"Oh, honey look, a Brit's here. I needed some ice."
US firms Gibson Dunn and Goodwin Procter have both increased their NQ salaries to over £140,000, while Clyde & Co and Irwin Mitchell have decided it's more prudent to pay around half as much.
Gibson Dunn has raised NQ pay from £125,00 to £145,000, RollOnFriday understands, although the firm did not respond to requests to confirm the rise. Meanwhile, Goodwin Procter has increased NQ pay to £147k, less than six months after raising it to £137,500.
Since the Spring, US firms in London have gone cash crazy (even more than usual) as demand for lawyers in the City has powered spiralling salaries and sign-on bonuses.
The £140k+ club is a US-only affair, whose members include Debevoise & Plimpton, Latham & Watkins, Milbank, Akin Gump, Simpson Thacher, and Kirkland & Ellis. Not everyone has joined, and it remains to be seen how quickly any of them will catch up to Vinson & Elkins, which boosted NQ salaries from £147,500 to £153,000 in June.
Several top UK firms have also hiked NQ pay, all of which is unlikely to improve the mood of lawyers at firms where pay freezes remain in place.
At Irwin Mitchell there are "mass walk outs of junior staff on the horizon" due to the "embarrassing" pay review this year, predicted an insider. Juniors at the firm have found out there will be no increase to the NQ rate, "even after the firm has been boasting of performing incredibly well over the last financial year".
"The people at the top are greedy and keep all of the profits for themselves", said the fuming lawyer.
An Irwin Mitchell spokesperson responded that "ensuring our colleagues are rewarded fairly and receive a competitive salary for the work they do is something we take extremely seriously".
"Investing in our talent is vital as we look to significantly grow our business and we remain focussed on ensuring all colleagues including our NQs have the opportunity to build their careers here", he said.
In addition to regularly benchmarking salaries, the firm provided a a 3% 'thank you' bonus and "a substantially increased annual bonus pot", he said, while IM's "new Flexible by Choice hybrid working framework" had "proved very popular with our colleagues including NQs and demonstrates our trust and willingness to support their work life balance".
There was a similar outbreak of envy among some lawyers at Clyde & Co, where NQs have been told their pay will remain at £70,000 (after it was lowered briefly to £68k during the height of the pandemic). The firm's financials for 2020/21 showed that revenue increased 2% to £639.6 million, but sources cited a 7.6% rise in profit which translated into 7.5% increase in profit per equity partner, resulting in PEP of £715,000.
"WFW PEP is lower than Clydes, yet their NQ salary has increased to £88k", grumbled one junior lawyer to RollOnFriday.
Although associates at Clyde & Co above NQ level have received pay rises which in some cases have exceeded 8%, a source claimed most of their peers were receiving 5%, which they wrote off as "pathetic" given it "came on the heels of a two year pay freeze" and "essentially accounts for inflation only".
"I am now only paid slightly more than NQs at another silver circle firm that I turned down", said the new solicitor, glaring at Macfarlanes, Hogan Lovells, Travers Smith and Ashurst, and unable to enjoy their £20k+ leap from a trainee salary.
If you've been left bereft, or delighted, by a pay freeze/rise, let ROF know.