"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.

Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 14 April 22 11:21

Slaughters has been super clever again. They announced this just before the normal payband switch. Every 1 May, we normally get bumped up a band, and the bands get bumped up by inflation.

This year, they announce a "big increase in salaries of up to 20%" and that we can see this in our HR portal. But the increase applies from 1 May, so it includes the normal payband switch, the normal inflation correction, and once you account for both of those (assuming that as a minimum you match GBP inflation) then the 20% payrise is in fact between 3 and 6%.

This is why they insist on hiring Oxbridge history graduates. Easily befuddled.

I tip my hat off to Steve and Debbie. Shrewd business move.

Anon 14 April 22 12:15

Anonymous 14 April 22 11:21: Slaughters hire Oxbridge graduates because they want to hire the cleverest and best educated people.

Bob 14 April 22 12:17

I'm not sure it will pop, perhaps deflate slowly, but if it does go pop I'd rather be at a fuller service firm than one of the smaller US firms in London heavily reliant on lev fin / pe - which seems to be where the pop is most likely to happen ...

anon 14 April 22 13:03

Anonymous 14 April 22 12:54: Slaughters hire Oxbridge graduates because those graduates are the cleverest and best educated people.

Oxbridge 14 April 22 13:08

Anonymous 14 April 22 12:54: By "right" schools, I take it you mean private schools. But you are wrong: over 70% of Oxbridge students are from state schools. The simple fact is that Slaughters knows full well that Oxbridge graduates are the brightest of their generation. And they want to hire the best.

City 14 April 22 13:14

It is a question of risk. A Warwick graduate might (it is doubtful, but anyway) turn out to be brighter than a Cambridge graduate. But elite institutions such as Slaughters do not need to take that risk, especially given the financial costs associated with training someone.

Yer 'avin a larf 14 April 22 13:37

What....the..... no mention of Sir Nigel and the sticky plaster? Come on ROF. Do better...

Anonymous 14 April 22 14:12


hahaha being an Oxbridge graduate does not mean you are automatically part of the cleverest people. In fact, the smartest and best lawyer I have ever come across is a Sheffield Uni alumni.

I have come across many excellent Oxbridge grads but I have also come some who are utterly inept lawyers who are unable to translate how the law would affect the client.

Anonymous 14 April 22 15:39

"being an Oxbridge graduate does not mean you are automatically part of the cleverest people"

No. But it's a reliable indicator that one has a high probability of being one of the cleverest people.

One might resent that fact, but it is a fact. 


To be clear, nothing about that statement precludes your Sheffield Uni acquaintance from being one of the cleverest people around, but it's also fair to say that their exceptionality (even to you) somewhat reinforces the fact that you are chaffing against.

recent oxford grad 14 April 22 15:45

@ 13:08

I can absolutely guarantee you the people from oxford (don't know about cam) who go to slaughters are absolutely not 70% state school... Try 70% london private schools

anon 14 April 22 15:47

Anonymous 14 April 22 14:12: if you're an Oxbridge grad, you're by definition brighter than anyone else. I'm a Southampton Uni grad and I'm happy to admit that. Nobody from Sheffield Uni is going to be smarter or a better lawyer than some from Oxford or Cambridge. Stop being so chippy.

I hate the office. I hate WFH. I hate everything. 14 April 22 15:50

@Anonymous 14 April 22 14:12


Were they (he) a Freshfields antitrust partner?

Ayn 14 April 22 18:09

"Feeling sick that I'm a regional solicitor earning poverty wages."

From each according to his ability.

To each according to his intrinsic worth as a human being.

CGSH 2nd year Associate 15 April 22 07:47

This is great for the NQ and this firm has pushed the bar. CGSH are not expected to review anytime soon.No wonder talented staff are leaving.


City 15 April 22 08:53

Ayn 14 April 22 18:09: spot on. The hierarchy is as follows, and people find their level accordingly:

1. City

2. Regions

3. Offshore

Anon 15 April 22 10:14

No one who went to Oxbridge says they’re the ‘cleverest and best educated’.

