Gibson Dunn leads London NQ lawyer pay table with improved £180k salary

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By Legal Cheek on


Exclusive: Extra £18k 🤑

Gibson Dunn has propelled itself to the top of the junior lawyer pay table with an improved salary of £180,000 for its newly qualified associates in London.

The big money move equates to an extra £18,000 or 11%, with rates previously sitting at a still very impressive £162,000.

Trainees are also cashing in; year one pay moving from £55,000 to £60,000, and year two salaries increasing from £60,000 to £65,000. The rises came into effect on 1 January.

The 2024 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

The Legal Cheek Firms Most List shows Gibson Dunn’s NQs are now the highest paid in the City, outdoing their counterparts at Akin and Milbank, both of which pay salaries of $225,000 (roughly £178,000 based on the current conversation rate).

Gibson Dunn boasts clients including Apple, Meta (formerly Facebook), Intel and Kraft. It launched in London in 1979 and recruits around nine trainees each year.


J Cole

They Say Time Is Money, But Really, It’s Not. If We Ever Go Broke, Time Is All We Got


Okay tree hugger

Rupert; earning lots of money 🇺🇸 💵

Chicken feed, dear boy/girl/personage

Bullingdon 🇬🇧 doing better 💷

Okay poo pants.


I mean fair enough and congrats on the massive salaries, but do these guys ever get time out of the office to spend it?

I’d imagine there’s a fair bit of weekend work as well as working when on annual leave. Can’t imagine that’s too good for your health/sanity in the long run.

Regional observer

I don’t work at one of these US firms that pay insane salaries but I imagine most who are NQs – 3 PQE at them have no intention of staying long term.

I would happily work there and be breasted for 2-3 years, save and then f*** off to a region with a hefty amount of savings to invest.

Before anyone says cost of living, you can rent in London for roughly £700 PCM. Thats doable on a 45k salary let alone 180k.

Us guy

The sentiment of this is mostly true but rents in London are generally at least £1k pcm (for a reasonably nice room in a house/flat share that isn’t in zone 6 or further), plus bills potentially. Also doable on a £45k salary – but difficult to avoid some lifestyle creep when your salary is so much more.

US associate

I would happily work anywhere and be breasted for 2-3 years.

gdc 4pqe

it’s not so bad imo. generally get out 7/8, in busy periods obviously much later. often do an hour or two at home. but usually able to not bail on plans with friends.


I quite like my job, and think I have a good work/life balance for this stage in my career.

I’m young, I don’t mind working ~50-60h a week (particularly on good cases, which there’s plenty of).

Dare I say I even enjoy it most days.


It varies to be honest. I do have weeks where I’m crazy busy, always working, in the office late, working weekends, cancelling plans etc.

Having said that, that’s not always the case. To be honest, it’s not usually the case. I work hard all the time, but the long hours only come at crunch times. I still have plenty of time to exercise / see friends / spend time with my partner / travel. My annual leave is well respected and actually my weekends tend to be unless we’re slammed.

I’m very happy with my work life balance compared to my compensation.

Law student

How does it work with targets etc? Is there any pressure to work longer hours to meet high targets or to compete with other fee earners to bill the most?


Ex GDC. Been at international and national firms since leaving GDC and hours are much better. However, I do recall once being told as a trainee by partner that I must make myself available 24/7 365 days a week and he made me do some pro bono work during my annual leave! Nob

Kirkland NQ

No wonder my Lambo dealer wasn’t taking my calls this morning.


This is a strong move, they are actually paying over Cravath to London employees now.


Is it actually worth your health at that point lol

Not a Kirkland NQ

Cue all the comments from the sanctimonious crabs-in-a-bucket types going on about “work life balance” etc.

Have fun at your Tuesday evening book club, your Sunday pub quizzes and your decrepit flatshare in Zone 5 then

K West

What a time to be alive


It’s actually quite amazing you can get New York salaries in London working for these firms. Almost every other well paid line of work – e.g. finance, tech, consultancy etc the London salaries are much lower than NY even at American companies.

