Gibson Dunn tops London NQ lawyer pay table with 12% boost to £161,700

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Also rises for juniors at Simpson Thacher and Covington & Burling

US law firms Gibson Dunn, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Covington & Burling have handed fresh pay rises to their junior lawyers in London.

Gibson Dunn has moved rates for newly qualified (NQ) lawyers in the City from £145,000 to £161,700, according to an internal memo seen by Legal Cheek. That’s an extra 12%.

The Legal Cheek Firms Most List shows Gibson Dunn’s NQs are now the highest paid in the City, surpassing their counterparts at Goodwin Procter who previously topped the table with a salary of of £161,500.

The 2022 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

Gibson Dunn recruits around seven trainees into its London office each year.

Those further up the ladder have also been handed rises, with base rates for associates with one and two years post qualification experience (PQE) now sitting at £169,200 and £188,000. Those at three PQE will receive £221,800. The uplifts are retroactive to 1 January 2022, according to the memo.

Elsewhere, NQ lawyers at fellow US outfit Simpson Thacher will now earn a hefty £158,000. Salaries at one and two PQE have moved to £166,000 and £183,000 respectively, while those at four PQE will receive nearly a quarter of a million pounds (£245,000). The rises are backdated to 1 January 2022.

Finally, Covington & Burling has upped the salaries of its London NQs from £129,000 to £151,000, a rise of 17%. Salary bands at one and two PQE now sit at £158,000 and £171,000. Again, these apply retroactively from 1 January 2022.

Our Firms Most List shows Covington offers nine UK training contracts each year with a starting salary of £48,000.

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US pay war is boring at this point (I’m sure not for the NQs who would have gone there anyway, but for the rest of us). Can’t help but feel this is to price people out of ever being able to leave without too much of a financial hit and distract from their terrible ethical responses. Who cares that the US firms are paying more? It affects so few people and is only relevant to those who would have made the move there anyway. Pointless.



Everyone cares really because of the trickle down economics of the NQ salary market (unless you are OC or Dentons).



I don’t want my firm to adopt the US model though, which is what will eventually have to happen if UK firms keep having to increase salaries too. More focus needs to be put on retaining mids to seniors – it’s becoming embarrassing that the salary difference keeps thinning to offer unproven lawyers nearly £162k.

I enjoy the support and infrastructure in place outside of the US model, and don’t want to be pigeon-holed to work with one horrible partner or work longer hours because of both higher billable hours AND more work for non-billable due to lack of support (which is what colleagues who have returned to my firm have said about US).

US model works for them, not everyone, and should be seen as a completely different structure to UK ‘competitors’.



Who said the US model is being adopted by anyone outside of US firms?



Well I work in HR and reduction in support staff etc. would be needed to continue raising salaries at the rate of US firms. This would mean a change to our support and infrastructure to more closely mirror US firms. So me, I say it.


‘Ethical response’? Are law firms churches?



Yes, in that law firms are as unethical as the church.


gd&c M&A 2pqe

If you were a stronger associate you could come join us O:)


haha 🍳🍳

as if GD’s second rate Corporate M&A team is even remotely selective about who it hires

half the firm is made up of Nottingham graduates m8



US law firms understand that they need to pay market rates to retain the best talent. MC and SC increased revenue and PEP in 2021 but refuse to match US salaries in London due to greed.



They can’t afford to match, their PEP is under half what US equity partners make. They are more concerned about losing partners to US shops than associates.



Really? Compare Macfarlanes PEP with some of the US firms paying top dollar



Goodwin (the second highest uk firm) is literally lower than macfarlanes and only marginally higher than MC.

Uk firms can afford


Apple In-House NQ

Goodwin isn’t a UK firm you prawn.



I’m at Oxford doing Law now in a special programme called Senior Status, which is for people that have already done an undergrad degree but want to do the legal qualification at Oxford instead of doing a GDL (Cambridge offers this too).

Anecdotally almost everyone would rather work for a US firm, where you work similar hours but get paid 50% more than at the MC. It seems like the top of the market (Oxbridge Law degrees) will be choosing US firms in London. The MC has firmly lost this talent war.


Christ Church

Senior Status Law degrees are notoriously easy to get into so cannot be compared to Oxbridge undergrad LLBs.



they are literally the same degree as they’re also undergrad LLBs but are completed in two instead of three years



Absolutely. You are only Oxbridge if you were an undergraduate at Oxford or Cambridge. Nobody is fooled by those who try to launder non-Oxbridge degrees via post-graduate Oxbridge courses.



I would say the BCL is an exception . That is a very challenging course and seen some excellent graduates from other universities.



I am on my chambers’ pupillage committee. We have an Oxbridge-only policy. LLB (Bristol), BCL (Oxon) is not considered Oxbridge. You would still be classed as Bristol. And binned.


Just in response to ‘Bar’ I am on the pupillage committee of a ‘magic circle’ set and would not want anyone who does not have an Oxbridge degree to think that this is a condition precedent at at least one leading set. It is just too fact specific.

Of course you realistically would want to have a first (and we increasingly look at rankings in one’s cohort as a decent reference point) or some seriously good mitigation, and many candidates do go on to do post-graduate studies at Oxbridge (or US LLMs) which blurs the distinction, but where you got your initial degree (presuming it is a leading(ish) university) is much less important than the quality of it. Better to come top of your year in Nottingham than scrape a first from Christchurch…


Agreed. The BCL is full of second rate people from places like Nottingham who try to launder their degrees. Such people are not as bright as those who were Oxbridge undergraduates – if they were, they’d have got into Oxbridge as undergraduates. My tutor was quite open in his views on post grads at Oxford: he thought they were second tier intellectually to those who had studied there as undergraduates.


