Davis Polk joins City pay war with £160k NQ salary

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Firm hikes trainee pay (again!), as does Gibson Dunn

Davis Polk & Wardwell has joined the City pay war with a 8.5% salary rise for its newly qualified (NQ) solicitors in London.

Legal Cheek can reveal the US firm has increased NQ base pay from £147,500 to £160,000.

The pay bump means Davis Polk is joint third when it comes to which law firms pay their juniors the most, matching the remuneration on offer at Fried Frank. At £161,700, Gibson Dunn is the highest paying law firm at NQ level, but only by £200, as Goodwin Procter follows close behind with £161,500.

The 2022 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

Below is a list of the top five NQ salaries currently available:

FirmNQ Rate
Gibson Dunn£161,700
Goodwin Procter£161,500
Davis Polk & Wardwell£160,000
Fried Frank£160,000
Vinson & Elkins£159,500

Davis Polk has also increased trainee solicitor pay by 4%. Year one rates have increased from £57,500 to £60,000, while year two rates, which went up to £62,500 only back in October 2021, are now £65,000. Weil Gotshal is the only other firm to offer these same rates, our 2022 Firms Most List shows.

Gibson Dunn, meanwhile, has thrown extra cash at its most junior lawyers in London. Year one trainee rates have increased from £50,000 to £55,000, whilst those a year ahead will see their salaries rise from £55,000 to £60,000. These rises of 9% and 10%, respectively, are effective this month, according to an internal memo seen by Legal Cheek.

As of last month the firm pays the highest at NQ level so it was only a matter of time it matched trainee market rates.

LPC and GDL maintenance grants were also recently boosted by 17% from £9,000 to £10,500 at the firm.

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I have a friend who has just joined Goodwin – I won’t be seeing him again for a while.

I don’t think anyone should begrudge the pay at these firms before they try and actually do the hours – it is physically and emotionally sapping, and you get ruthlessly sandbagged when you slip up. That’s why you get paid more than the PM at 25.


Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares

If you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen



These comments are as boring as the article.
Yes, and I’ve got a friend who works at the MC and I haven’t seen him in a while. He has to book off his weekends, and when he doesn’t, he has to work through them. One of the partners in his team embarrassed him over a group email – he showed me the email and it wasn’t pretty.
I’ve also got friends working at other large city firms which aren’t in the (useless) US/MC/SC category. How hard do they work? Very hard. Do they have their evenings free? Most of the time, no.

Honestly, if I wanted to work for a few years in city law, would still go US.



I worked at an MC firm before going US. Can confirm it’s a complete myth that you’re having a good work life balance at the MC and slaving away all hours in a US firm.

Really depends on the firm, the team and specifically the main partners you work for. I’m lucky as I’m now working fewer hours and weekends and find it easier to take holiday. There is some truth to the line that the MC involves working US hours on Silver Circle pay!



Out of interest, what area of practice are you in?


2 PQE at MC

This sounds a little tenuous…

“Booking off” weekends? 2 PQE at the largest MC firm and have never heard of such a thing. Yes, you will have to work some weekends and many evenings, but the starting point is weekends are free – not subject to scheduling time off.

Name and shame can happen, but reeks of poor practice and not something a decent partner would do.

In reality, there is little to no difference between the hours at a MC and US firm. The main difference is cultural and financial. Many are happy to work very hard for very high reward.



I know for a fact that 2 MC firms have a system where you need to inform them if you need your weekend to be ‘free’. If you don’t say anything to ‘book it off’, then if they send you work, you’ve got to do it.
So if you planned to, for example, go away for a weekend break, you would need to book it off. The original poster is correct in that regard.


names please

Which firms? A&O and CC don’t have this system as far as I know.

LL Assoc

Linklaters doesn’t have this either (maybe the PE team have done it before informally?), and I am fairly certain the other two don’t.

Smacks of something that happened to someone for one team during one particularly horrendous deal, and they’ve extrapolated that out to the whole MC like a dumbass fresher.


Can confirm this isn’t FBD.


Difference is size. If you’re in a team on 40-50 associates as in MC then it’s much easier to get people to cover for you and say no to work as others can take it on. In a lean team you have to do whatever comes in which is how you get swamped when market is hot.



This is true. In addition, with a team with a decent number of partners you can play them off against each other – one will try to make sure you’re not swamped on another partners matters, so that you are able to properly commit to their matters.



Which firm, which team? These places are big enough that it shouldn’t compromise anyone’s identity to disclose that at least.


Freshers need to stop posting on here

anon sounds like a fresher who’s making up friends

how… fresher of them



I think this is very much team specific, with the US firms more likely to have teams that operate in this fashion.

I’m a senior associate in the MC, in the last three years chargeable hours approx 2200 year 1, 2000 year 2, and looks likely to be around 1850 this year – and I believe I have been one of the busier lawyers in my team. Fewer hours is definitely partly due to getting more senior, NQ – 2 PQE work the hardest; but also the team has expanded drastically to try and cut the number of hours being worked by each individual as it was recognised by the partners that 2000+ hours per lawyer was unsustainable.

I have had senior colleagues suggest I need to do a few less billables to focus on some non-billable work; i have not once in three years had anyone say I need to do more billables. In fact, if I wanted to do 1600/1700 and not put myself forward for certain matters I could probably get away with it. There certainly are people in the team doing those sorts of hours.

I have NEVER heard of anyone in my firm (regardless of team) having to book off weekends. In fact, the only team I have heard that does this is at a US firm with a fairly small presence in London.

Saying that, there are clearly teams in my firm that are so busy that the above is not reality for them. If I was a lev fin / pe lawyer in 2022, i’d rather be at a us firm getting beasted than at my firm getting beasted for half the money. It is a bit of a vicious circle – people leave as money/hours ratio is not good, hours get worse as less people to do the work, struggle to recruit as money isn’t as good as US, more people leave.

