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Covington & Burling has increased the salary for its newly-qualified solicitors in London to £128,000, and to a maximum of £225,000 for its senior associates.

It is the first time the US firm has increased NQ pay since 2019, when it began paying its newly-qualified solicitors £120,000.

The latest raises place Covington's salaries above those offered by Magic Circle firms, which now pay their NQs £100k (though at Allen & Overy you will need a bonus to get there), but below a few of its US peers, some of which (such as Kirkland & Ellis, Debevoise & Plimpton, and Vinson & Elkins) are paying their NQs base salaries in excess of £140,000.

An email from Covington's Management Committee leaked to RollOnFriday (why not do the same) set out all the pay levels for non-partners, allowing a good look at pay bands throughout a typical US firm

The Washington, D.C.-headquartered firm has levelled up pay across all its London associate bands. 1PQEs at Covington will now be paid £129,000 rather than £120,000, 2PQEs will receive a £9.5k rise to £136k, and 3PQEs will see the largest increase, from £136,880 to £149,000. 

Above that level the firm has pay bands, which have also been shifted upwards. The minimum salary for all associate levels above 3PQE has increased from £137,000 to £149,000. 

The maximum salary available to 4PQEs who produce enough pints of their blood, sweat and tears to impress the remuneration committee has increased from £180,000 to £194,000, and rises to £225,000 for 8+PQEs.

The firm did not respond when asked about the possibility of bonuses on top.

In its email to lawyers announcing the raises, C&B's Management Committee acknowledged that "the past year has been difficult", and that "we appreciate the efforts that all of you have made and continue to make".

Has your Management Committee recognised the graft you've been putting in with mahoosive raises? Or do you feel you've been wronged by a freeze? Let ROF know.

Tip Off ROF

Comments

Regional Lawyer 30 July 21 08:41

Those lawyers who are officially based in London, but just logging in from the luxury of their huge Northern home have worked out how to play the system… 

 

Will Regional firms reduce PEP to secure their best staff on better contracts? 

Anonymous 30 July 21 08:49

More likely Jersey or Cote D'Azur. One of our partners works from his house in Ibiza - with his pool in the background. How we love him

Anonymous 30 July 21 11:03

How is it his fault you haven’t put in the years of graft it takes to have a pool in Ibiza too?

Anon US Wannabe 30 July 21 11:28

All US lawyers do is stomp around corridors and in and out of each other's offices, threatening to 'depose' each other's clients (in the same firm).  I've seen Suits.  I know how that game works.  I can do that for £225kpa. 

Anon 30 July 21 11:43

There won’t be many associates at 8yrs PQe and  above anyway as those who aren’t made partner are “moved on”.  

Anonymous 30 July 21 12:03

And they’ve probably only banked £500k in those eight years. Not enough to buy a flat in zone 2 and they spent their 30s chained to a desk at the pleasure of psychos in the states who rank life in the order of Firm, God, Country, Golf, Dog, Family, Gardener, Maid, Associate. Sad. 

Anon lawyer 30 July 21 13:52

Lol these comments are always from sour lawyers who don't have what it takes to survive at a US firm. You can easily bank 100k a year net in savings as a mid/senior associate at the top US firms. That's whilst still living a real comfortable life and not even really trying to save. Sure, the hours can be relentless but it's the work hard play hard mentality for a few young years 27-35 and then you can quit with a low mortgage and a bank of savings 

Lol 30 July 21 14:35

@Anon lawyer - how are you supposed to 'easily bank 100k a year net in savings' when your take-home after tax is only around 110k (assuming without bonus and your base salary is 200k)? 

Yawn QC 30 July 21 14:37

Quite right. Sour lawyers. Those lawyers at US firms can retire early, with a low mortgage and q bank of savings and drop dead 6 months later from a heart attack. Well worth it. 

Anon 30 July 21 14:39

How can you possibly save 100k a year on 225k which is about 10-11k net salary a month even with a modest pension?

100k saved a year is 8.3k a month.  That leaves only 2-3k max a month left over  for everything else including accommodation, food and travel - no way that this is viable.  

@13.52 30 July 21 15:17

Given that a salary of £180k (the mid-point for Covington associates) is £100k post-tax, I’d say banking £100k a year in savings could be ambitious. 

I could be wrong.

Anonymous 30 July 21 15:27

Will they accept washed up regional lawyers who would be willing to move for this money? 

Brian Scalabrine 30 July 21 15:51

The guy talking about saving £100k net a year is clearly full of rubbish, and I'm afraid ROF has been infected with the same virus you find over at Legal Cheek, namely Uni students talking ish.  You would need a salary of around £400k a year pre-tax to be able to comfortably save £100k a year whilst still living a very comfortable lifestyle (paying off mortgage, holidays, top contribution in pension).  Accuses others of being sour because he lives in a fantasy dream world. 

Anon 30 July 21 17:10

I think it’s possible to bank £100k a year assuming you have a partner and split expenses, brings a lot of your costs down significantly.