The BCL is not an exception. It is far easier to get on the BCL course than to secure an undergraduate place. I did the BCL after graduating from Oxford, and I and the other Oxford grads were amazed at the stark lack of quality of those on the BCL course who had not been Oxbridge grads. I made this observation to one of the BCL tutors. He agreed, and said that non-Oxbridge BCL students were simply not as clever as those doing the BCL who had graduated from Oxford or Cambridge, and they would not have got in to read law at undergraduate level.



BCL students who did their undergraduate somewhere other than Oxbridge are not inferior. That story involving the tutor is the most ridiculous piece of fiction I’ve read in a while. You can see the top performing students for a number of years on the BCL here:
Spoiler – they didn’t all study undergraduate at Oxbridge.
This also only shows the top performing students each year. Students from other universities do fine on the BCL and will out perform many who studied at Oxbridge. This isn’t sixth form, shut up.

I wrote earlier that the above story was the most ridiculous piece of fiction I’ve read in a while. However, this was trumped by another poster saying that their pupillage committee has an ‘Oxbridge only policy’. That also didn’t happen. That would never happen. It’s ridiculous.

Jesus Christ this website is full of insecure oddballs.


A lot of BCL students are international degree holders dimwit who couldn’t have afforded undergrad tuition but were able to get one of the many BCL scholarships. Your comment reeks of elitism.


Don’t know whether to laugh or be offended at this comment. As a international student currently on the BCL with an undergraduate law degree from a different jurisdiction – some of the most brilliant people I have met here didn’t study their undergraduate law degree at Oxford or at Cambridge or even in the UK (including many of the top professors!) Of course, not everyone on the BCL is equally good + people who studied their undergrad at Oxbridge are more accustomed to the academic style preferred at these institutions. But about half the BCL class gets a distinction each year and a huge number of those students did not study their undergrad degree at Oxbridge.

Even a moment’s glance at the Vinerian scholars list shows that at least every other year the top student on the BCL is someone who studied their undergraduate degree abroad (including Lord Hoffman who was at the University of Cape Town and then did the BCL!) – this sense of superiority from being an ‘Oxbridge undergrad’ is laughable at best and despicable at worst.

Lincoln’s Inn

My chancery set basically has an Oxbridge people only policy. We take the view that anyone else is a risk which we don’t need to take. Sure, someone from Bristol might be as good at the job as a Cambridge graduate, but as self-employed practitioners paying a lot of money by way of pupillage awards, we should not and do not need to take that chance.


Also Lincoln’s Inn

My chancery set does not. I would be very surprised if the above was true.

kit kat

why are you losers arguing about the BCL on a thread about GD&C


Average LC comment war enjoyer

ngl it’s quite fun to watch ’em go at it


Exactly. Genuinely don’t see how the MC can compete at this point without upping salaries – why work for the MC when you can make marginally less money at Silver Circle firms and work less, or far more money at US firms for the same hours?



You make it sound like they will all walk into US firms on graduation



All that I can take from your post is that MC firms will be spared the most obnoxious candidates

what a shame



you could have written this in one sentence instead of five… guess you’re not getting past the app sift lmao


Reality's knocking

“special degree” – not really, it’s just a senior status law degree, many universities offer one (google ‘MA Law’)

“top of the market” – again, not really, most of the people who do it are washed up humanities graduates from lesser universities who don’t know what they’re doing with their life and need to buy time – chances are that you couldn’t get into Oxbdidge for a Juris undergrad

I think that you’re in for a rude awakening when you realise that even the toppest of the very top US firms don’t hire solely (or even remotely) based on university degrees! Best of luck in your efforts to find a TC


US Associate

People are so ruthless and elitist behind the veil of anonymity lol. No need to shame the guy – not to mention they’re probably right that generally speaking undergraduates these days would prefer to go to a US firm. Sounds like the writers here themselves didn’t get into Oxbridge law and really don’t like hearing about other people who claim to have…


CC Insider

You might change your mind if/when you actually get into one. We’ve had several people jump ship to US and want to return (and have done) not long after. Grass is not always greener and those high pay packets come at a cost, no matter what students on Legal Cheek tell you.



Turning their tail from the K&E Ship only because they realised what a volume shop it is. I wouldn’t say that’s saying much.


Bar Course Student

Genuine question — assuming NQ pay pushes 200k (after bonus) is there still any pecuniary benefit in going to the comm Bar? Asking for a friend


Jack Reaper

Hell yeah – just compare hourly rates/typical workloads.

Also your salaries will still be as high after the next recession!


Solicitor 4 now

Agree, also interested…


Follow up

Six and two threes. Solicitors get a pension, stable regular monthly salary, don’t need to chase people to pay them, have a team and support network, holidays etc. : but you can do very very well at the (especially commercial) bar financially. Have to choose what feels right to you based on your knowledge of and preference for the types of work the different sides of the profession do; the pay; and the working conditions.


Also Lincoln’s Inn 7 year call

If you are talented, lucky with clients, and at a half decent chancery set, you will bill £200k within 3 years, £300k in 5 years and £400k in 7 years. This is all gross before expenses and tax.

Top tier commercial sets will be higher.

The market for talented barristers under 10 years’ call is booming


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