The top five firms for pay are all headquartered in the US, just like last year. And just like last year, the staff most satisfied with their pay can be found at Latham & Watkins and Kirkland & Ellis, with employees at both handing their firms 100% scores.

At Kirkland, salaries and bonuses were "second to none" according to one associate (though perhaps not anymore). Another listings the best things about the firm as "Money, pay and remuneration". Plus, of course, working in "the phallic tribute to the City's ostentatiousness that my mother still refers to as 'the condom'".

Firm of the Year 2014 Shearman & Sterling takes second place. One lawyer predicts that "more and more" associates will move from the Magic Circle to firms like Shearman "as the fear of Big US Law Hours falls away", because work/life balance is "just the same" and the pay is "fantastic". Another says that while Shearman's "excellent", its pay is not at K&E/Sullivan & Cromwell levels although its lawyers "won't get as destroyed". Great! The work/life balance sacrifice is on the mind of Jones Day lawyers, too, though one associate prmomises "I wouldn't want to be beasted anywhere else!"

    The detailing is 24 carat

Just like last year, the highest-placed UK firm is Travers Smith, which manages to break into the top five despite offering salaries one lawyer admits are "average". So it's clearly not just the amount of money that drives satisfaction with pay  One senior associate suggests a policy of flat bonuses across the firm helps avoid "work-hoarding/back-stabbing".

Bonuses are a comon sore point. Bakers would have performed better than joint 14th if it had given staff a cash money bonus instead of a £150 voucher while the partners, according to one lawyer, "rolled around in piles of cash after record PEP". A "slap round the chops" would have been a "little bit less insulting", says another. But it's £149.25 more than the non-fee-earner at DWF received "a selection box to the value of 79p from Home Bargains". And a peeved King & Wood Mallesons junior associate says there is a better chance of "winning the lottery" than getting the billed hours bonus. Mainly because that dastardly corporate department "has a habit of writing off everyone else's time rather than their own".

Clifford Chance came in at joint seventh, and top of the Magic Circle, while Freshfields squeaked into ninth. Though one Freshfields lawyer complains that even the "superstar" associates "frequently have to throw toys out of pram" in order to get pay rises which management "market to the legal press as standard".*

In 18th, Pinsents gets kudos for raising salaries, though apparently only once management gets the hint when "75% of a team have left for pastures new". The barrier at fieldfisher is set even higher, with a decent pay rise as likely as "Katie Price deciding she wants to become a nun".

At the arse-end of pay satisfaction, a DAC Beachcroft lawyer says the money is "shockingly bad", adding, "I am actually now being paid less in real terms as a 3PQE than as an NQ". A colleague says the firm is "obsessed" with telling people that pay is comparable to local market rates, but since their office is in "one of the most deprived areas of Wales" that rate is "terrible".

Eversheds comes joint third last with Parabis, annoying its lawyers by awarding paltry rises of "about £2 per person" while sending round emails "banging on about how well the firm is doing". Pay rises of any kind may be out of the question at Parabis, with one nervous associate claiming that "Everyone earning over £300k has been cleared out with no explanation".

Golden Turd Trowers takes second bottom, leaving "stingy" Charles Russell Speechlys to grab last place. Underpaid lackeys at CRS complain of "rubbish" salaries and "pisspoor" bonuses. "You want City hours?" says one lawyer. "Pay city salaries!" Sources of dismay include "significant salary discrepancies" between ex-Charles Russell and ex-Speechly Bircham staff being explained away as "salary anomalies" and the familiar complaint that partners "hold tight to the purse strings" while telling everyone "how well we have done" and "how happy they are".

*Find out the very specific reason why Allen & Overy bombed on pay in the upcoming Magic Circle special.
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Anonymous 05 February 15 23:48

US firms pay more than UK firms sensation! What would I do without your inside info?

Anonymous 06 February 15 09:15

Um... I think the figure that Parabis have cleared people out at is £30k, not £300.