"My life is like a box of After-Eights. Minted."
Akin Gump's newly qualified lawyers in the UK will be paid a converted salary that works out at £164k - making them the highest paid NQs in the land*, for now.
Last month, RollOnFriday reported that Akin Gump lawyers in London had been given raises in line with their American lawyers resulting in NQ salary of £159k, based on the conversion rate adopted by the firm from January to March.
However, in an internal memo seen by RollOnFriday, Akin Gump has plumped for a more favourable exchange rate for the London office of £1 = US$1.3109 from April to June 2022. It appears that the firm reviews the rate every three months, so it remains to be seen whether the rate will hold, or fluctuate, from July.
Akin Gump has also recently matched the Cravath scale, RollOnFriday understands, retroactive from 1 January 2022. According to RoF's orange calculator, here are the current base salaries (not including bonuses) converted with the newly-adopted exchange rate:
NQ & 1 PQE: $215,000 (£164,009)
2PQE: $225,000 (£171,637)
3PQE: $250,000 (£190,708)
4PQE: $295,000 (£225,036)
5PQE: $345,000 (£263,177)
6PQE: $370,000 (£282,248)
7PQE: $400,000 (£305,133)
8PQE: $415,000 (£316,576)
Should Akin Gump hold, or better, the exchange rate over the course of the year, the firm will join the exclusive group of US firms that spray their NQs in the City with a base salary of £160k+ including Gibson Dunn (£161,700), Goodwin Procter (£161,500), Fried Frank (£160k) and Davis Polk (£160k). Kirkland & Ellis and several more US firms are understood to pay in the same region.
The biggest salary hikes across the City in recent months have been prompted by US firms seeking to match or outdo each other across the pond. In January, Milbank was the first major US firm this year to kick off the pay race with a new scale, which was swiftly matched by its competitors. In February, Davis Polk leapfrogged everyone with the highest pay scale, and BigLaw scrambled to realign again. Although, within a few days, Cravath then surpassed that proposal with the new benchmark set out in the table above.
Meanwhile, Slaughter and May will raise NQ base pay from £107,500 to £115,000 from May. The hike puts the firm above the rest of the Magic Circle, who remain on £107,500 - save for Freshfields, which announced last week that it was raising NQ pay to £125k.
Slaughter and May is also increasing salaries at all PQE levels from next month, "with some levels seeing an increase of up to 20%", the firm said in a statement, in order to "address the compression within PQE levels by creating a wider spread between the top and bottom PQE ranges."
The firm said it would also pay performance bonuses twice a year, rather than annually.
“I am very pleased to be able to update associates today on the outcome of this review and the feedback they have shared," said Senior Partner, Steve Cooke. "By raising salaries significantly, putting forward some concrete proposals in relation to work life balance, and strengthening support for career development, we are recognising the importance of our associates at all levels”.
*As far as RoF knows, but get in touch if your firm pays more.