Willkie nudges NQ lawyer pay in London to £150k

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Extra £5k

Willkie Farr & Gallagher has nudged newly qualified (NQ) solicitor pay to £150,000, Legal Cheek can reveal.

The firm previously awarded NQ lawyers in the London office an annual salary of £145,000, representing an increase of just over 3%.

Willkie’s new solicitors now earn more than their peers at fellow US law firms Dechert, Shearman & Sterling and Sullivan & Cromwell, all of who pay their NQs £145,000, as well as Debevoise & Plimpton (£145,800) and Ropes & Gray (£147,000), our 2023 Firms Most List shows.

US law firms in London are inching ever closer to the £200,000 NQ pay mark — the highest-paying firm is currently Akin, offering NQs £179,000 upon qualification.

Trainees at the firm earn £55,000 in year one, rising to £60,000 in year two.

Willkie offers six training contracts a year and scored As and A*s across the board in our latest Trainee & Junior Lawyer Survey, including A*s for training, quality of work and its ‘work from home’ strategy.

The 2023 Legal Cheek Firms Most List


West end factotum

NQ pay is the most reliable indicator of the calibre of a firm’s practice. £165k or above is now the bare minimum for NQ at a true elite US firm ie Latham, STB, K&E, Ropes, FF, Paul Hastings, Akin, Milbank and Weil.



FF and Paul Hastings??



Indeed – clients are known to ring up and say “I want one of those £165k NQs on my transaction please – only the best for me!”.


functional brain

Did you really just make a list of ‘elite US firms’ at 165k with FF and Paul Hastings and not others like Skadden? Unfortunate that Gibson Dunn has not adjusted their fx rate and just missed being included in this rigorously selected list.



Akin and Weil? Cringe.



Weil is elite. Akin not so much.


Rupert; a legend in the US

Chicken feed, dear boy/girl/androgen



Great money as long as you treat it sensibly and have a plan. The best plan is to do your time at these firms for 5 years and have a planned exit. In those 5 years save all of the money. You can easily come out at 5 PQE with at least 400k in the bank and a healthy pension pot and no debt. You will then take a pay cut on exit but go in house or into a smaller firm with a better work life balance on say 200k.

Where it goes wrong is the NQs who start buying sports cars / get giant mortgages who then work 24/7 for a few years, spending all their money to make them feel better and then get cut by their law firm but are too arrogant to then take a drop in the & they’re accustomed to. It happens all the time. Play it smart.


Chump slayer

No way you can save £80k a year on average in your first 5 years post quality at a top US shop, unless you are spending literally no money (not realistic in London).

Also, what firm that offers good work life balance and it’s 200k at 5PQE? The magic circle just shout pay 200 at 5Pqe and they certainly don’t offer good work life balance.

Im at Latham btw



And then there’s less competition for you to make partner eh



Please let me know where you find these nice hours and 200k a year jobs. Not a thing sorry fresher.



Patent Attorney’s in IP firms can make that much as directors/partners while still working 9-5.

But yes, expecting that for in house lawyers is unrealistic


Bit sassy

This above post is full of crap.

“You can easily come out at 5 PQE with at least 400k in the bank and a healthy pension pot and no debt.”

This doesn’t happen. Ever heard of income tax? Almost everyone puts in a 40k pension pot for tax avoidance due to the effective 60% rate over 100k, you’re left with about 70k. Post rent/mortgage/overall expenses, savings are around 30k in say, first year. That’s not including student loan repayments and when you’re earning a lot of cash, the % you repay goes up significantly, so it’s usually sub of 30k. Even if that doubles as you get to 5PQE, you’re way short of 400k.

What happens generally is that juniors end up buying somewhere, usually with a partner, and they put everything into their depo and mortgages (not giant ones), and don’t end up with very significant savings by year 5. 100k plus the deposit, mortgage plus 200k in pension. Generally expect 200k in assets/bank plus 200k pension over 5 years, if you’ve been very thrifty maybe close to 300k savings tops. Not “at least” 400k.

I say this having worked in US firms for 6 years now.

“You will then take a pay cut on exit but go in house or into a smaller firm with a better work life balance on say 200k.”

You’re dreaming if you think 200k is an in-house salary for a 5 anywhere but in PE, AM or banking. Even then it’s not base, it would come close to 200k at a mega fund with bonus. Base is closer to 150k best for a 5 at some of the top funds. Legal heads of small funds get that. Outside of that, you’re looking at just about breaking 6 figures with a lot of in-house roles which just haven’t kept up with PP salaries in the last few years. And good luck getting 200k also at a “smaller firm”.

You’re completely deluded about what you perceive to be the “game” – which is understandable because the students that read this don’t understand either. You may be one of them. It’s not about associate money. The “game”, really, is about becoming partner – that’s where the real money is made, not at associate level. The “game” is also about pivoting to a well-regarded client of your firm if you can’t or don’t want to make partner at a more senior level you might otherwise get on the open market. The 5PQE thing re staying in PP is stated a lot by the gormless (and recruitment consultants who want you to make PP moves so they get work); some people do it at 2 or 3 or 4. There’s no rule.


Some Guy

you right… but that is a pretty deep comment on a Legal Cheek post…


that's not my name

lol – in-house at 200 k – pull the other one it’s got bells on!



Nowhere which pays you 200k as a 5PQE will give you anywhere close to good work-life balance (and almost nowhere will pay you that much outside of top US firms, full stop). At my MC firm, that’s pretty much what a 5PQE makes including bonus – but at that stage you’re probably billing 2000 hours a year anyway and constantly stressing that once you pass the 6PQE threshold you’re going to be “managed out” if you aren’t one of the tiny minority who are being groomed for partnership or being kept around because you’re a dogsbody who will do partner-level work for associate-level money. And at that seniority, making a move into another role in private practice is significantly harder.

Time is perfectly fungible for money in the City. If you want more of one, you’re going to have to give up lots of the other.



You are not making 200k 5PQE at almost any in-house gig, and you will not be getting nice hours on 200k 5PQE at any shop. Have you even started working in law yet?



Have you even worked in law? You are not coming out with 400k at 5PQE at a US shop. After shovelling money into your pension to avoid tax, student loan, rent, bills, trying to have a life etc even on US money you will be doing very, very well to be saving £30k a year.

There is practically no in house job (bar the upper end of funds, PE, etc) offering 200k 5PQE, and if any scratch that it is with a hefty bonus added on top of base.

Most non-US firms you will not be hitting 200k 5 PQE. Only really MC plus bonus, and then you’re still in a sweatshop anyway. The genuine lifestyle firms where you actually get a good work life balance typically top out at 140k – 150k senior associate if you’re lucky. The real money is in partnership, and you either have to accept the grind or dip out and go in house or switch career and accept the lower pay.



Just got my first NQ pay pack, the only thing I’ve been able to spend it on is Pret and a tube to the office. Send help.


Brian, age 10

Heads up, HSF are increasing to NQ pay to 130k.

My friend told me over Xbox Live that his dads mate works there so it’s true.



lmaoooooooo 😀



White & Case, Dechert, Debevoise, Shearman… where are they


Reality cheque

None of them pays over £165k NQ



Meanwhile Links is paying a senior associate less than an NQ at US firms



You guys are deluded, that’s still a lot of money to 80% of people. What, you wanna be a millionaire or something? Lol. As a partner you can if that’s your ambition, just know of the sacrifices to get there and maintain that position and stop whining, damn.


Yea maaaAn

That guy or girl is living in a slightly fairy tale but there is an element of truth to it. Just got to be smart with and strategic


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