US firm salaries ‘almost 50% above’ Magic Circle rivals thanks to favourable exchange rates

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New research comes as NQ rates hit record £179k

Some US law firms’ dollar-pegged salaries in London are “almost 50% above” those provided by their Magic Circle counterparts, according to new research.

This comes after favourable exchange rates saw Akin Gump‘s NQ salary rise in its GBP value to £179,000. At present, Clifford Chance and Freshfields offer £125k NQ rates, whilst Linklaters and Allen & Overy pay £107,500. Slaughter and May‘s NQ pay sits in between these duos at £115k.

“It truly has been the perfect storm. A combination of Brexit, a delayed start in degrees, and a pause in junior hires in 2020 has left many law firms scrambling to fill the gaping hole in their talent pipeline”, explained Dan Harris, a director at consultancy firm Robert Walters which undertook the research.

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“It was not long ago where the biggest graduate earners in London typically worked within tech or banking — but lawyers are very much at the top of that chain and there are no signs yet of this slowing down”.

The research also revealed which lawyers are currently most in demand. Tax lawyers come out on top with a 21% increase in vacancies over the past 12 months. They are followed by real estate and M&A lawyers where vacancies are up 8% and 7% respectively.

Least in demand are banking lawyers (-24%), following by dispute & resolution (-8%) and employment law practitioners (-7%), following exceptionally high demand last year.

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Anonymous J

As a future regional trainee wishing to qualify in London, does this mean I should avoid the practice areas which are low in demand? I ask because I am quite interested in Banking.



So you will chose any area so long as you are demand in London…


Legal Recruiter

Most practice areas are in high demand!



Get lost you bottom feeder


Legal Recruiter

Get lost fresher



Serious answer: they’re low-“er” in demand than last year, but that doesn’t mean they’re low in demand – there are a lot of jobs in Banking/Corp Finance and turnover is high so I’m sure there are still loads of opportunities out there.

Real answer: who’d be interested in Banking?!



If you aren’t already in finance you should avoid it. The leveraged finance boom is about to die and some will be turfed out when business deteriorates. You’d better off doing real estate or tax for career stability. Dark horse area like insolvency and restructuring would likely be in demand for a decade or more but the work is intense and highly technical so not for everyone.



Hi fresher banking isn’t just leveraged finance it’s securitisation, structured finance, fund finance, real estate finance, project finance, asset finance etc.

Lev fin is also no where near dying and it certainly won’t during a recession where credits funds and companies overall will be relying on debt even more than even to continue any form of investment.


LevFin Lawyer

Thx chinny. Keep the pump up, LevFin needs more souls for the utterly sh*t, cookie-cutter, miserable anti-social work those poor bastards do.


Banking lawyer

My advice to all trainees is that you should pick practice areas that you find interesting and think the working practices (i.e., do you like transactional, advisory or dispute types of work) most suit you. Getting a range of seats helps give you the experience needed to make an informed decision.

There will always be ebbs and flows in the market for hires but you may be working in this industry for a long time to come and it is difficult to go from one area to an unrelated are of law. Also, a drop of 20% in hiring for banking is simply a reversion to the mean after an exceptional 2021 where seemingly everybody was hiring.


Anonymous J

Thanks for the responses! I’m interested in a number of areas. Corporate, Banking, DR, Tech, IP.
But my goal is to practice in London for some time at least. So if qualifying into a certain practice area would preclude me from that or make it very difficult, I’d like to be aware.

Need to strike a balance between keeping that option open but also finding an area I genuinely enjoy. Luckily, the firm I’m joining I think will be pretty well-equipped to giving me a variety of seats and opportunities.


Banking lawyer

None of those practice areas should cause you any concern if you wanted to work in London in the future. Corporate, banking and disputes are the backbone of most City firms. IP and Tech may be a little more niche, but there are still plenty of firms with good practices, including US, MC and national firms.

For Tech, I suspect you would be best served looking at Corporate or IP practices with a good record in Tech. Many firms will not have a dedicated Tech practice area but they will have plenty of clients in the sector. Not my area, so others would know better.


Anonymous J

Appreciate it mate!

Not sure if you’d know exactly (open to responses by others too) but how difficult is it in general qualifying in London having trained in the regions/Scotland?



It is easier to move once qualified rather than to get an NQ job, imho.

Source: moved from Scotland to MC at 3PQE and know lots of others who did similar.


Equally moved from regional to U.S at 2PQE. Couple of years experience at qualification firm was best thing I could have done

SPB salaried partner

Brah, pick Squire Patton Boggs. Best firm in the City, you’ll be swimming in sterling and clunge in no time.


You’re never going to struggle to find jobs if you do M&A, banking or some form of dispute resolution. Even areas like tax, financial regulation, IP/technology which were perhaps once the purview of far fewer firms are expanding pretty rapidly across the City. Also, I can honestly say you don’t really know what you’re going to enjoy until you’ve done a few things so open mindedness is always good!



Untrue. Look at the last financial crisis where many finance and corporate lawyers were sacked and changed career.


Come on

Do you think you could at least try to be journalists and cite the research you are talking about?


Blow Jo

Robert Walters did the research – read 2nd paragraph. Come on, that’s not your best effort.



Robert Who? A link to the doc or relevant web page would be nice


Don’t kiss a male lawyer

With all this money why are male lawyers so unattractive? Why not do something useful with all this dollar and invest in some needed liposuction, Botox and breath mints chaps? I don’t care how many Lambos you have I still don’t want to be with you if your breath smells like carrots mixed with vomit.



Someone’s lawyer boyfriend just dumped them


Kirkland NQ

Magic Circle are so cute for trying. Bless them.


K&E equity partner

Yawn. Go mown my lawn, then keep turning those comments gimp. I want it all prepared by 8.00am. Grass to be 5mm long max.


Truth Lady

If you are an associate at Allen & Overy slaving away for a below-market and frozen salary while your colleagues in the A&O New York office get paid Lambo money and profits per partner continue to rise then you are a loooooosssssseeeeerrrrrrr.


STB deal maker

Is that carrots mixed with vomit I smell?


STB Deal Maker

Is that carrot and vomit I smell?


Staid Thick & Boring LLP

Are you having a stroke? Two bit obscure firm lmao



This whole salary debate has just become way too toxic now. LC is acting much like The Sun and constantly writing stories about it even though its a horrible story.

Yes it sucks that some people doing much the same job as you get paid 20k more post-tax a year. But just stop with the stories, most people in the UK will never get close to earning 100k a year…


Enough is enough

I find your comment toxic and intolerable.



Let’s be real you don’t do this kind of job for the love of the law. You’re doing it for the for money. Hearing about how MC firms are getting shafted by American ones is good for the market. It stops all of us as beginners being flogged by partners with no clue of how others are doing apart form word of mouth. Whilst it is toxic I do feel that is the nature of corporate law and ensures that people get as much as they deserve from their employers. Legal cheek should keep it up so people are aware of the market and can ask for either more cash form their firms,or move somewhere offering them better pay.



Very interesting thanks



Serious question: Are those already on the ladder seeing increases in their compensation as well? Or are NQs reaping all the benefits with firms only targeting them with the goal of finding new talent?



Google Cravath Scale which tells you what US firms are paying higher up. Last year by hitting targets, and with COVID bonuses, top senior associates were at £450 . Typical base is around £300k for a 7PQE (eg, Latham, K


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