MoneyLaw war reignites as Milbank raises London NQ lawyer pay to $200,000

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Weaker dollar obscures effect of rises in UK — but salary battle is back with a bang! 💥

US law firm Milbank has fired the starting pistol on a fresh salary war, increasing newly qualified (NQ) solicitor pay to an eye-popping $200,000.

Milbank this week announced salary rises for all associates, ranging from $10,000 to $15,000, depending on class year. The rises are effective from 1 July 2021.

NQ lawyers in the firm’s London office, who were previously on $190,000 (roughly £134,000) will earn an extra $10,000, to hit a whopping $200,000. This puts its City lot on a very impressive pay packet of just over £141,000, using current exchange rates.

Lawyers of two and three years post-qualification experience (PQE) have been handed raises of the same amount, whilst fourth-year associates and above will receive an extra $15,000, bringing the high-end of the scale to $355,000 — or just shy of £251,000 this side of the pond.

The pay increase comes about three years after Milbank in 2018 triggered the last associate pay war, when it bumped associate pay to $190,000.

Scott Edelman, partner and chair of Milbank, said: “Our associates have been working harder than ever, and it has been three years since we increased salaries. We thought it made sense to recognise their efforts with a salary increase.”

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A flurry of US law firms have already begun to match Milbank’s 2021 scale, with McDermott Will & Emery and Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft among the first to confirm they will chuck the same increases at their lawyers.

An uncharacteristically weak dollar obscures the effect of rises in the UK, making it tricky to calculate the true value of the pay boosts. Some US firms in London peg their associate salaries to the dollar, which fluctuates, while others use a USD to GBP spot rate or have a fixed Sterling sum they pay out.

Milbank’s London lawyers aren’t short of cash. In March, the firm awarded its associates with special spring bonuses of up to $64,000 in recognition of their endeavours throughout the coronavirus pandemic. They also received “special one-time bonuses” of up to $40,000 last autumn.

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Akin PUMP, BBC Deal Monster

So? Who cares. Our shop is determined to give us an hour off on Sunday. This level of work-life balance can’t be expected at mid-market dumpster bins like Milibank and Co.



lol at Milbank being mid market when it has been leading the market for associate pay for years. imagine having to tell people you work at a firm that sounds like forrest gump started a high street conveyancer. Matter of fact I doubt you even work at akin dump since your misguided comment is something only a first year llb from exeter could come up with.



Liked but only because LOL at forrest gump comment



Megacash – god help the magic circle firms if the exchange rate turns and the USD appreciates – will be (even further) carnage. Mass exodus already just around the corner with MC bonuses payable in the next month or so. As a current MC mid-level, the training is better, and the people in my team are lovely, but this pay-gap is too big to ignore.


Anonymoose MC Mid

The pay gap is about to become a lot smaller. Still a big gap, but not as big.



Not sure why the thumbs down in the next few days you will see some pretty hefty pay rises being announced in the MC.



Sterling could also keep appreciating against the $ which would mean relative pay keeps going down. Most commenters on here probably too young to remember the 2/1 exchange rate of 2007/8



Think back to what the pay difference was in those circumstances. Still massive. The US firms won’t allow a situation to occur in which they are beaten on compensation.



US interest rate pressure is higher than UK interest rate pressure. The likely trend is to a weaker pound relative to the dollar not a stronger one. We can remember $1.07 to £1 as much as the $2 plus days…

Living in the UK and being paid in dollars is a mugs game for low earners such as law firm associates when volatility just means extra risk without much by way of room for variation in disposable income.





Cor blimey geezer mate

Blimey mate, gonna work them proper! 🥵


MC Banking NQ

Genuinely frustrating seeing our counterparts at US firms having a base salary of close to/over 50% more than us, even as we’ve been beasted all year. I’ve personally billed 500+ hours in 2021 Q1, and know many others who hit close to 600. Freshers here should stop buying into the BS that grad rec pumps out – the ‘better work life balance’ at MC firms is NOT worth the 50% less pay.