Fact is, I like my job and I don’t feel hard done by in terms of money/hours. Sure I could double my money going to a top paying US firm, but then I run the risk of working for one of the psychopaths to which your refer …


MC Associate

This is by far the most sensible comment in here, completely matches my experience. Hours targets are lower at the MC – that’s a simple fact that the “lambo model girlfriend lol” kiddy crew don’t know or understand.


Slaughters Trainee

Slaughters have a system where you can book off weekends in advance.


Slaughters privilege

Slaughters increased their NQ salary. What is it



Cool story Bob, why dont you tell us what you had for breakfast too?



Alpen, was pretty good.



Weil seems to be falling into the magic circle practice of promoting headline trainee and NQ salaries and then providing extremely meager raises (falling far behind the scale followed by the top US firms) for mid level and senior associates; steer clear if you plan to remain in private practice.



Who are you to make such a statement? NQ salary is 145k (not including bonus). You do know 3 pqe are on 170k – 200k including bonus. Counsels who are 7pqe or more are on 250k+ . That’s in line with most top US firms…



NQ salary is actually 150k:

But increases after nq fall far behind the Cravath scale. 3pqe are on a band from 160+, very few actually receive 200. Meanwhile the actual Cravath scale is around 214 for a 3pqe:

The gaps widen as you move up the scale.


US Anon

I do not doubt that Weil will raise their salary in due course. Their PQE scale is also identical to the US Cravath model as far as I am aware so I am not sure where that is from? Nonetheless, I agree it is very strange how slow the firm is being to make these shifts especially after claiming to be one of the global elites…



Weil does not follow the Cravath PQE scale in London.



S&M increased to 115k for NQs. Watch CC and Links do the same soon…so predictable



As a former MC lawyer, I used to obsess over banded salaries until I got the realisation that I was being totally shafted by working incredibly long hours and my employer taking more than 2/3 of my billables.

I now work at a sub £150m turnover City law firm as an M&A legal consultant. I’m 5 years qualified (coming up to 6 end of this month). Since the start of the financial year (Apr 21) I have worked a total of 1430 billable hours. With the inevitable write offs, lost WIP, and some fixed fee work I have so far generated c.£570,000 this year and my fee structure is such that by the end of this month my gross annual take home would be in the region of £400,000.

I work when I want, where I want (have set up a fully equipped home office) and have never sacrificed a weekend.

Enjoy your scaled salaries – its a mugs game.


6PQE - US firm

So the total your firm will make from your work this year is approx. £170k (based on you taking home £400k)? And you’re not event 6PQE? Sounds like nonsense buddy.



@6PQE – US firm

Perhaps do a little research on how legal consultancy works pal then you’ll understand why you’re being sha***d in the ar*e.

My firm makes money because it has minimal overheads for consultant lawyers. I.e. no office desk, support staff salary’s come out of my billing (I have 1 paralegal paid £28k a year) and business development costs come out of my own pocket.

And yes its absolutely possible at 5 PQE provided you have established the right relationships at junior level and have constant stream of work.


Freshers need to stop posting on here

no offence dude but this sounds like utter bollocks… on so many levels…

is there any particular reason why people are lying on here? do they just want to troll the other law students or do they get a kick out of having random people on the internet salivate over their non-existent salary?



Don’t trust legal cheek comments, bloody hell even roll on Friday is more reliable:



CC definitely does not have this, that’s ridiculous.


reply to mr/mrs gullible

you’re an idiot if you think CC won’t increase.



This comnent was about booking off weekends not increasing salary. We will no doubt increase, already heard murmurings of salary increases and generous bonuses this year.




We need to get more transparency on this and stop these law firms from just flashing and flexing with 1 figure for NQ. Would be good to get as close as possible to the transparency standard in the American BigLaw market.


Weekend hours

Would be helpful to know how much everyone is really working on the weekend.

I’ll start – 5pqe, US firm, worked about 250 hours across weekends last year

Anyone else?



Right… I’m sure you did



Looool a 5PQE (unless you’re a weirdo) US lawyer does not have time to be looking at legal cheek comments from students. Fresher, back to tort law revision for your Easter break.



Funny how you have people begging for intel about different pqe levels all across the threads and if anyone actually bothers to contribute they are downvoted and callled a fresher (ironically the same original insult that is made in literally every thread; only an actual fresher would actually think that’s a witty response at this point..)


fresher patrol

go away fresher, we see behind the mask!


Crazy how law students seem to think qualified lawyers are so important and busy that we don’t have time to do anything but work work work.

We’re human…we need mindless breaks to breathe and switch off during the day. LC and RoF are good for that. Some of us even watch Love Island and other trash TV too.

We don’t turn superhuman on qualification (although the implication is flattering).

TL;DR – some people on LC are real lawyers at big firms. Why not take the opp to engage with us?



Lol 2 pqe would have time, doubt a 5pqe would.


MC 5PQE probably worked 20/30 weekend hours over the year, maybe less.



Also 5PQE US, 250 is probably on the high side for me, I am more like 150 (although tbh I’ve never counted like that).



Most people last 2-3 years at these places. And that’s fine and you’ll save a decent amount, but 2.5-3 years is like getting past the £125k question on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire re your savings – and also it’s true that the hours aren’t necessarily worse depending on the team, partner, associates, practice area than the MC or SC. It’s not just hours though; the hours aren’t the problem, it’s what you’re doing during those hours – these firms focus mainly on transactional work which is really ball droppingly tedious. It’s like counting bricks with needles in your eyes whilst Hitler is sniffing your bottom.



You’re right. The great thing about the MC firms is that they don’t focus on transactions.


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