I was the only one in my school year to get a place at Oxbridge. My A-levels were A*AA. Students in my year were rejected with 4A*. I’d wager that there were at least 15 students in my school year alone who were brighter than me. 
I got in because I applied for law which you can blag the interview for. My interviewers also happened to ask the perfect questions for me. Those who get the best grades are freakishly smart, but the vast majority who get decent 2.1s are pretty much interchangeable with law students at the other top universities. 

Going there doesn’t even confer much of an advantage at grad level because there are so many systems in place to separate candidates. 
The fact that slaughters has an overwhelming preference for Oxbridge grads is probably a big part of the reason why it’s such a crap, unhappy place. 


Anonymous 15 April 22 11:44

I'll give a balanced view of how my shit career has gone.


Paralegal: £15.5k starting. Went up to £17.5k and topped put at £19.5k

NQ: £30k. Moved shortly afterwards as NQ for £35k

1PQE: £38k

2PQE: £39k

3PQE: £40k then moved for £42.5k

Have increased up to £77k around 10PQE now as a rubbish insurance lawyer in the regions. 

Non-oxbridge dude 15 April 22 13:12

Anon @ 15:47

If only it were as simple as “what university one goes to = how good one is as a lawyer”. Plenty of students have never studied law before going to university and there is no guarantee as to their interest in law when they get there, or their motivations and career aspirations, or indeed their ability to work in the legal industry (which requires much more than simply being “bright”). Your black and white view ignores all those points.

Wait until you hear that some of the “best” lawyers (whatever that might mean) are not the brightest legal scholars :O impossible!

Oxbridge 15 April 22 13:13

Anon 15 April 22 10:14: you are clearly not an Oxbridge grad. Stop pretending. Law (or Jurisprudence) is amongst the toughest courses and the interview is notoriously rigourous. And remember that the dons are trained to detect the brightest students; if you do not get an offer, it is because you were not clever enough.

The simple truth is this: if you get into Oxbridge, you are part of the intellectual elite of your generation. That is why firms such as Slaughters prefer Oxbridge graduates.

Aristotle 15 April 22 20:40

Chaps, I wish to enunciate that, in my experience working at MC and US firms, Oxbridge graduates do not in any way perform better than a non Oxbridge graduates. It is true that the abattoir favours Oxbridge, white and male graduates, but that is exactly the reason the firm is such an unexciting, one-dimensional workplace with barely any real diversity. Empirical evidence suggests that the abattoir is lacking behind its UK and even US competitors in every possible manner. In this regard, stop godifying your apparently “prestigious” degree, but focus on your work and actual achievements. 

Returning to the remuneration issue, Akin’s step to pay is pleasing. But with the downturn of leveraged finance and financial restructuring in the market it begs the question of the sustainability of paying salaries that aren’t aligned with the financial performance of the firm. Let’s all hope the Bingham incident wouldn’t happen again.  

Anon 15 April 22 21:00

Being clever academically simply isn’t enough to be successful in top firms.   You have to have a lot more.  You have to have confidence in your commercial judgment; the ability to get on with clients (who won’t in the main have gone to Oxbridge and who aren’t interested in academic legal arguments but rather how you can solve their issues quickly and simply); the ability to get on with people “below” you (paralegals, support staff, PAs) and above you, all of whom are different human beings and who won’t be impressed simply by technical ability.  The ability to deal with failure and pressure often when exhausted  (people who have only excelled in a classroom find this particularly difficult - eg when their work is marked up by their supervisor); and the ability to flex your style in different situations.  

None of the above is taught at Oxbridge.  

Anonymous 16 April 22 10:24

@ Anonymous 14 April 22 11:21

Fully agree. Also disappointing to see how far we have fallen behind Freshfields particularly after their flashy new bonus scale is taken into account. Hoping someone will make this point at the upcoming associate townhall.

Anon 16 April 22 16:53

Aristotle 15 April 22 20:40; Anon 15 April 22 21:00: the usual chippy nonsense. What clients want first and foremost is the right legal answer to their problems, articulated with rigour and clarity. The brightest, best-educated people provide that. And the brightest, best-educated people are Oxbridge graduates. That is why the top Chambers and law firms prefer Oxbridge graduates. 

