to head over the 6 figure mark and be subject to more taxation. This happens a lot earlier at US firms because, gasp, they earn more. You talk about it as if you never want to reach this point, and you’re going to stay at a lower salary forever to avoid higher taxation.

As has been pointed out many times, US firms have FAR more generous bonuses, and their pay increases faster. I can’t stress the second point enough. A senior associate/newly made partner will be on significantly more, possibly even double in some cases. An NQ at select US firms will be on a similar amount to a UK associate who has been qualified for a long while (6/8PQE).

Your point about student loans isn’t great, either. Those working at UK firms will end up paying back more in their student loans because it will take them longer to pay it off, and during this extended period, the debt will increase further due to the ridiculous interest rate on the loan. For example, someone earning 60k/70k as an NQ, with a slower salary progression, is probably in the worst position of everyone, as they’ll be paying back a lot, but not cutting it down much because of the interest rate. Those working at a US firm, if they choose to, have the option to pay it off faster.

Overall, you’re lucky to receive an offer from either a good US or UK firm and I doubt you have an offer from either. And if you’re telling me that if you received an offer from a firm like Kirkland or Lathams, and that you’d turn it down for these reasons, I don’t believe you. This bashing US pay is really boring, inaccurate, and reeks of jealousy. The people posing as Kirland NQs are equally boring.

(55)(2)

PP

Point is uni students think they will become extremely wealthy working at such firms. Reality is as a trainee you certainly won’t for 2 years and then as a junior associate you’ll be netting about £3-4K per month after taxes and rent etc. Is that worth losing all free time and health for?

(8)(1)

Anon

May I ask which university you go to/what firm you work at?

(1)(5)

Please

Well you can become wealthy working at such firms if you’re successful, stick it out, and manage your money well. And if anyone expects to become extremely wealthy as a trainee, and then early on as an NQ, that’s foolish in and of itself. That’s not the firms fault. There aren’t really any standard careers you can become extremely wealthy within 3 years of working. This includes investment banking (which commenters drool over even though the salaries are pretty similar to us law firm pay in early and mid career, and you work even harder.)

(1)(1)

FlourPour

Not just free time but free time in your twenties which are widely regarded as the best stage of life. Tinder is a different game when you’re pushing 30…

After slaving away at MoneyLaw for even a few years and nearing 30 you’ll find that many of your uni/trainee friends have moved onto something more chill and/or bought a place about an hour away from central so those nights out till 4am (not working) and bottomless brunches become much less common.

Then you realise that you’ve delayed gratification and made money for no good reason. £150k/year seems like a lot to a 23 year old but 5 or 6 years without free evenings or weekends in your 20s might seem more to the 34 year old when it’s the kids keeping them up till 2am instead of the rave.

(7)(11)

What are you on about

Yep, because people working in other U.K. law firms are ABSOLUTELY MENTAL LADS

Bored

We get it, you can’t hack it. No need to make the same comments on every post.

FlourSour

Love it when you see this guy in the comments of every Legal Cheek article. Either a fresher with no TC prospects or a trainee trying to convince themselves that they definitely aren’t bitter about not making it to a US firm.

Not many people go into US firms thinking they will stay there forever. You can qualify at 24 and enjoy a few well-paid years before leaving at 27 to go to a cushy but still well-paid job. From there on, you can enjoy working a relaxed 9-6 until retirement. Nobody is talking about being 34 working 16 hours a day. You can easily be on a nice 200k for 9-5 at 34 if you don’t care about partnership.

Gucci

Pensions contributions won’t be 2 percent. Probably something like 3-5 percent with the employer contribution another 6-10 percent. Depends on the firm though.

Also the posts where people are talking about senior associate and junior partner salaries at US firms are hilarious. Most trainees at these US firms will leave long, long before they get anywhere close to a 200k + bonus salary. Nothing wrong with that, but the idea that everyone is going to be making that kind of money is beyond ridiculous, barely worth talking about. Might as well talk about what kind of money MC partners make.

(4)(7)

Back at you

Most trainees won’t stay long enough at MC/SC to earn the senior associate salary. If they do, they’ll make what a US NQ does.

(9)(2)

State Schooler

I’m so angry about this rah ha rah mua (and other pretentious, and annoying noises made by privileged posh people)

(2)(3)

Anonymous

We happen to dislike the sound of your knuckles dragging, so it’s horses for courses I suppose.

Back at you back at you

Congrats for missing the point.

(Also someone who hangs on in an MS/SC firm and actually becomes a senior associate will make more money than someone who drops out of a US firm at 2PQE and does something else)

(0)(12)

Back at you

You don’t earn money for jobs that you aren’t employed in. Obviously. If you stick around at US firms you will be financially much better off than if you do the same elsewhere. But you seem to be obsessed with quitting, so you probably won’t make it through your TC.

