Russian
“Maybe they can buy my yacht.”


Akin Gump lawyers in London have been given raises across the board in line with their American colleagues, RollOnFriday understands.

It would mean newly qualified lawyers in the firm's UK branch are being paid £159,000 ($215,000), making them among the best-paid in the country along with NQs at Fried Frank (£160k) and Goodwin Proctor (£161k). Kirkland & Ellis and several more US firms are understood to pay in the same region.

A source provided RollOnFriday with a breakdown of the firm's complete new salary scale, which provides an envy-inducing insight into the giant sums Akin Gump is bestowing on its junior lawyers - though the likes of Kirkland 

The salary increases are retroactive to 1 January 2022, said the insider, and the GBP sums are calculated on the basis of a conversion rate of £1 = $1.3553, applicable until March.

The alleged scale reveals that 4PQEs are now being paid a cool £247k, with leaps of around £30,000 to 3PQE and 4PQE.

NQ: £159k ($215k)
1PQE: £166K ($225k)
2PQE: £184k ($250k)
3PQE: £217k ($293,500)
4PQE: £247k ($335k)
5PQE: £266k ($360,500)
6PQE: £281k $381k)
7PQE: £293k ($396,500)

The sums paid by US firms, which are pulling up those offered by top City firms, has prompted public expressions of concern from law firm leaders. 

DWF's CEO, Sir Nigel Knowles, warned that "offering more and more money to young people is only a sticking plaster", and that massive hikes are "not a sincere, sustainable or healthy solution for anyone".

Charles Russell Speechlys, which pays NQs a salary of £68k, said it would resist, telling RollOnFriday that its approach was "not to make knee jerk reaction changes in response to these unprecedented labour market fluctuations, driven by US and Magic Circle Firms".

Akin Gump did not respond to a request for comment.

RollOnFriday's keen to pull together pay scales across the US firms, and the rest for that matter - so feel free to send them in.

Tip Off ROF

Comments

Anonymous 04 March 22 07:03

It squashes together at higher PQEs, but I suppose that’s when it gets to the up or out stage. 

Anon 04 March 22 08:13

The deal is clear - you get paid very well, but your quality of life will be low as you will be working incessantly.  In your mid 20s, it’s something you can cope with.  In your mid 30s once marriage and children may come, it really isn’t.  

Anonymous 04 March 22 09:11

Eye watering sums.

Fair play to those earning it. Just try and protect your health while doing it. Stress takes years off you.

@anon 8.12 04 March 22 09:13

The new K&E/STB scale is lower than this is not? 5PQE hitting $335K not 4PQE...

Observer 04 March 22 09:14

FYI looks like these were set BEFORE Cravath re-raised. 7PQE in the new Cravath scale is on US$ 415,000, which is around US$20,000 more than this. It would be good if RoF could keep an eye on this, including with the source, to see whether Akin matches the new Cravath rate - which it surely will in the US at least.   

Anonymous 04 March 22 09:43

@9.11 they may be eye-watering some for some, but the increases in pep this year still outweigh these raises when compared in percentage terms

We don't do this for free... 04 March 22 10:03

"DWF's CEO, Sir Nigel Knowles, warned that "offering more and more money to young people is only a sticking plaster", and that massive hikes are "not a sincere, sustainable or healthy solution for anyone"."

I see! Regional firms are paying rubbish money for their associates' own good! Thank you, Sir Nigel. Do, please, keep protecting your staff from all that nasty, insincere money.

Insider 04 March 22 10:12

This is either wrong or Akin are paying salaries a year ahead of everyone else...

Market is:

1PQE (2021) $215,000

2PQE (2020) $225,000

3PQE (2019) $250,000

4PQE (2018) $295,000

5PQE (2017) $345,000

6PQE (2016) $370,000

Akin is:

NQ (2022): £159k ($215k)
1PQE (2021): £166K ($225k)
2PQE (2020): £184k ($250k)
3PQE (2019): £217k ($293,500)
4PQE (2018): £247k ($335k)
5PQE (2017): £266k ($360,500)
6PQE (2016): £281k $381k)
7PQE (2015): £293k ($396,500)

Actual Insider 04 March 22 10:39

No that is simply incorrect. The current cravath scale has higher levels from 4PQE onwards.

