Where do you fall?

The RollOnFriday Best Law Firms to Work At 2024 survey is in full swing after opening a fortnight ago, and pay satisfaction is already coming into focus with over 2,000 submissions in the postbag.

Agree or disagree with these entrants, you can swing your firm up or down the rankings (revealed in January) by rating your satisfaction with your pay, career development, work/life balance, the office and amenities, the culture, and the management.  

At Ashurst, “NQs keep eating my payrises”, says a senior associate, while “Bonuses are weak”. But there aren’t too many entries from the firm yet, and plenty of time for a rosier picture to emerge.

“Objectively, £155k is a good salary”, a senior associate at Baker & McKenzie rightly says. “But when you realise that is £10k more than someone 5 years your junior who leaves the office at 6pm whilst you run billion dollar deals, the pay bunching starts to grate…”

It doesn’t grate with a colleague who marked themselves “very satisfied” with pay at Bakers. “Bonus last year around £60k” probably helped.

A junior lawyer at Slaughter and May is phlegmatic. “£158k for 4PQE is a lot of money by any metric. We're clearly miles off from BigLaw, but we've broadly kept up with the Magic Circle, and I'm glad not to be working for an American M&A factory (even if the hours probably aren't wildly different during the crunch times)”. And the NQs should be pleased now, too.

An Allen & Overy lawyer begs to differ. In leveraged finance they work the “same hours and only work across from US firms”, but with “£50k less base and meek bonuses”. Maybe some happier lev fin colleagues will swing the dial.

DLA Piper is the king of the regions according to a junior lawyer. The firm “massively increased pay in the regions a few years ago” and “one or two firms have since matched this, but the vast majority seem unable to compete”.  

For national firms, London weighting is often a source of tension and it’s raising its head already this year, scuffing the scores of solicitors in the regions who would otherwise be happy. “Normally I would say it is fine, but seeing what NQs earn in our London office is an absolute joke. There are junior associates there I trained who earn better than me!” gripes a Shoosmiths lawyer.

Sidley Austin (NQ salary: £159,150) gets a roasting from a senior associate whose salary is converted from the dollar with an exchange rate of 1.35. It’s “far from reality. If the firm wants to be competitive it needs to select its peer firms better and mark their comp accordingly”.

“It’s still a lot of money”, they concede.

If Paul Hastings can rustle up enough entries it’s a contender. “Solid bees and honey”, chirps a Cocknified associate. “I make £300k base as a 7PQE plus about £90k guaranteed bonus if I make my 2000 hour target which is quite easy to achieve”.

An RPC associate is just happy to be here. “Only 5 years ago, the magic circle was paying less than I'm on.  Thanks, NQ pay wars”.

Will last year's pay rankings get turned on their loaf of bread? The survey is open to everyone in a law firm: you can take it below. 


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Anonymous 17 November 23 08:58

Are Wombles staff enjoying the financial rewards of £60m+ in fees from overseeing the UK’s largest miscarriage of justice?

Or did a small set of partners pick up that cash & let the staff shoulder the shame?

Anonymous 17 November 23 09:10

I'm a regional Legal Director at a top 20 firm. Base salary is well under £80k.

RPC associate 17 November 23 09:20

Pay at RPC continues to be laughable on the commercial side. At £85k we'd even earn more at the likes of Shoosmiths. Way below market.

Reality statement 17 November 23 09:48

If you don’t like your pay, move firms. People who moan and do nothing about it are first class you know what’s. “I want more because they get more next door” is not good enough a reason. The person at RPC who has commented should move to Shoosmiths if pay matters that much to them. BTW - I work in Leeds and earn £300k. I am a Partner so that’s perhaps not out of the ordinary. I could earn nearer to £500k if I moved to London but I don’t want to do that. So I don’t moan. I’m content with the balance in my life and where I live. 

Lawyer from Manchester 17 November 23 09:54

Why would you do 2000+ hours when you are already earning a generous base? I’d be more than delighted to skip the bonus and do regional hours for £2-300k…

anon0858 17 November 23 10:04

anon0858 see ROF story below about Vagina Museum where  cash rich Wombles are paying it forward by passing some pennies onto another bunch of .....

Reality check 2 17 November 23 10:10

If a partner in Leeds thinks they can move to London to earn more, they are deluded. No one in London would hire you. Like it or not, the work done by most London firms is qualitatively different to that done in Leeds, which is why London lawyers are paid more. If that weren't the case, Leeds firms could charge London rates.

Peanuts 17 November 23 10:29

Peanuts compared to the £64million modhwadia at axiom got paid

Anon 17 November 23 10:41

Meanwhile at Dentons we're paid an average salary (circa 115k) for working our butts off. In the litigious teams 4 PQEs are on the same as 3 PQEs and I've heard this is the same in many other teams. What is the point in extra experience if you aren't rewarded for it.