Back at you back at you

Ah, so you’ve just ended up insulting people and making guesses as to whether they’ve quit and where they work.

The entire point is that US firms have much worse attrition than pretty much any UK firm (not referring to the busiest departments in MC/SC firms – they’re a distraction – I’m talking about the firm as a whole). So yeah, this ‘sticking’ around’ is much less likely to happen at K&E. Burning yourself out for 2 years’ worth of high income is not worth it.

Honestly, most people see US firms as a place where you make some dosh – probably enough to put down a deposit – and then leave. This weird assumption that everyone who trains at the best-paying US firms is actually going to stick around and continue to earn large amounts until 6-8 PQE is only made by Legal Cheek commenters i.e. uninformed children. Anyone with experience of these firms knows that most of the trainees are out by 2-3 PQE, and most of the laterals who come in at that stage are out by 4-6 PQE. So any difference in salary is limited to 2 or 3 years of very very hard work. Wowza.

lol go away sheeple

Is this coming from a US law firm NQ? or are you fanboying for a firm that doesn’t know or care about whether you exist?

(1)(1)

Anonymagic

From my experience & contacts, MC partners generally start out at around the £750-800k mark. Provided they keep grinding it out for a few years & make equity level (circa 12-15PQE), they can expect to net about £2-4m per year.

This of course does not account for annual bonuses which tend to range from 50-75% of one’s base earnings/profits.

(1)(33)

Bored

This is completely innacurate. MC Partners begin as salaried partners (much the same as K&E NSPs) and the market suggests that the salaries are about the same/slightly less (a recent MC SA just rejected partnership to move to K&E at NSP level). Also, the spread for equity at MC firms is broadly £500k-2.5m, you can find this info on Companies House and the lawyer. Please stop the misinformation, it’s boring.

(37)(2)

therealAnonymagic

It’s not Anonymagic. It’s someone impersonating her for some reason. Probably got mad and now spends time impersonating a stranger on here :_(

?

@therealAnonymagic

So you’re the real Anonymagic but speak about yourself in the third person?

nottherealAnonymagic

@? nope, I just know it is not Anonymagic as that is not her style of commenting 😉

therealAnonymagic down bad

Hope she sees this bro.

go away

What experience? You’re literally a student who only posts dumb questions and inaccurate things. Also what “contacts” lol.

(8)(0)

stop impersonating Anonymagic?

Someone really likes to impersonate Anonymagic for some reason… the more the merrier 🙂

(2)(1)

Anonymagic = VIP

Legal Cheek VIP status confirmed

Monty

You’re telling me there are established and well-known commenters who repeatedly use the same name as opposed to making something up each time?

malatrou

I personally view this as largely being paid a shed load of money to do boring as hell grim transactional work for rapacious clients – no thanks.

(6)(2)

Pauline

Aw, diddums. Whatever will they do?!

(3)(1)

Tell it like it is

Vast majority of US offices pay associates at a trailing or spot rate. Legal Cheek does not do enough on the lists page to reflect this and highlight the firms that pay in £ at a fixed rate such as V&E.

It makes a big difference to a lot of facets of life to be dependent on an exchange rate to determine your take home pay.

(6)(2)

€$¥£

To be fair, places like K&E set floors so that assocs can be confident their pay won’t fall below a certain amount. With that said, I’m happier to be on the arrangement at my firm which fixes the exchange rate annually. Sure, you run the risk of losing out on increases in performance of the dollar but I prefer the certainty.

(2)(0)

Question

Which firm is the best for getting money for your buck plus good work/life balance (e.g leaving 6 – 7)? cos fuck leaving at almost 10 everyday, what kind of life is that, don’t like law that much 😂

(11)(2)

Not sexy but true

Farrer & Co private client or rural property teams.

(5)(0)

Farrer's Interviewee 2020

The downside to that is that you have to work at Farrer’s. Shudder.

(7)(1)

Anon

There aren’t any. Unless your idea of “money for your buck” is making £75k in your 30s.

(3)(9)

Gertrude

Lol at you using “making 75k in your 30s” as an insult. It’s more than nearly 80% of the country earn

(43)(2)

FlourPour

Most of the less glamorous departments at the mid-tier firms will offer this. You’ll have to work until 10pm some days on corporate support bs or if it’s really busy but mid-tier tax, employment, commercial, private client, property departments will pay you 65-80k NQ and let you leave between 6 and 7 most days.

And with working from home now you can clock your hours and actually stick to your contractual hours. When I was a trainee in property I just had to wait around until 6:30ish for face time purposes when I had finished my work by 5. Trainees always work longer hours than necessary because they have to show they’re keen and need to be seen but that stops as an NQ if you’re not that bothered about climbing the greasy pole (which always requires uncomfortably long hours).

