A salaried partner approaches the equity partnership
Over 2,000 legal staff, so far, have spilt the beans in RollOnFriday's Best Law Firms to Work At 2023 survey. If you're in private practice, have your say in the form below.
Partners have been airing their views, with some of their biggest gripes arising over pay.
A number of them have been complaining about the size of the carrot dangled to entice new joiners. "Frustrating that external candidates often seem to join the firm on enhanced packages greater than those of people already at the firm," said a Clarke Willmott partner.
An Irwin Mitchell partner voiced the same concern: "If you work your way up you are always treated less favourably than lateral hires. We know it happens but the disparity is staggering." However, a fellow Irwin Mitchell partner said that while pay was not market-leading, it "would be "churlish to complain, not least as a couple of my best friends work for the NHS and they would murder me." She added: "There is also something reassuring, in the current economic climate, about being a cheap partner."
An Addleshaw Goddard partner was not impressed with the calibre of their new peers: "some of the firm's recent lateral hires, are inexplicable."
Salaried partners at some firms noted the gap in pay compared with those in the rung above.
"The equity partners' salary review committee seem to give huge amounts to themselves and the Management Board, most of whom don't deserve the remuneration they receive, and less to those who do the work and bring in the revenue," said a HFW salaried partner, "Turkeys and Christmas."
Another HFW partner agreed: "I appear to be working to make equity partners richer".
A DWF partner was equally unimpressed with the distribution at their shop: "The big bosses took enormous bonuses and told everyone else there wasn’t enough money in the pot to pay any bonuses out," while the firm's "junior lawyers and support staff" received "below market pay."
Another partner at the firm commented that "the fact the members took a 19% profit increase in 2020/21 when much of the firm took a 20% pay cut (which wasn't paid back) has not been forgotten."
At Eversheds Sutherland, there were grumbles about the pay imbalance between offices, as one partner said the firm's regional offices are now "being charged out at London hourly rates but told that regional pay levels will be retained."
A Penningtons Manches partner believed that poor pay for junior staff was having a knock-on effect: "associates are getting picked off by other London law firms due to inadequate pay."
At the happier end of the scale, Gunnercooke partners seem satisfied with their 'eat what you kill' deal. "You take home most of what you bill, so its up to you how much you get paid," said one. Another agreed: "The consultant model comes with risk but the opportunities are huge. I work a lot less and earn a lot more compared to my last outfit (which was no Scrooge by any stretch)."
At other firms, partners felt pay wasn't everything. "I could get paid a lot more at another firm," said a Clifford Chance partner, "But I would lose a lot of things that make my life better. And I do still get paid enormously well".
At Osborne Clarke, one partner said: "Clearly there are firms where you could sign your life away and get paid more. And there are firms where you can work less and get paid less," but "it's a personal decision about what you want from your life / career."
A Bird & Bird partner said that they sometimes consider leaving when they see "how much people at Goodwin get paid", but "then I see how deprived of vitamin D they are, and I think again."
At Ropes & Gray, a partner believed they "could move somewhere else for more pay" but "the level of idiots/horrid people and amount of politics" would "almost certainly...increase". Putting it in perspective, they added: "I earn (and have earned from first qualifying) more than any member of my family / any person with whom I grew up - I am extremely lucky." Another partner at the firm agreed that pay was excellent, "without the dire culture at some of the other elite US firms."
A TLT partner was proud of how the firm looked after its people, saying TLT "works hard to try and fairly reward its staff and support them during the current cost of living crisis" - other firms have also dipped into their pockets with varying degrees of generosity.