Anon 17 November 23 10:41

Agree with Reality Statement above, but would go further and say most NQs in the City are now considerably overpaid. And I don’t just mean the ones at US firms on 150k+, I’m talking the mid-level ones on 80-90k. NQs have sod all responsibility at the end of the day, and for the most part their job is pretty easy. It’s only thanks to the trickle down effect of the US mega-firms’ pay wars that these mid-level firms have upped salaries. A few years ago they’d be paying 50-60k NQ with no complaints.

Anonymous 17 November 23 10:43

Do senior associates and above at Freeths still get a monthly subscription to Razzle?

Anonymous 17 November 23 11:12

Deals are drying up, lawyers at city firms are being laid off: If you are being paid a shed load and are not making the minimum1800 billables in the City, then I hope you did not buy any thing you cant liquidate quickly.

Anonymous 17 November 23 11:13

I feel sorry for clients paying stupid fees for children NQs.

Anonymous 17 November 23 11:26

Partners in Leeds earn £300k? Where do I sign?

To 10.10 17 November 23 11:38

Bull. I am a litigation lawyer. Just moving to London ups my rate and most of my work is against London based lawyers who often think a postcode makes them better. It doesn’t. I’ve doubled my practice in the last 5 years eating the lunches London lawyers used to eat. There is a place for City lawyers but litigation under £5m just isn’t it. Clients don’t want to pay £300-£500 a hour for a snotty nosed kid to play around while earning £125k and thinking they are the bees knees because the pile in the office carpet is deep and they’ve “made it” in the City. Laughable.  

London Lawyer 17 November 23 13:19

I would need a hell of a lot more than £300k to live and work in Leeds

Reality Check 3... 17 November 23 13:30

Reality check 2 - you're just wrong. A lot of regional employees are doing London work from the regions. Many firms no longer even differentiate regional rates. The lower rates are because salaries are lower (less firms competing for staff and none of the big players in the market) and office space is cheaper etc. They are not because the quality of work is lower in the regional office vs the London office... Regional rates are also a great selling point to clients.

Leeds lawyer lol 17 November 23 14:56

That Leeds partner is probably a partner at some high street joke shop in Wakefield earning 70k. Walking around in M&S suit thinking he’s big time… jog on chump

Parsnip 17 November 23 14:56

who tf litigates when the amount disputed is under £5m? That's small firm thinking and you're welcome to it.

Anonymous 17 November 23 15:58

"I’ve doubled my practice in the last 5 years eating the lunches London lawyers used to eat."

That's disgusting. You don't need to live that way.

Just make a sandwich the night before and put it in the fridge. Then bring it in to the office with you in a lunchbox. It's inexpensive (even on Leeds wages) and - with a little thought - can be far more nutritious than the execrable gravy sandwiches that have reduced Mancunian life expectancy to near Scottish levels.

Stop eating out of the bins.

Tory hater 17 November 23 16:07

Some bad Tories on ere. Greedy twunts

Leeds firms 17 November 23 16:11

DACB are a top Leeds firm paying circa 300k to partners and much of the litigation handled there is top drawer even if under £5m value. Same for DWF in Leeds to be fair. Loads of top drawer litigation with complexity. The value alone doesn’t make it challenging ! 

Reality check 4 17 November 23 16:27

Reality check 3 - having worked in an international firm in the regions and a top-tier firm in the City, it is an absolute undisputable fact that the quality of work is higher in the City than in the regions.  The City firms can easily do the regional work (though won't do a lot of the low-margin churn that keeps regional practices going), but the regional firms would never be instructed on 90% of the City firms' mandates.

@ reality check 3 17 November 23 16:42

“The lower rates are because salaries are lower”

Err, no. Rates dictate salary, not the other way round.

Flabbergasted 17 November 23 16:50

Some of the comments on here make me chuckle but also fear for the human race - some folk really are so arrogant and deluded (and I wonder how well your firm are doing at acting out the D&I principles it no doubt preaches about in tenders). Just because you work in London means nothing - been there, done that and bought the t-shirt/moved away again in order to live amongst those really nice (but apparently soon to die) people in Scotland. I've given up being surprised when acting opposite to lawyers in the magic and silver circle firms just how bad some of them are. Half the time they have got where they are because of who they know and not what they know - give me someone with talent and ambition who has worked their way up despite possibly not having the best background/opportunities rather than someone born with a silver spoon in their mouth any day of the week. Some of you really need to get a grip on reality!

Anonymous 17 November 23 16:51

London people are considerably more intelligent hence better paid lawyers.

Indeed science proves that the further from the W1 postcode a brain is taken, the more it deteriorates.

Anonymous 17 November 23 17:08

"Same for DWF in Leeds to be fair. Loads of top drawer litigation"

It's all 'top drawer' in the sense that that's where the CEO puts the correspondence about it, and then never thinks about it again.

Anti-Tory Intellectual Type 17 November 23 17:10

I just want to say that I hate Tories very much, almost as much as 16:07, and I would never fraternise with one.