The internally circulated email stated that:

3PQE = $295,000

4PQE = $345,000

5QE = $370,000

6PQE = $400,000

7PQE = $415,000

8PQE = $425,000

Most firms are believed to have matched this in the upper “elite” US section. Whilst some have stayed at the scale listed by this Akin Gump insider.

There is therefore 2 different pay scales at the moment. But within a few weeks they should all adhere to cravath 

 

 

Poor regional lawyers 04 March 22 10:46

This is very tempting. I mean the regions are an absolute joke these days. Work 9am - 7pm and get paid like it's a 9-5... Credit to DLA for trying to bridge the gap. 

To the regions 04 March 22 11:41

Suggest you come here and see if you can hack it. You never know until you try.

Anonymous 04 March 22 11:57

It isn't exactly like the US firms hire anybody, it's fairly competitive, except for Kirkland and Ellis, who will hire anyone with a pulse

To anonymous 04 March 22 12:45

The last I checked K&E had no vacancies in London. I’ve never even seen any vacancies advertised in London.

Anonymous 04 March 22 13:15

What are you expecting, an ad in the metro? They don't advertise, because anyone who walks in is offered a job

Bystander 04 March 22 14:27

I concur with the observations above - when things get busy K&E would hire anyone even if the candidate isn’t necessarily “top”. But these subpar employees generally get pushed out eventually.

I can’t comment on Akin’s pay but I’m aware of a few elite US firms pay a 4PQE just under £205,000.

Anon 04 March 22 14:36

All these people saying that US firms culture is bad are wrong.  Some might be, but that's the same with MC/silver circle/etc.  US firms give full parental leave, full COVID bonuses, full bonuses (and some) (140k+ at the top end), great healthcare and wellness bonuses, and in the case of one firm (Goodwin) will pay for a holiday up to USD10k.  And hours are similar, and at some firms, the partnership is less rigid, younger and more culturally up to date (all this talk from Clifford Chance about a Chief Happiness Officer is old news at many of the more modern US firms).  The bigger difference is they have different client base and are more profitable.  

Anonymous 04 March 22 15:08

I mean, you've got to deduct about 10% from those figures to account for your annual anal lubricant budget, but even after that these are pretty tidy sums.

 

Until you hit 7 PQE of course, whereby the risk of total anal prolapse becomes so high as to require you to shell out for regular proctologist intervention.

Literally 'up or out' at that point I suppose.

Genuine question 04 March 22 15:13

How sweaty is life in litigation at Akin? How much > 2,000? In a MC firm now and tempted by the figures....

Anonymous 04 March 22 16:07

Could someone tell me, please, if I worked at Akin Gump with 4 PQE and on £250,000, what kind of billing target would the firm be setting me?  Ta

Anon 04 March 22 16:13

Wow - some of these senior associate salaries are starting to push up against year one partner comp at US firms (my $600k is starting to look a bit pedestrian)!

bishops squared 04 March 22 18:26

250k to work with sociopathic partners and then be stealth laid off when the market is down 

thanks but no thanks 

wake up and smell your cortisol levels 

Anon 04 March 22 19:43

Billing target at K&E is 2500, Latham 1900 don’t know about Akin. No lawyer at these firms was below 2300 last year though. 

Anon 04 March 22 20:23

This talk about up and out at US firms is not true. Plenty make counsel or just stay at Senior Associate if they aren’t fit for Partner. In fact I’ve never met or heard of a single person that’s been pushed out (excluding from K&E). Counsel pay is 350k plus bonuses which is not bad. US firm targets are generally around 1900 hours - not much more than MC. 

Anon 04 March 22 21:12

Can anyone who bills 2300+ a year speak to how that translates in practice?  I assume you are regularly working through weekends, and doing all nighters weekly?  Is it possible to go on holidays/hold down a relationship/have a wife and kids who know who you are? Not meaning to be churlish, I’m genuinely interested.

Re: Anon at 19.43 04 March 22 21:17

The comment at 19.43 is just wrong. K&E has no formal billing targets. Bonus grid starts at 1800 hours. I know because I’m a partner there.

BBC 04 March 22 21:22

There’s a ranking prepared by someone on the sweatiness of US elite firms in another post. Akin is on the “average” bucket so I suppose while it’d no doubt be intense it’s still far better than Kirkland and the like. 

Bystander is probably right. STB pays around £220k for 5 PQE so I’m not sure if the information regarding Akin’s latest pay scale is correct, being £46k more than that figure. STB lev fin is market leading and lawyers bill serious hours - it’s therefore inconceivable that STB lawyers are paid less than Akins. 

