Welcome to Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, chief architects of MoneyLaw 2.0. Newly qualified London lawyers at this US-headquartered firm earn a staggering £132,000 ($190,000 calculated at a fixed exchange rate of $1.44 to £1), a 15% pay rise that fired the starting gun on another round of “MoneyLaw” pay increases in the summer of 2018 as other firms followed suit. Even with a few competitors now matching its whopping wages, Milbank still comes joint top of the Legal Cheek Most List for newly qualified lawyer pay.
The upshot is that if it’s cash you’re after, snapping up one of Milbank’s five annual training contracts should be your goal. First year trainees earn £50,000, and the New York-based outfit ladles generous perks on top. “I could mention the medical or dentalcare packages, but the free Costco membership clearly wins the day”, one insider jokes. Others just reel off their loot: “iPhone, laptop, Deliveroo credit, taxi home…” You might not even need to spend that salary day-to-day.
You might not have a chance anyway. Milbank trainees and junior lawyers tell us they’re pulling 12-hour days on average. “They bought my soul with a summer bonus,” one laments. Unsurprisingly, the firm scores relatively poorly for work/life balance and social life in our survey. More surprising is a bottom-of-the-barrel D for office tech: “IT meltdowns are just a part of life here (especially at 2am)”. Maybe it’s time to shift some of the big bucks from NQs to IT?
The insane working hours reflect the demands of a strong business: London revenues grew 10% last year. And the work on offer to trainees here – corporate law and finance buffs, eat your heart out – is top quality. “Thanks to the small pool of trainees and generally limited sizes of matter teams, trainees often necessarily have to get involved with higher level work, which serves as more realistic exposure to the kind of work you might do as a junior associate in a practice area,” a Legal Cheek mole explains.
Recent high-profile litigation includes defending Visa in a competition action by Sainsbury’s over transaction fees and handling the fallout from rigged LIBOR interest rates on lending between banks. Milbank also attracts high-end clients for deal-making, too: “A lot of the work that we do it groundbreaking, and first of a kind. Building wind farms in Egypt, or power plants in Brazil, it is cool stuff!” another insider enthuses. Be warned that “sometimes you have to slog it out to get onto the interesting deals” – but that’s the same all over.
Newly minted members of the Wall Street Elite also rate the firm highly for training and peer support. “Training” may be the wrong word, mind you — at Milbank, they say, “you learn everything on the job and often training is getting schooled on a point by the other side”. That can be tough going, but there’s always a shoulder to cry on: trainees praise the “great team vibe” and “very close bond” forged between them. Just mind those expensive watches when you high five.
Milbank has been on a bit of poaching binge recently, snapping up partners from other City outfits. Juniors report that their chances of some attention from the 28 or so bigwigs in the London office are decent – but partners are constantly on the go: “Generally pretty approachable, but almost always travelling – sometimes you don’t see some of them for a month at a time”. Lower down the food chain, trainees don’t get seats abroad – you’re already abroad from New York’s point of view – but newly qualified lawyers are expected to pack a suitcase at a moment’s notice. If you make it into the partnership ranks, the returns might just make up for all that travel: profit per equity partner was over £2.5 million last year.