@Anon 18:43 30 July 21 22:04

“With bonus the US firms paying £220k+ base salary are paying £400k/year all-in.“

LMAO keep the porkies coming mate, these supposed magical bonuses of ~£160k is a good one. 😂

Northern Guru 30 July 21 22:10

To 15.51pm - top pension contribution is £8k per year. We all know that. 

Anonymous 30 July 21 23:10

The above post is generally right although the figures are slightly off. If you are in the year group that earns £220k a year, it is unlikely your bonuses for that year will amount to £180k. The last 18 moths or so have been bumper. Those in the 2013 class year generally got $100k annual bonus last March or so, then they got the first “Covid” bonus of around $40k towards the end of last year, and then in May of this year they got a bonus of $64k, albeit for some people this is payable in two instalments, one in May and one coming up in October. I have been able to save around £100k over the last year or so. But without the big bonuses, this wouldn’t be possible on a base of c. £220k-£240k alone. 

Anon lawyer 30 July 21 23:43

Quite simple:

- 250k gross basic = 11k per month. Save 7k = 84k p.a.

- 40k annual bonus (net) + 20k covid bonus (net) = 60k p.a.

Total saved: 144k saved per year. Ignore the covid bonus going forward you’re still at over 100k savings. Give or take 10k or so for different pqe and you’re still getting close to 100k saved p.a.

Do this for 5 years = 500k cash in the bank. Quit. Go be a partner at a regional firm. Simple really. Ive done it.

Anon 31 July 21 16:38

The people posting about how awful it must be to work at places that pay these salaries do come across bitter. If I was a 20-something, and I had several options, I would choose to work at a high-paying US firm. 

Hours are virtually interchangeable with large UK firms - think MC and SC and a few others circling around there. People I know in transactional seats at those firms work just as hard, and if they have it easier, it isn't easy enough to justify the difference in salary. 

Exit opportunities from good US firms are stellar. Know a few from Latham who seemed to have moved at about 4PQE and doing well. People talk about these places as if the associates are trapped, and will literally be worked until they have a heart attack. Completely wrong. 

Doing a TC and continuing a career at a regional law firm is, I'm afraid to say, often a depressing prospect with no escape opportunities. Would I rather start a career at a regional firm pulling 9-6.30 regularly or a US firm pulling 9-9 regularly. A US firm. You get paid more and after a few years you can save up some money and get out if you can't stand it. It's a cruel thing to say but the thought of working in the corporate department of a firm in a regional city, working grim hours, and barely making any money with limited career prospects, fills me with dread. 

Anon 31 July 21 16:39

And all the people breaking it down into post-tax income and saying what a pitiful salary it is - do you intend to just never move into a higher tax bracket? There would be no point in ever progressing in your career. 

@23:24 31 July 21 17:10

“Do this for 5 years = 500k cash in the bank. Quit. Go be a partner at a regional firm. Simple really. Ive done It”

Yea sure. Now p*ss off son, A level results are almost out.

nonny 01 August 21 10:02

@K&E Bigman 30 July 21 08:43

I work in house and brief Covington regularly, they are top notch. We work them like hell and they always deliver. They are also cheaper than the magic and silver circle when we ask for quotes so quite how they can pay their team this much is beyond me.

Brian Scalabrine 02 August 21 12:15

@23.43

Your calculations are only relevant for the last year where these top US firms have been paying large additional bonuses and I assume there has not been much travel as holidays should eat into that in a normal year. Most years, the bonuses are not that high.  Just looking at the core calculation on basic salary, it is very odd.  On an £11k a month salary you are saving £7k? I accept people have been working from home a lot over the last but I assume you had this job prior to Covid.  If so, you would have been working very long hours and therefore needed a place to stay.  Where, in zone 1/2, can someone rent a safe and nice flat for £2k a month?  Or where can you buy a nice 2 bedroom flat in a nice part of zones 1/2 for less than £1 million.  So if said flat was purchased, how can you have such a low mortgage without help from parents/grandparents?  The problem is the statement that this can so easily be done without any context and no explanations about compromises or equally well off partners or parents etc. 

Also, speaking as someone who actually worked in a City firm, which top paying US firm is going to keep someone around at senior associate level for 5 years plus on that kind of ridiculous salary?  You will have to be partner track, so again why not say that.  Why suggest that it is possible to hang around at that level for so long, and then forgo partnership in a US firm for the regions where you will be lucky to break £100k.  Turnover at these firms is so high, because most burnout or can't cut it, and many aren't there for longer than 2 years.  You go to a top US firm to earn top whack for your hard work in certain industry areas.  It isn't a sort of onshore savings plan option.  

Anon 04 August 21 15:21

“Doing a TC and continuing a career at a regional law firm is, I'm afraid to say, often a depressing prospect with no escape” 

No it isn’t.  Some people value a balanced life, with reasonable pay but time to do other things, and not live in London, rather than spend a hugh proportion of their time at work doing sometimes not very intellectually demanding corporate work and rarely having much client contact or responsibility.   Making partner in a good regional firm can bring in several hundred thousand a year which is more than associates get paid at US firms and which has higher status and longevity.  Plus you can live in better places in the country (Bath, Cambridge, Oxford, Chelthenham etc) than London.   

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