Honestly though, apart from high yield restructuring I wouldn’t necessarily work at Akin. There’re better options out there which aren’t Kirkland or Latham.

Gotta go - late to my proctologist appointment. 

At anon 04 March 22 21:37

In reality it is working every evening, a lot of weekends, being semi responsive when on holidays, some days are lost to calls when you are more senior. Relationships are difficult, but obviously doable

@Anon at 21:12 04 March 22 22:17

I regularly work past 10.30pm everyday, 8-10 hours on a Saturday and 2-4 hours on Sunday. I did that voluntarily to avoid having to pull all nighters during the week, because some fund clients are relentless and can be awfully demanding.

I don’t catch up with friends much as I’m too knackered after work. My wife is fine coz of the cash but I don’t have time nor physical prowess to reproduce so no kid at the moment (or there’ll never be one). 

The above sounds miserable, doesn’t it? But I do love the pounds and secretly enjoy buying £15-20k Rolexes to show off. Bought meself a brand new 3 series after bonus and my friends were green with envy. This is what frightfully spiffing success looks to me, in spite of my non-existent, appalling work life balance.
 

Mr Gaudi 05 March 22 05:01

Jajaja, the K&E comments were on point. Some of the gobshites were hired without proper vetting and are absolutely atrocious. 

It does seem that most of the other US firms have high standards and can be extremely selective when recruiting associates. This is also why US firms tend to have an army of ultra-high performers (who were most likely headhunted from a MC/SC firm) who can handle complex matters independently early on. 

@22:17 05 March 22 10:50

I can see why you’d want to do it for these figures. Be careful not to disregard time for yourself, your wife and your friends entirely though.  I imagine that lifestyle could lead to being a very rich and very lonely 40 year old.

Curious Chris 05 March 22 10:51

Could someone please clarify how pqe levels are calculated at these US firms? So, for example, if you are a September qualifier and  qualified in September 2019, would you be paid the “2019 - 3PQE” amount or the “2020 - 2PQE” amount? 
 

As a September qualifier (as opposed to say a March qualifier) you would only really have been qualified for 3 months of your first calendar year. Curious how your PQE would be calculated in this case. Thanks!

Lawyer @ moneylaw 05 March 22 13:59

Comments above are pretty accurate. Having been at one of these firms for about 5 years:

1. You need a plan in place to protect your mental health. Nothing is ever good enough, the hours are relentess, the gas lighting is extreme and people are obsessed with nothing but the work. 
 

2. Lots of people are very cash rich but very lonely. Because they are lonely they work all the time and the so it's a self fulfilling prophecy and you get stuck in a vicious cycle. No plans on a Saturday? Might as well work. 
 

3. The smart ones bank the cash and keep modest lifestyles. They can then in theory leave whenever they like. That option keeps people working hard as it gives them back some element of control (or so they think)

 

4. The deals are high value complex and market leading and the responsibility is second to none. It is an extremely high performing and highly responsive always turned on environment which is what some people want but a lot don't. It creates a bubble because outside of these firms/clients, that just isn't how the real world operates. 
 

@10:51 05 March 22 14:50

PQE = full years qualified.

If you’re 3 months qualified you’re an NQ.

If you’re 11 months and 2 weeks qualified, you’re an NQ.

Explanation. 05 March 22 17:50

If you qualified in 2021 you get 2021 rate, 2020 qualifiers get 2020 rate. Doesn’t work on pqe basis.

Hope 06 March 22 08:19

The open and honest views on this forum give me hope. A piece like this could (and might usually) be awash with comments driven by greed (how much? Why not more where I am, etc.). Whilst there are a smattering of those, what strikes me in the comments here are the number of humane and supportive comments as well as the  responses from many US lawyers offering on the level views into life at White Shoe firms and the impacts on self.  For everyone who chooses to take the dollar or may do so - have future reference to this thread. It sounds like these jobs, whilst enriching, can erode a potentially happy life and truly leave you a lonely soul. This life doesn’t sound compatible with having time to have meaningful relationships with those that you love or aspire to love (including yourself - not a cue for smart comments; ppl focused solely on enrichment often overlook and mute the higher needs of their inner self whilst in such blind pursuit). Take care everyone. Choose life

Anon 06 March 22 09:49

some thoughts:
 

1. It is also possible to work for 5 years, leave after making decent savings, and then re-discover the ‘soul’ you supposedly lost(?).  I think suggesting otherwise might present a false binary and mislead people on the forum.  it also discounts that you’re in for a similar bargain (with less compensation) in many UK transactional teams. 