Anonymous 16 April 22 23:12

"None of the above is taught at Oxbridge"

Common on the syllabus at former polytechnics is it?

Anonymous 17 April 22 17:57

From another perspective, Accountancy, I'm beginning to see why the Big 4 prefer Oxbridge and well educated grads as they are better presented, capable and less likely to make errors. You can give them work safe in the knowledge that it isn't going to require major rework. Hence the reply on 16 April at 16.53 makes sense.


Offshore 18 April 22 10:11

@City 15 April 22 08:53 Keep thinking that pal.

Us offshore bods (a) still earn a good wedge, (b) do decent work and (c) have husbands/wives/children/partners/cats/dogs/budgies who actually know what we look like.

If that means I'm the stupid one, I'm glad. 

City 18 April 22 12:07

Offshore 18 April 22 10:11: but you don’t do decent work. You act as a post box for onshore lawyers. And you also suffer from the fact that everyone looks down on you.

Offshore 19 April 22 05:45

City 18 April 22 12:07 The only people who care about stuff like that / look down on fellow professionals are folks like you...in the real world, where I live, it doesn't matter at all.

Offshore3q 19 April 22 06:42

The arrogance is hilarious. Most decent Jersey/Guernsey firms are paying similar salaries to the MC after tax, for billables in the 1400 region. And most decent Caribbean firms are close to Cravath with the benefit of virtually no tax. It’s not a ‘postbox’ as you’d know if you knew anything of our practice, but relatively few onshore lawyers are working regularly with offshore structures and don’t understand their purpose or their execution.

It is very funny to see people who are mid-level associates at mid-tier firms talk about prestige - do you honestly think an offshore associate earning significantly more after tax and billing significantly fewer hours would be keen to take a large pay cut to go to Ashurst or DLA? What is the sales pitch? Move back to a one-bed London flat, bill 500 hours a year more, earn £1000 less after tax a month, get partnership later if you want it and earn less when you do?

Anon 19 April 22 09:45

Offshore 19 April 22 05:45; Offshore 19 April 22 05:45: you do care that you are looked down on, which is why you have gone to the trouble of saying you do not care. Everyone finds their level. If you were good enough to work onshore, you would still be there. I have worked regularly with offshore lawyers in the Channel Islands and the Caribbean. Your role is to act as a post box for onshore lawyers. Put simply, the offshore world is for people who have checked out of their careers.

Onshore 19 April 22 10:00

Offshore3q 19 April 22 06:42: I am a senior associate at a City firm, specialising in corporate work, and was interested in finding out more about offshore practice a couple of years ago. I spoke to a contact in Cayman and she confirmed what I long suspected: that all the actual work is done onshore by the onshore lawyers, who hold the client relationships. The role of the offshore lawyers is to be, as someone else has said, a post box. I then ended up being involved in a couple of transactions in relation to Cayman structures. We did all the actual work, and then sent it to the people in Cayman for sign-off. I gather from litigation colleagues that it is the same for disputes work: the onshore legal team controls the process and strategy, takes charge of the drafting, assembles the counsel team. The offshore lawyers are only there because they have to be, but play no meaningful part in anything. It is therefore not difficult to understand why someone of any talent or prospects in the City (or indeed at any decent English firm) would never want to be an offshore lawyer. Offshore is a true professional graveyard.

Anon 19 April 22 11:53

Nobody wakes up and says, “My career is going swimmingly. I’ve got a shot at Silk/partnership in a few years. I know: I’ll give it all up and head offshore to be a post box for onshore lawyers”.

Offshore is for people whose careers haven’t worked out.

Anonymous 19 April 22 12:59

Mr Accountant here again. Further to my earlier post (17 April 22 at 17.57), my colourful career mirrors the experience of the contributor at 15 April 22, 11.44.

I was reluctant to pursue a career in Accountancy as I discovered as with law, there is a bias to Oxbridge candidates. I raised the matter with my accountancy tutor at the time and her response was "you are looking at the top firms".

