Respondents to the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2018 survey were reluctant to admit to total satisfaction with pay, and not just because it might give management an excuse to shut off the spigot.

Across firms, lawyers in beasted teams complained that they should be paid more than counterparts in teams with civilised hours, lawyers in regional offices said they were being fobbed off compared to London, and lawyers in almost every firm claimed their pay was below-market. Nonetheless, some were much happier with pay than others.


"Top of the market." "Top of the market - can't say fairer than that." "Top of the market. End of." Uniquely, there were no complaints about cash from Kirkland & Ellis (100%) lawyers. The pay, said a senior solicitor, was "ridiculously amazing". They all gave it the same score - excellent - earning the US firm a perfect mark for dosh. Complaints were directed elsewhere: "My beef is with HMRC", said a junior solicitor. "Pays double the salary of other law firms", said a senior solicitor. "But you work four times as hard!"

"Other than Kirkland", said a junior solicitor at fellow US firm Latham & Watkins (95%), pay was "probably about as good as it gets". It was "stonking", said another junior solicitor. The 5% deficit was due to grumbles that while Latham "likes to claim that it pays New York rates", the spot exchange rate it applies when converting USD to GBP "means we are paid approx 10% less then the top of the market". A senior colleague countered, "We get paid a sh*t load of money, and some associates still complain when the exchange rate doesn't work in their favour". It was, she said, "really embarrassing".

  A refrain for the Latham NQs getting by on £124,000   

The five firms rated highest for pay by their staff were all headquartered in the US. A Weil (89%) lawyer "getting paid 150% what I got at the Magic Circle", asked, "Where did it all go so horribly wrong?! (moo ha ha)". At Shearman & Sterling (83%), a senior solicitor said she was not earning "as much as the moneybags at K&E", but it was "still excellent".  Although "for unknown reasons", said a junior lawyer, "our pay seems to be pegged to White & Case".

Which landed next. A White & Case (82%) junior solicitor opined that "increases for those over 3PQE did not match expectations", but, "still, I get paid a ton". Another junior solicitor said, "It's not Debs but then again I wasn't asked to sign soul, sex life and sanity at the door so swings and roundabouts, y'know?" A trainee said, "NQs who complain about pay when making £105,000 are delusional".

At Macfarlanes (78%) the pay was "just enough for it to not to be worth moving to an American firm", said a junior solicitor. In a common refrain, the dosh at joint Firm of the Year 2018 Burges Salmon (78%) was "good for Bristol", said a lawyer. Although some questioned whether Osborne Clarke paid more, and others said they worked longer than "Bristol hours".

"In some groups the pay is obscene", said a senior Travers Smith (76%) lawyer who did not work in real estate. "Our property lawyers seldom do more than 5 hrs billable a day, so it's a rich deal for them - but in the groups where you get shafted (financial services, disputes, PE) the pay is laughable". Other comments suggested 'laughable' was a stretch. Lawyers cited a "decent" base pay that "compares favourably with any of the English firms for the hours we put in".

Joint Firm of the Year 2018 Osborne Clarke (76%) was "very competitive in the Bristol market", agreed lots of staff. At the third and final Firm of the Year 2018, Mills & Reeve (72%), "It's a shame that the pay in the Cambridge office isn't appropriately-weighted", said a lawyer there. "Cambridge is bloody expensive; Manchester isn't".

Freshfields (71%) was"top of [the] UK firm payscale", said a solicitor. Though it was "hardly comforting when the work expectations are of alien proportions". Nonetheless, it landed top of the Magic Circle for pay.
Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 09 February 18 09:17

Why do so many southerners like the Osborne Clarke lawyer above believe that the north is cheap as chips? Having worked in both Cambridge and Manchester I can exclusively reveal that to live somewhere nice costs a fortune in the north too.

Anonymous 12 February 18 12:54

Thank you, nonny 16.27.
A ha ha.
A ha ha ha ha ha.
What I meant to say was: "Gosh. One wonders why such a big regional hitter is not represented in these results.
Reasons could be:
1. Staff are so deliriously happy that they decided not to take part.
2. Staff are so over worked they did not have time to take part.
3. Staff were threatened with disciplinary action if they took part.
4. ROF were threatened with disciplinary action if they presented the results.
Probably 1, i'd imagine.
Yes, I'm sure that's it.