Reed Smith Dosser

Not so great when Reed Smith pay their lawyers NY rates in the US but pennies over here

Links SA

Maybe RS plays in the big leagues in the US but they’re not really in the same league as the MC or firms like Latham and Kirkland

US firm associate

These salaries are great however seem to come at a cost. In the past, ‘biglaw’ was seen as a safer career to go into in comparison to a sector like investment banking in respect of job security.

Given the frequency of layoffs now, it would now seem that the security is a thing of the past.

Slaughter and May NQ

Great, but how many FTSE 100 companies is a firm like “Gibson Dunn” a trusted boardroom adviser to?


Good luck paying your mortgage with ‘trusted boardroom advisor’


I think if you’re at Slaughter & May, you might be okay your mortgage. Just saying.

The unfortunate truth

The constant refrain that Slaughter and May is an advisor to more FTSE companies than other law firms is quickly belied as irrelevant and weak when one actually examines its meaning. Since 2008, the UK and Europe more broadly have vastly underperformed the US economically. British companies are hardly leaders in any of the new sectors that American companies dominate – AI, semiconductors, software, electric vehicles, the list goes on. So the fact that Slaughter and May is an advisor to more FTSE companies is hardly a point of pride. Slaughter and May is heavily tied to this zombie of a country versus its American counterparts (like GDC, Skadden, etc) who can call companies like Nvidia, Meta, Google, Goldman, KKR, Microsoft etc their home clients. This much is reflected in the pay – Slaughters NQ salary of 125k is 70% of GDCs. And guess what – the gap widens at higher levels of associate. Some “prestige” Slaughter and May has – especially if that prestige is tied to the failing and increasingly irrelevant UK (where even its best companies refuse to list on the LSE and instead routinely snub it for the NASDAQ or NYSE).

One only needs to look at the composition of the London Stock Exchange to see it populated by last century’s firms – mining, tobacco, gambling – compared to the Nasdaq – which is populated by tech, biotech, AI companies – to see what serving more FTSE companies actually means. If I were an NQ looking at any of the trends clearly, I would avoid a company like Slaughters, which proudly claims its irrelevance with its non competitive pay and ties to the UK market, with a wide berth.


Lool the US firms are not gonna sleep with you mate


Who giz a shizzle? Honestly show me the money! I’d belly dance in snow for that much! I’m serious!


200k soon the new 100k. 100k is starting to look very meagre.

200k has a nice ring to it. Who will step up and show they are true Quality.

The likes of Slaughter and may thinking they have any prestige left while paying bargain basement. Who wants to shop at poundland rather than Selfridges. You have NO Quality.


No, 200k is not the the new 100k. Back to your law books, law student. You have an exam on Monday.


Amazing for the NQs, but not sustainable for the firms or for the industry.

1. Clients outside the US cannot support these salaries – the world economy is not growing quickly enough.

2. Clients within the US can support these salaries… for now. There are going to be increasing questions within these firms as to whether they can justify paying the same rates worldwide as to their US attorneys, i.e. effectively subsidizing their international offices.

3. On the corporate and finance side, this makes the NQ-3PQE a very appealing target for redundancy in a recession. That is a dangerous place to be without a job – too junior to be an appealing in-house hire, too deep in to do something radically different.

4 . On the disputes side, this now means that junior charge out rates are hugely exceeding that of barristers. Simply not worth it for clients, we would prefer to instruct young, hungry barristers (invariably top academics, very hard working), supported by by cheaper solicitors.


Please. Companies that instruct MC or US firms have deep pockets. They can pay too fees for the top tier service or settle for subpar advice or risk losing giant litigations.

Associates should push for more pay. No need to concern themselves with whether clients can pay. Not their problem! Either the partners need to share more of the pie or clients need to cough up the money.


You have not addressed my comment –

1) these juniors are going to be in big trouble if and when the US goes into recession, because the subsidy from the US home offices will end;

2) You clearly do not understand the dynamic of in-house work and how we instruct external counsel, both corporate and litigation.

Associates should indeed always push for more pay – all employees should, but NQ hourlies will increase to support these salaries.