Reading between the lines she was saying you can make a reasonable living from it but don't expect to be lavished by the big firms. Of course, there's always bright stars from red brick and other universities but you need to be reasonably good to outstanding to get a look in.

Ben 19 April 22 14:50

I remember what the partner in charge of trainees said to us all at our MC firm: "If things don't work out, you can always head to the Channel Islands or the Caribbean".

Anonymous7 19 April 22 15:14

ROFers always very quick to rubbish offshore.  Given the quality of City lawyers (esp juniors) most offshore firms have to deal with on a daily basis (simple ignorance about what a trust is, no understanding of security/perfection, mindless aggression, fighting your battles via offshore because no appetite/balls to fight them yourself onshore, etc) it's very amusing.  Not saying offshore is any better than anyone else, just that quality is pretty poor across the board and throwing stones in glass houses isn't a great look.  Law as a profession gave up on "giving advice" a long time ago - we are all just churn monkeys now.

Anonymous7 19 April 22 18:12

@Onshore at 10am. Correct, onshore tends to own the relationship. But if your contact is a postbox, she's not doing her job properly. Can think of countless times decent offshore lawyers have fixed gigantic expensive messes created by onshore (and vice versa). The insecurity required to make such sweeping declarations about an industry of which you know nothing is staggering - presumably you need to do it, otherwise the horrible truth of your own situation might become clear to you

Anonymous7 19 April 22 18:19

@Onshore at 10am. Correct, onshore tends to own the relationship. But if your contact is a postbox, she's not doing her job properly. Can think of countless times decent offshore lawyers have fixed gigantic expensive messes created by onshore (and vice versa). The insecurity required to make such sweeping declarations about an industry of which you know nothing is staggering - presumably you need to do it, otherwise the horrible truth of your own situation might become clear to you

Offshore3q 19 April 22 19:40

@onshore - 'oh, wow, I spoke to a single offshore lawyer once and she didn't think it was great!'. In contrast every onshore lawyer will talk passionately about their varied work, excellent pay, and brilliant colleagues. Not.

It is quite funny that whenever there's an offshore thread, you get exactly the same comments which I suspect are written by exactly the same people, who seem to have a strange obsession in talking down offshore firms and lawyers. Is it perhaps because they secretly don't like working in London so need to try and demean others for being happier than they are?

About 50% of my job is churn, and about 50% is interesting. It was much the same in my previous job as an MC associate. I get paid about the same and given the tax rates I actually see my pay rises. There are fewer unpleasant people in my team and firm. About two-thirds of our work is via onshore lawyers, and the rest is own account. I'm not too sure why I'm meant to care about that split, though - we are all servicing clients, whether within our own firms, at instructing firms, or in-house. In recent years we have hired from several MC and SC firms.

The one thing offshore definitely gives you is a very good view of the standard of various onshore firms, as we work with so many of them. Most are great. Some of the characters on this thread are exactly the sort of people we hate working with, since they don't take the offshore elements of a deal seriously, make mistakes as a result, and try to pin the blame on offshore counsel when things inevitably go wrong.

There are partners at Maples in the Caribbean (not my firm) who earn more than top of equity at most MC firms. Most Jersey / Guernsey equity partners are in a similar position post-tax to equity partners at somewhere like Ashurst or NRF. Not saying for a second that offshore's for everyone but you might pause for a second and consider whether practices are actually this profitable by being 'postboxes' or whether their senior lawyers are in fact respected experts in areas of the law you know little to nothing about.

Hmmm 20 April 22 00:44

Writing dissertations to defend your position on a RoF Article does not stand well with any of the claims you make...

Aristotle  20 April 22 11:02

@Anon 16 April 22 16:53

Complete Codswallop. The highest earners in the market are often not Oxbridge graduate - see [redacted] at Kirkland and [redacted] at Simpson Thacher, for example.  Energetic, technically strong, commercial, intelligent, assiduous and simply a people person. They dominate the leveraged finance world in UK and Europe and the “Oxbridge” elitist partners at MC firms are effectively begging the aforementioned for work. Ask someone in the business and you’ll know why that is the case - and again, Oxbridge graduates aren’t superior. This is just a fact. 