(3)(2)

Cantabeast

Nice. Now we finally know that you do in fact work at a C-tier regional firm. Makes sense given the comments you make on here.

(4)(1)

Alan

RPC

(3)(0)

Anonymagic

Wow, 16 dislikes already?

All I was doing was painting a broad picture of the current legal market in London and what current trends are at play & how it could progress in the future based on my experience as a former MC Junior Partner.

The audacity and naivety of those who are evidently students on here and making vain attempts to undermine my insightful comments is frankly unbelievable!

(2)(12)

Well what are you?

It’s reaching the point where I can’t tell if your account is a joke/meme account created to poke fun at clueless students, or if you actually are a clueless student

(1)(0)

nottherealAnonymagic

It’s not Anonymagic. It’s someone impersonating her for some reason. The real Anonymagic is a very knowledgeable professional so she would never comment something clearly so off.

(0)(0)

imitating sore person

Can confirm. This person was humiliated by Anonymagic with logic and is now imitating her. Very sorry scene…

(0)(1)

Anon

Good trolling lad. You have done really well to imitate the unfounded arrogance of a second-year law student who makes baseless claims after shaking hands with a MC trainee at a networking dinner.

I’m surprised that anyone is even falling for your bait. Even the most delusional students don’t think that a salaried partner at any firm (let alone an MC one) makes £800k.

(12)(0)

nottherealAnonymagic

Again, it’s not the real Anonymagic. Read the above comments please. Someone is apparently very mad at Anonymagic and is imitating her, posting with her tag for the past days.

(0)(3)

Anon

Anyone know which other firms peg their associate salaries to the US dollar?

(1)(0)

Not sure

Think Latham do, but calculate a 5year average. Could be wrong

(2)(0)

Anon

None of them take Leeds graduates so don’t stress yourself out over it.

(3)(4)

Leeds is actually good

Why the Leeds uni bashing? There are several MC/US lawyers and partners from that uni. It’s definitely a good institution

(0)(7)

Milbanker

Milbank fix a rate at the beginning of each year.

(5)(0)

rofl lmao

No one gives a flying tug mate. Now back to your gimpcage

(7)(4)

US lawyer

I fear for these students, they think ppl just suddenly earn 100k or more in 20s and 30s. Let me ask you this, what do your parents earn and that will answer your question. Earning 70k or more is an excellent salary, don’t be disillusioned.

(30)(2)

Not a good comparison

Not really a sensible comparison. In your mid 20s you are probably without much net worth and have not even signed on a mortgage yet. Earning north of 6 figures but might be “enough” and not that good money for this reason.

(0)(1)

Poopot

Literally the first sensible comment in this entire thread.

(3)(0)

Psitiboi

Is he talking 70k a month? Or is this someone from the North who has no idea what talented people earn in London?

(2)(6)

Anon

Is MoneyLaw whack life changing and if so how long is needed for it to be? Surely for the average state educated boy it will help advance stations, save more, etc.? Or is it just immaterial all things considered vs other careers. Genuinely interested in views.

(0)(0)

Future Trainee at Sullivan & Cromwell

Earning £80-90k post-tax is life changing for any 25 year old at Kirkland (or other MoneyLaw firm), no matter how much jealous spin-doctors at shite-tier firms try and spin it. To be honest, having Kirkland on your CV is life changing alone just for the exit-opportunities and contacts that you make.

(3)(2)

2PQE US firm

Earning 150k + per year does make the difference. If you are on a MC/silver circle salary you certainly cannot take full advantage of the pension allowance (40k per year not to mention the carry forward pension allowance for the previous three tax years).

(3)(1)

Dosh

US /MC firm comp per equity partner pales in comparison to what the top QCs at the commercial bar rake in

(3)(4)

Anonymagic

Not true. Exactly the opposite in fact without counting the fact that “top QCs” are a fraction of the number of highly-paid US/MC partners.

(0)(0)

Loadsadosh

Commercial QCs are not limited by lockstep and barristers in general have the advantage of actually being able to see their families.

(2)(0)

CrimbOna

Or there’s always the Criminal Bar.

You might only make £80K at 15 years call but you have fun doing it!

(2)(0)

Curiousboy

Any idea how much does a newly minted MC partner make?

(0)(0)

Anonymagic

Assuming you mean salaried partners, about 800k. Equity is a lot more. You can find the PEP online.

(1)(8)

Anonymagic fangirl

The above is not the real Anonymagic. The real Anonymagic would make a much more sensible comment.

(0)(1)

MC Pay lol

About 30k more than a Kirkland NQ. I’m not joking.

(6)(1)

Embarassing.

Big if true.

(1)(0)

Thank you Alex & LC for giving us The Lawyer info. Their subscription is too $$$

Expect Legal Cheek to put out an article on Milbank’s salary hike after recent announcement.

You heard it here first guys.

(2)(0)

Comments are closed.

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