We have deep pockets, but we don’t like being taken for mugs. We simply aren’t going to pay silly rates for a junior to do the bundling or to sit aimlessly on a call. It just isn’t going to fly, no matter how many freebies and discounts are thrown in.

3) On the litigation side, increasingly we are seeing baby barristers do more of the heavy lifting. The hourlies are high, but from our perspective, a properly led whizzkid, supported by a decent solicitors firm, is better and increasingly price competitive compared to going to a US shop.


Well, then.


I think what you’re forgetting is the training. Yes, the US firms pay more but to get well-rounded training experience I much rather train and qualify at a MC than at a U.S. firm. Remember, more money doesn’t necessarily more quality level work or that you’re a better lawyer…


Always easy to spot a fresher. You will soon realise that the MC and SC promise of training is literally a series of PowerPoints and presentations that you will never remember once you start doing the actual work. Most of your key skills will be learned on the job. 99% of being a good training is attention to detail, motivation and enthusiasm – a few weeks here or there being trained in private equity won’t teach you that.


K&E, Weil, Latham – you gone take that from this US sweatshop🤣


It’s only 7k after tax, and for the (I presume long hours, lack social life and damage to physical and mental health) not sure the lemon is worth the squeeze


There have been above Craveth wage increases at all pqe levels


No it’s not you dummy it’s just under 9k (8,800). That’s nothing to be scoff at. Whilst I’m glad you would rather earn less most people would happily be paid that.

Together with that 20k bonus US firms pay out to NQs – would put ton of 24-28 years olds in a great position to get on the housing ladder in a few years – a distant dream got their peers. That is money that can seriously increase your lifestyle if spent wisely.


Lool are you paid that? Stop pocket watching.


Okay I earn 95k, 100 in total with bonus but I can leave at 6 most days with the occasional long hours and have my weekends mostly free. So personally I don’t see the appeal but of course everyone has their reasons.

(I earn less than you)



The harsh truth is that listed company work and work for banks is no longer where the most money or prestige is. The market has changed very significantly since the 1990s. Work for PEs and sponsors is the top end. That work can be as complex, technical and high profile as any other work also.

The surge in US firms in London is more a function of this than exchange rates.

The London offices of a number of US firms now have revenues in the hundreds of millions whilst paying salaries far above MC.

MC needs US mergers or they risk being consigned to 2nd tier with no way back.

Also, with US firms being a substantial and growing part of the market, salaries at other law firms and in house ultimately have to rise to reflect what amounts to a re pricing of lawyers salaries in the market. It can’t be sustainable for highly experienced lawyers in other firms and in house to be getting less than NQs.

Slaughter and May NQ

Respectfully, I disagree. Clients like British American Tobacco, Diageo and Rolls Royce are far more prestigious than American private equity firms.


If your go to clients to reference for Slaughters are Diageo and RR then it’s very clear you are not a Slaughters NQ but have probably taken one look at their grad rec pages before being rejected pre-interview for their summer work experience scheme.

I appreciate the rejection made you slightly bitter, but you’re embarrassing yourself more than the firm.


With that sentiment, that’s exactly what your at Slaughters and not an elite American firm…

PE drone

“Work for PEs and sponsors is the top end. That work can be as complex, technical and high profile as any other work also.”

Hahahaha, a good one!


I heard the Paul Weise NQ salary is more than this but they don’t wanna disclose? Is that true or just rumours

US Firm Trainee

Yes, the hours can be bad when close to signing/closing, but the dirty secret is that the non-US firms that pride themselves on having a better work-life balance are working similar hours on the opposite side of the deal for considerably less pay.

The whole idea that MC / SC firms promote a better work-life balance is largely fake news if you’re sat in their corporate / banking departments. If you’re going to work long hours regardless, you may as well try to get the maximum compensation.

Also, if you choose to join a massive city firm, it is unrealistic to expect your work-life balance to be amazing. There are far better careers if that is what you strive for.

I’m far more content with working long hours when I am young and have less responsibility if it means I have the option to retire earlier / move in-house when I have my own family and more responsibilities outside of work.

Just my personal opinion though.


Is it true Paul Weise pays more at NQ level?

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