Anonymous 20 April 22 11:05

So look, we have this discussion every time the subject comes up, and we always go back and forth flitting around the topic, cranking out lengthy self-serving posts, making snide little innuendos, but never truly getting to the heart of the question.

So, this week, can we finally put it to bed once and for all. Do onshore lawyers or offshore lawyers have the biggest d*cks?

anon 20 April 22 11:19

Aristotle  20 April 22 11:02: it is a fact that Oxbridge graduates are superior. That is why they dominate in the top jobs - whether law or otherwise.

Anon 20 April 22 11:24

This is all a bit silly. I am sure we can all agree that working offshore is a huge step down in professional terms and attracts less capable people. But if they are happy, then so what?

Funny Jimmy 20 April 22 15:13

Perhaps the question is Oxbridge vs Non-Oxbridge. Oxbridge have arguably larger bones to start, but not-so-good performance as they spent too little time developing other skills. After all, the world is complex and major work givers are mostly not from elite background/Oxbridge - Birmingham graduates are as good as Oxbridge.  

Ultimately, size doesn’t matter - see how the US firms’ performance over the last 5 or so years. It’s refreshing to see top performers at US firms who aren’t Oxbridge grads.

anon 21 April 22 13:40

Funny Jimmy 20 April 22 15:13: "Birmingham graduates are as good as Oxbridge." What utter nonsense. You really are funny, Jimmy.


Anonymous 21 April 22 14:08


Do you really know the local law offshore better than the people working there full time? Also, if they are cheaper, why don't you send off work for them to do and then bill the full hours yourself, like you would were they your assistants?

RC 21 April 22 15:10

Read science in Oxbridge and went to Harvard for JD over a decade ago. Frankly, Oxbridge is so overrated compared to the United States. It may just be me but it’s much more intellectually stimulating studying in the US because the courses are current, practical and more robust. 

I’m no longer in private practice, even my husband still is (as a junior partner). We talked about juniors performance over dinner sometimes and it makes me realise how many incompetent Oxbridge public school graduates there are in the workplace. It’s quite common to see non Oxbridge graduates succeed in private practice as they take their work/opportunity more seriously - due to the perceived disadvantage derived from their education background - and get much more out of their career/training. The same goes to the Irish/Australian/Kiwi/South African lawyers - in a competitive environment your education background only gets you a trainee contract, the rest is all about your ability to build connections and solve problems effectively. 

Despite the above, Oxbridge education is awfully important to a barrister and can truly accelerate one’s career. 

Anon 21 April 22 19:33

RC 21 April 22 15:10: my experience is exactly the reverse. I read law at Cambridge, qualified as a barrister, and was a tenant in a chancery set for 2 years. I then married an America lawyer and moved to the US. I read for a JD and am now an attorney. What struck me was the lack of intellectual rigour in the JD course. It was very theoretical and the students (who apart from me were all from the US) were far below Cambridge undergraduates in intellectual terms. And in practice, people are hopelessly formulaic, with “guides” to cross examination, and there is a marked lack of forensic discipline to trial and appellate advocacy. Being a US lawyer makes me recognise all the more how much brighter Oxbridge graduates really are than people from other universities. Little wonder why the English courts are the benchmark of quality in the common law world, when both the judges and those who represent clients before them are overwhelmingly from Oxford and Cambridge.

Anonymous 21 April 22 22:21

After this fine tangent, I hope our editor could look more into the Oxbridge ratio. It is reasonable to assume it would be a particularly lively discussion.

vigntaine 26 April 22 18:09

Re anon above, how on earth can you reach that conclusion? You assume there is only one type of law (lads lads City churn churn City lads lads) and only one way to do it (in office, in London, go hard or go home, lads lads lads). No actual lawyer believes these things.

Anon 28 April 22 17:35

vigntaine 26 April 22 18:09: proper lawyers know that practising in the City or at the London Bar is the most prestigious thing to do, and that offshore is the pits.

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