Then move then..y complain


Dump the Akin Pump

Because he’s really at NRF which he thinks is “MC” and recruiters aren’t returning his phone calls.



NRF is MC in all but name, I’m telling you. Anyone who actually works in the Coty knows this.


Lateral market is exploding

Leave then , only reason to stay at an MC firm is if you’re getting a better balance than you would at US.



You aren’t our counterparts, lets get that straight kiddo.


A&O the Banking King

Don’t think uni students fully appreciate how shit your life will be at a firm like this. There’s a reason you get paid a lot and it isn’t because the hours reflect the bs on LC’s website.



Careful speaking like that to your superiors, lad. Enjoy making half my salary you US reject.



And the alternative is to work where? The MC? Where we’ll have to work for the same hours, for half the pay, and a quarter of the bonus’? Yeh, no thanks. I’ll stick it out for a few years, max out my pension payments, lateral to a meme firm as a partner, or move into a cushy in-house role where i’ll still be making 6 figures. You can stay at A&O, i’m sure you’ll make partner by 40 champ.


A&O the Banking King

This notion that you work the same hours as these US firms is just a straight lie. I don’t have to sacrifice virtually every weekend and all of my holidays to work and nor do other MC firms 365 days a year but you wouldn’t know this LLB grad, would ya? Back to your virtual bright network insight schemes.



Max out pension payments? What use is money when you’re 60 and either asset rich or dead , need it now



When do you plan to live your life?


King of Cope

Why is this goober always commenting on every article with this hippy work-life balance bs? News flash bud. Not everyone is a weak-willpowered brainlet who can’t handle the City.

Pay attention law students. You don’t want to end up like this sadcase who has to constantly try and convince himself that he was right to settle for a C-tier firm where he won’t make £100k before his 30s.


go away

big words coming from a second yah exeter lad who got rejected from all of his vacation schemes


The smart ones aren’t grinding every waking hour for 150k/year, they’re paying a mug to do that work for them.

US corporate associate

Really intrigued how the likes of Allen & Overy and co react to this move. Just been across them on a transaction and they were first class and permanently available, so really don’t see how the product differs.

Near impossible to see how A&O / FBD / etc will hold onto their best talent when the competition pays their NQs more than the MC pays their senior associates. At 5PQE+ it’s not even comparable. Easily 2X+ after bonuses.

But I hear it’s increase / bonus season for those guys now, so let’s see – maybe their partners come through for them this year?



Don’t L&W, K&E, Vinson and Akin earn more though according to their NQ salaries?



No, because these firms salaries are pegged to the dollar (and LC insist on publishing out of date or incomplete information ie loads of firms not mentioned on their NQ Most List) but all US firms will match the $200,000 to attract and retain the best talent.


Peg man

V&E is not pegged.


Mr V&E

Yes I have been and would do it again.


Out of date

No, Legalcheek doesn’t update properly. The £145k on the most list reflects old exchange rates.



I believe my shop is a top shop, but at 1 PQE the pay is actually £138,500. Shitty fixed exchange rate



The Milbank exchange rate is 1.39 for the rest of the year, so the NQ salary is now £143,884 not £141k. Well done legalcheek for being incorrect from day 1.



Do US firms actually care about A level results?



Depends what university you went to.



The fact that you are asking this question means you wont get in



US firms tend to look for personality types that are confident self starters, able to work on their own initiative and extremely responsive to clients requests



And that is the reason why they are a good option for a lot of people provided you don’t pick a 20 person London office one. Leaner teams, access to the more interesting work earlier on, fewer levels of hierarchy staffed on matters and, to be honest, the market and client demand is only going in one direction for work like PE, funds, etc.



You will be worked like a mad man/woman. Be prepared for that. I’m talking cancelling holidays, weekends, birthdays. But hey, you get paid a lot



You’ve never worked at a US firm. Very good imagination though.



