US firms are more dominant than ever when it comes to salary satisfaction, with staff voting them into the top eight spots for pay.

Kirkland & Ellis came first for the third year running. Associates praised the "well above market" salaries and "huge" bonuses, with one simply filling the comment box with ££££££ symbols. A partner labelled the wedge "rock star pay", but did point out that in return "we own you and everything you touch (most of the time)".

Lawyers at Latham & Watkins, which was voted Firm of the Year 2014, called the money at their firm "fantastic". They admitted that while the hours are "crushing", the deal is, "for a pound of flesh each month, you receive a large sack of money". And it really is a large sack, with newly-qualified lawyers on a wallet-bursting £101,000.

Joint Firm of the Year Shearman & Sterling took fourth place, while Weil took third, with one lawyer suggesting that although salaries (before bonus) are matched to New York rates, "billable hours are generally lower". But it's not sufficient for one junor associate, who said, "I've sold my soul, my hopes and my life and I don't think the salary I get is adequate compensation for that. I hate my life - the fact that I may one day be able to buy a flat in zone 4 brings no comfort".

Top pay didn't prevent elbowing amongst the top 10, either. A partner at Mayer Brown (eighth) claimed that unnamed competitors "don't invest in their own trainee programmes", but "offer six figure salaries to poach our trainees". The cads. "We then get a rough ride in the press for NQ retention".


Following mediocre pay ratings in recent years, Allen & Overy rocketed into tenth place, just behind joint Firm of the Year Burges Salmon. After "years of fannying about", said associates, A&O "is finally paying us decent salaries" and for that, "it must be applauded". Staff at other Magic Circle firms are keenly aware of its "hefty" recent rises. Linklaters needs to "get real and pay competitive salaries that are actually top of the market, cf. A&O, all US firms", said a lawyer there, while a Freshfields associate complained, "we're now languishing at the bottom of the Magic Circle with no improvement in sight".

However the number of firms praised for their salaries can be counted on the fingers of one clumsy lumberjack, while over 40 firms were criticised for pay. Regional firms were drubbed for paying less than London firms, London firms were drubbed for paying less than MC firms and MC firms were drubbed for paying less than US firms (and A&O). At national firms, pay variations between offices caused consternation, with an Eversheds lawyer claiming that "paupers beg for lunch money in Cambridge", while "trainees buy whole streets of houses in Newcastle".

  A toon trainee, yesterday
In the peanut gallery, Irwin Mitchell's management are apparently "Market leaders in pisstake on pay" and "as tight as a fish's asshole". And BLM is accused of serving up "dog shit salaries" which are written off by its lawyers as "horrendous", "terrible" and "laughable". The worst pay score is reserved for Slater & Gordon, where the "uncompetitive" salaries earned it 16%, helped along by a "Rewarding You Fairly bonus scheme", which fee-earners believe is, "designed to be unattainable".

RollOnFriday will be delving into the remaining categories of the Firm of the Year survey in the coming weeks, with loos saved for last.
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Anonymous 29 January 16 09:09

I worked at IM some years ago. They used to pay their post room boys more than their paralegals because apparently a good post room boy is harder to come by than a fee earning paralegal capable of running their own case load of 100 files... It's nice to know that not much has changed.

Anonymous 29 January 16 11:13

Incredibly reductive to look/ think only about salary. Correct, I earn peanuts relative to a City lawyer, but I love my job and I have a great life (on the whole) which I can sustain. All these City lawyers crowing about money - it does seem rather hollow...

Anonymous 30 January 16 11:52

What else can IM do? It is having to buy revenue to replace the lost pi revenue as the compensation culture is further attacked by the government. It can't diversify because it is a pi firm so quality commercial lawyers will dismiss it. About 25 partners a year leave which damages IM's reputation and we have all heard awful tales about its culture and leadership. It cannot pay well because profits are falling and will fall further when fixed fees come in for med neg work. Retrain and move to a commercial law firm if you want to earn more.

Anonymous 04 February 16 12:55

'the compensation culture is further attacked...'

About bloody time! The fact IM acted as the vulture picking the bones of this culture is their fault alone