2. Different groups have different expectations in respect of work life balance (9-7:30pm could be said to be the norm in specialist groups) and culture — certainly a lot less of a hierarchy in comparison to some of the UK HQd firms.  

Experienced it all 06 March 22 10:48

I rarely read the comments, but the above resonate with me very much.
 

Don’t blindly think that only Kirkland and Latham have long hours. Non-NY US elite are just as bad if not worse. I was an associate of a US elite in London for 4.5 years and the hours had completely pulverised me to the point that I had to schedule regular psychologist appointments to get medication to alleviate my stress level. I was naive enough to fantasise that I’d one day become a partner, only to realise that very few (10% of the already highly elite group of lawyers) can actually make it up the top eg. technical skills, business development, profile building, industry recognitions. One day I came to the realisation that there is more beyond work so I quit my £265k job to work at a retail bank, earning a modest £120k in-house 9.30-5.30 job. The money is not so good comparatively and I can never live in the luxury apartment I used to be able to afford comfortably, but my mental health has improved remarkably and I’m able to do things I truly enjoyed: Meeting up with friends, playing music, cooking at work, seeing my parents every weekend, which I never had time to do as a “US elite” lawyer. 

Never switch firm purely for the money, just don’t do it. A career in law isn’t a sprint. Take it slow, work in a well-supported team without psychopathic partners or dickhead clients, and develop experience in a steady and healthy way.

FWIW 06 March 22 18:06

'Elite' US SA who moved across from MC and is leaving current firm in next year or so.

my quick observations, in case it's helpful to anyone else:

- Training just isn't as good as MC (possibly even SC). So you have lots of very smart, very highly paid but, essentially, clueless juniors. There's far less hand holding so people muddle through until they get promoted. As such, there's rampant imposter syndrome at every level. Everyone's being paid crazy money so no one wants to look stupid. 
- the money is, without a doubt, fantastic. Life changing if you're smart. But have a clear idea about why you need that money. I have too many colleagues who are miserable but are trapped because, for example, they bought some unnecessarily large house. 
- the work is great in that you get a lot more responsibility. But equally, you'll often be dealing with things that have nothing to do with your practice area. For some people, this is too much stress to deal with. 
- the hours are long but they're also lumpy. I'll go a month working flat out then a month where I do nothing. You're either busy working or busy wondering why you're not busy. 

 

Anon 08 March 22 01:10

@18:06 - your first point is spot on. I'm also a SA at an "elite" US firm and I'll be leaving this year. There are lots of very diligent, hard working junior associates who say "yes" and "how high" to practically every request of them to the extent they are quite regularly working until 2/3am every night on quite boring/menial tasks. They're not particularly good nor impressive lawyers but they have no barriers and will churn the work as required.

Unfortunately that's just the model though. When a 5th or 6th year gets tired of working 2,500 hours a year and starts saying no or pushing back to unreasonable demands they are managed out and replaced by the next batch of money hungry newbies ready to take their place. That's why US law firms have quite high attrition rates/ associates tend to do 3 years or so. 
 

 

West Coast Associate 08 March 22 11:19

Working at a West Coast US elite. Echoing the above, the hours are truly shocking and I’d easily have pulled 80-110 hours a week. But I have to say my peers at this firm are all very well trained and nice human beings, and it’s nice to be in a high performing team.

One additional thought: I’m not trained at a MC firm, but it’d seem that US firm attracts some really strong Australian/Kiwi associates - which is something I found interesting (in a good way). Our industry lacks real diversity beyond gender diversity and it’s sometimes refreshing to work with these overseas people who are presumably at the top of their game from their respective home country. I’d never forget working with an Australian associate - an awfully intelligent lady with brilliant problem solving skills that are scarce in the UK market - and learnt so much from her. Shame that she decided to move back to Sydney.

I wouldn’t necessarily contend US firm is a bad gig beyond the money, but I concur that people burn out and only the best of the best with serious conviction (read: zero life outside of work) can make partnership. 

@11:19 08 March 22 13:15

not sure I agree with only the "best of the best" making partner (unless you mean equity, in which case that's true of any firm).

All of the US firms hand out partner, counsel etc titles far more readily than their MC counterparts - KE is a good example.

 

 

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