If you cancel your holidays and work all your weekends, then the chances are that you’re a workaholic who would be like this at basically any firm in the country. I work at a transactional department of a US firm, and whilst there are a good number of people like that, I also met similar people doing real estate at a regional office of a fairly crap firm that I did a vacation scheme at.

Weekends are generally respected, and if you’re working on one it’ll probably be because you want to minimise the amount you’ll work on Monday, or because you took Friday afternoon/evening off to go to the pub. Similarly with holidays; I’ve almost never seen associates cancel holidays, even when they fall during intense periods of transactions.

There’s a lot of nonsense talked about US law firms. Yes the hours are long and the expectations of constant availability are there. But it really isn’t the torture-fest it’s sometimes described as, and if you’re in your mid-20s without any serious commitments and have the stamina for it, it’s by far the easiest way to make life-changing sums of money early on in your career



I can envision Milbanks $200,000 NQ salary being topped by other US players in the next few days



I can envision Milbank then matching those increases.


The salary war is just getting started baby.

Davis Polk, Baker McKenzie, Dechert, Proskauer, and McDermott have all raised theirs to $202,500.

Cleary Gottlieb and Gunder have raised theirs to $205,000.

Should be interesting to see the developments in the next few days. These raised have all been sparked by Milbanks and have occurred in such the last few hours.


Whoops, slightly inaccurate.

Cleary Gottlieb and Gunder have matched the $202,500, not raised it sorry. The $205,000 is for their 2020 intake not their 2021 intake.



Davis Polk just upped NQ salary to $202,500. It’s going to escalate quickly!


Cool, but.

Milbank absolutely beasts its people (source: SO and friend both work their, one as an associate and former trainee, the other as a paralegal) to degrees unimaginable at MC firms. The extra pay is well worth it. The only mugs in this game are those in the ECM and LevFin teams at MC firms who are working similar hours for similar clients for less pay. The cushy departments at MC firms have a much better work/life and are probably not even part of the same market any more. Better hours, worse pay. It’s a two-tier system.



“ Milbank absolutely beasts its people…to degrees unimaginable at MC firms”
“ those in the ECM and LevFin teams at MC firms who are working similar hours”

Nothing like joined up thinking. Milbank hours aren’t unimaginable at MC firms but the pay definitely is.


Cool, but.

Again, you assume that everyone at MC firms (a) works the hours the very busiest corporate/finance teams work and (b) works these hours consistently with no break or respite over the course of the entire year. This is what makes them unimaginable.

I do appreciate that I am talking to a child here but it would be nice if those who had no experience stopped trying to come back with witticisms and poking holes and addressed the point head on.



You’re talking to a Milbank associate. Where do you work?

Plenty of people have moved here from MC and work similar hours, in some cases even working fewer. Maybe you should increase your sample size beyond an associate and a paralegal. I haven’t assumed that “everyone” at MC firms works the hours that corporate/finance teams work, nor do I have to. Of course they don’t. I’ve simply stated the fact that some people at MC work similar hours, therefore rendering Milbank’s hours not unimaginable. It’s not a small number of people, either. In any case, the appropriate comparison between Milbank and MC is in fact between the busiest finance teams because that is the area within which Milbank specialises.



How do you even date someone who works 70 hour weeks regularly? I guess you’re at a similar kind of firm and just see each other on the weekends.


Divorced Already

Typically either you met as students (Uni, LPC, Erasmus) and carry on when working, or as you say you are both working long hours and it is basically an arrangement of equals, or one (normally the lady) works a less demanding job and earns far less so the other one (normally but not always the guy) has a gold-digger on his hands.



Surprisingly good increases at CC today



“Please sir, can I have some more”





Schidiz Panz

I considered a career in this sector but was scared that the effect on my life and mental health would outweigh the benefits.

I now work in Legal Aid.


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