10 January 2019

Lawyers working at US firms in London have been revelling in the size of their salaries in their responses to the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2019 survey.

"It's hard to believe your bank balance on pay day", said a Kirkland & Ellis lawyer. An associate at Weil confessed, "I mean, I'm embarrassed to admit to my mum what I earn." A Skadden Arps associate was more transparent with mum and dad about the size of his paypacket. He's become the Bank of Son. "Paying off my parents' mortgage made the savage workload worth it", he said.

A Latham & Watkins associate had a so-so excuse for not paying off everyone's debts. He grumbled that the five year average exchange rate used to convert the dollar amount to sterling meant that L&W associates were "worse off than those floating rate junkies at Kirkland & Ellis".

Elsewhere, there are signs of frustration amongst lawyers whose firms now straddle the Atlantic. At Womble Bond Dickinson an associate said that pay was a "traditional gripe" for legacy Bond Dickinson, and now "the same is true of WBD". He still has hope for "some kind of pay review now we're Wombles", he said, "but [I'm] not holding my breath".

Womble
A Womble wishes it was a bigger pay packet, not just a branded crisp packet.

 

So far, it's a mixed bag in the Magic Circle according to their lawyers. An associate at Slaughter and May said pay was "always just enough to not justify leaving to go to a comparable UK firm, but not great". At Clifford Chance an associate felt they were paid less than peers at other Magic Circle firms "which is immensely frustrating", although he conceded that it was "still impossible to say that it's in any way 'bad'". A Linklaters lawyer was clkear-eyed: "it's hard to get too concerned about earning 'only' £100k all-in aged 26".

Other lawyers pointed to the difference in pay inside and outside London. At Burness Paull a lawyer said it was "slightly depressing when we provide Scottish support on London deals and realise their NQs earn more than our senior fee-earners". But apparently the classic trade-off applied: "the difference is worth it to have a life".

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Anonymous 11 Jan 19

"But apparently the classic trade-off applied: "the difference is worth it to have a life"" Having been on both sides of this (formerly at a MC firm, now working in the SW) this statement couldn't be more correct. Yes, you could earn more in the MC or at US firms (or in the city in general), but that would generally mean no work life balance and living near London or the commuter belt (argh). All told, it's worth getting paid less to be able to do unimportant things like leave the office at 5:30 most days, watch my children grow up and see my spouse every day.

Anonymous31 11 Jan 19

hm, but won’t hours at Burness Paul be similar regardless of which office though? Especially if you are working on the same deals, as suggested. What more of a life would you have save perhaps an easier commute?

Bored 11 Jan 19

Why is this a story really worth publishing? It’s hardly revelatory that certain lawyers get paid well, and spend their money as they choose.  If true, helping parents is a pretty noble thing to do.   As for the regions v city debate - it’s old news.  Most - but not all -  ambitious trainees and young lawyers would probably choose to work in the city at the top firms if they could because at that age gravitating to London is common, the money is good and the career prospects better if you have trained at a “name” firm.   Fine.  At 23 you can cope with late nights and relentless hours, and then burn the candle the other end socially.   Fast forward to your early 30s when the novelty has worn off, you want to buy a house, you realise you won’t make partner, and you want a family.....then many start looking for a more balanced option.  But having a big name on your CV helps with moving on.  It doesn’t make you a better lawyer.  But it makes you marketable.  

Yorkshire Boy 12 Jan 19

I have worked in Leeds for my entire career. Now mid 40s I am a Partner, self employed and earn £255k. That is more than enough for the life I need. Kids in private school. Big house. Nice car. Nice holidays. Sensible hours and the sensible workload. Yes I could be a partner at a city firm (or perhaps not!) but I’ll tell you what, I might get triple or 10x my salary but it would decimate my lifestyle. Not worth it. Time is the only thing you can’t buy or replace and the older you get the more valuable it becomes to you. Some people make a choice and good luck to them. Money isn’t everything though. 

Gromit 12 Jan 19

I’ve worked my whole career in SW, and it’s doesnt mean 9-5.30 by any stretch. If you’re at any larger firm then you’re lucky to finish by 7pm, and that’s on a good day. I’ve seen many London lawyer survive less than 2 years in Bristol when they mistakenly think it’ll be 9-5. Still better than the smoke.

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