Hold your applause, it's not necessary. This effortless cool just comes naturally to people like us.

This is pretty much the text of my Tindr profile bee tee dubs.

Anon 17 November 23 18:31

I work for Weightmans. What is money?

Anonymous 17 November 23 18:43

DWF Leeds 🤣🤣🤣🤣

Magic Circle gone regions 17 November 23 18:58

As someone who has worked within the MC and recently moved back to my hometown - in the regions (or slums for you lot that live in London). There is more to life than working on big ticket deals - you can brag to anyone about it, but gurantee in their head they think you are a right tosser. At the end, we end up in the same hole or oven - just make sure you enjoy the finer things in life. This is often not being a keyboard monkey for some partner that simply does not care about you!

To 16.42 18 November 23 09:16

No. You are wrong. The cost of doing business sets the rate. Clearly you are not a Partner. 

lol 18 November 23 09:51

Heh at the Bakers chap flexing about the billion dollar deals. What a hero.

Q 18 November 23 12:49

What’s the highest paid law firm for UK lawyers and I don’t mean in terms of just NQ I mean as you progress to PQE levels. Which gives the biggest bonus and no salary bunchings? The type of money where you can be arguably financially free within a few years?

CliveWarren 18 November 23 13:51

There's very few if any DACB or dwf partners in Leeds on 300k.

H 18 November 23 15:45

I’d rather shoot myself than work at a regional firm / a firm which employs solicitors who don’t go to to the top 10 British unis.

Anon 18 November 23 20:55

If regional lawyers and work are overall as good as city lawyers and work, why are the best firms doing most profitable work only in the city? Sure, insurance firms have opened up a load of cheaper regional offices but that’s precisely the point. You don’t see top tier, city / international firms doing the same work form Leeds, Bristol and Birmingham.

DLA Pauper 19 November 23 13:39

DLA may be good in the regions but pay is woeful in London compared with the firms we allegedly see as our peers.
Don't even get me started on the day to day penny pinching like no corporate Deliveroo etc...

A 19 November 23 20:59

To 12:49: the top 10 or so US firms all fit the bill from your point of view. Skadden, Gibson Dunn, Quinn Emanuel, Paul Hastings, Willkie, Kirkland, Ropes, etc. But there is a thin line between financial freedom and early cardiac arrest. The best way to avoid that is to gather some serious dirt on the partners you work for.

Sorry, did I say "avoid"?...

What? 20 November 23 08:05

“ No. You are wrong. The cost of doing business sets the rate. Clearly you are not a Partner.”

Yes, that’s why London US firm partner rates are £1000+ an hour while national firms in the regions can only charge £200-300. It’s only to do with “the cost of doing business”. The work and clients are otherwise exactly the same.

Legal industry observer 20 November 23 13:01

US firms have done well in recent years but not many have surpassed MC/SC firms.

Anon 20 November 23 17:50

What sort of bonus can one expect at top US firms? Aside from awards linked to Cravath scale in London, what are the numbers? Nearing end of TC and about to jump ship, so NQ bonuses would be v. helpful.

Also, anyone get a decent signing or referral bonus when moving? Been recognised as a high performing trainee, so could I leverage my (US) firm into a retention bonus?

Milbank senior associate 20 November 23 22:57

@Anon 20 November 23 17:50

Sign on bonus is rare these days. It makes no difference whether you are a “high performing trainee” or not because from our perspective you’ll likely need to be retrained to do the high-end work that you don’t get in UK firms (except MC in certain areas).

Anonymous 20 November 23 23:43

To: Anon 17:50, at a top US firm, bonuses will look something like:
(in GBP)
NQ - 11k
+1 - 15k
+2 - 22k
+3 - 41k
+4 - 54k
7+ - 90k

postie 21 November 23 13:01

partner bonus at UK Womble for Post Office work £165,000

To 20.55 18 November 22 November 23 14:30

I hope your top quality City of London advice has fewer typos than your post 😂😂Perhaps you should retire to the regions and regain some quality of life and a bit more sleep. Might improve the quality of your output. 

Regional Hack 22 November 23 15:02

There are some clueless comments on here, so let’s dispel a couple of myths.

First, the only thing that dictates salaries is the market. It’s not rates or quality of work.

Second, there are plenty of partners knocking around in Manchester and Leeds on £300k. Most have been at it for a while. All have equity. It’s not uncommon for the LD/fixed share/very junior end of equity to be on half that or even less. Equally there’s some pretty senior bods at AG/DLA/Shed/Squires on a decent chunk more change than this.

P.S. DWF Leeds? Top tier? Be serious.

Anonymous 23 November 23 14:25

Try working at Fieldfisher. A bonus structure that is impossible to achieve disguised  under "we don't just look at numbers but everything so it doesn't matter if your figures  are down" - erm no. It does matter. You have just added more criteria to make it impossible to achieve....along with the rubbish pay. Peanuts. 

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