Bringing home the bacon, American-style.

Vinson & Elkins and Debevoise & Plimpton are the latest US firms to shower their NQs with eye-watering pay rises.

Vinson & Elkins has boosted NQ salaries to £153,000, up from £147,500 (and that's not including an end of year bonus). The salary rise, which came into effect on 1 July, should be enough to make newly-qualified lawyers break into a dance.

The US firm offered roles to all six of its London-qualifying trainees, with five of them accepting a position, giving the firm a retention score of 83%.  

"We are incredibly proud of all our qualifiers and their ability to thrive in a new working environment, and look forward to seeing them continue to excel in their new positions," said the firm's Training Principal Andrew Nealon.

Felllow US firm Debevoise & Plimpton has also raised its NQ salary to £143,700, up from £134,800 (again, not counting a bonus). The firm can boast a 100% retention score, with all nine of its London- qualifying trainees staying on.

A spokesman for the firm also confirmed that there would also be pay rises for each band of associates, ranging from £145,400 for 1PQE lawyers (up from £134,800) to £266k for 9PQE+ lawyers (up from £248,300).

Other US firms to have recently raised the bar for NQ pay, with salary in excess of £140,000 (plus bonus) include Milbank, Akin Gump, Simpson Thacher and Sidley Austin. NQs at Sidley Austin may wish to thank their masters for the pay rise, or not as the case may be

A Slaughter and May trainee recently scooped a prize for an essay addressing the threat to UK firms represented by US interlopers; but in a tactful omission, did not mention the gargantuan salary packages on offer from US firms.  

While some City firms have recently upped salary, such as Clifford Chance offering its NQs £100k, the US firms, without a thought for the bank balances of partners at UK firms, are dangling the biggest carrots.

The price that most NQs at US firms pay is the possibility of beastings so magnificent, that UK firm partners can only dream of inflicting them. 

If your firm is upping salary, get in touch.

Tip Off ROF


Taken the leap 02 July 21 09:31

I’ve recently taken the leap from Cleary Gottlieb to Debevoise. The surroundings are far better along with NQ salaries.  

Anonymous 02 July 21 09:36

@3 ducks, because UK firms can't compete in the specialist work the US firms do, especially with US law becoming ever encroaching and applicable globally. Plus this money is coming from the Partners who are receiving record profits. Its not like the clients that are actually paying more, there is just a lot more work around. UK firm associates are also over worked, maybe their partners should share the wealth a bit more too? 

LondonLife 02 July 21 10:00

I know a chap that was at one of the named US firms. His dad was on his death bed but his supervising partner wouldn't let him leave to visit his dad as they had a big deal on. The chap had to work constantly for a further (roughly) 4 days nonstop before he was allowed to leave work to see his dad.

You might ask why the chap didn't just leave work but he was so stressed and unable to think clearly that he just didn't think of it as an option.

Just FYI, that is the kind of working lifestyle you may be subject to.

Anonymous 02 July 21 10:32

Hilarious. At my firm we use machine-learning analytics and use a fraction of the staff at a fraction of the cost. We ran rings around a US in some recent litigation where their costs were - I kid you not - five times higher than ours. And our team was partner-led. They had unsupervised juniors making schoolboy errors all the time.

Anon 02 July 21 10:57

I don’t understand the bleating about this. This is more an issue with the MC firms ripping off their associates than the US firms. Let’s assume an hourly charge out rate of £300 p/h x 1800 (both much lower than the reality) means they are bringing in £540k to the firm - no reason they shouldn’t be paid £140k if the firm gets the rest.

Anonymous 02 July 21 11:04

@London life

There is only one named US Law Firm on this chain, there absolute weapons and will drop you at the drop of a hat.

Avoid, despite the cash.

Anonymous 02 July 21 11:45

@10:32 - you omitted your link to try and flog your services in your advert. Must try harder.

Just an NQ 02 July 21 12:02

And here I am - a London based NQ earning circa £70k right now. Funny thing is that I still consider it a lot of money especially given that I come from a very modest, single-parent background; and I also am very aware of the fact that by all means and purposes I am a high earner while doing very decent hours (no work at weekends, late evening finishes are rare) but... wow, I won't lie, those salaries at the very top end are eye-watering.

Kudos to all who made it there, must be much heavier work wise for those gals but the compensation is surely sweet. 

My name is Brian. I am an important person. 02 July 21 14:00

I mean, if you're the type of meringue that makes a conscious decision to spend 40 plus years pushing other people's paperwork around for a living, then, i guess pay like this might eventually make that decision appear a degree or two less soul-crushingly deppressing? 

K&E Solicitor 02 July 21 14:12

The comment at 10am is absolutely horrendous if true. I have worked in US law firms my whole post-qualification career and genuinely never heard about anyone batting an eyelid at somebody having to take time off for a bereavement / family emergency.

Wish I was Lender Side 02 July 21 15:28

Whenever there's these articles about crazy high US salaries, it's guaranteed to be at least one comment along the lines of "what clients are willing to pay for that?!" or some one pretending to be a client saying "well I guess I better ask for a rate reduction".

The largest clients of these firms DO NOT pay their legal fees directly. They are typically the lenders to a deal and the legal costs get passed down to the borrowers. It's not always, but common to be, a percentage of the amount being borrowed. Charging 2-5% of a 10-figure loan so a global company can buy another global company? No one is going to care about 30 or so million in fees being lumped in on top. That or it's some crazy state investment treaty, oil & gas, or global anti-trust arbitration that everyone can charge crazy hourly rates for and nobody questions them. American clients know its especially irrelevant as it's a business expensive for tax write-offs anyways.

This is also why these firms have 50-100% profit margins whilst mid-tier UK shops struggle to get over 15% profit margins. This is the market they work in. You know you have the best client base when you can charge out paralegals at £400-500 an hour and no one raises an eyebrow.

That being said, I'm sure £1250-1500 an hour +VAT for a partner to draft your 2 page short form T&Cs for your midlands plastering business is likely unreasonable.

Another example 03 July 21 01:36

Not the first such story I've heard. Here are a couple of others (London offices of NY-headquartered firms):

- associate's father is dying of cancer in another European country. Associate visits every other weekend. After firm cancels three of these in a row, associate goes anyway rather than cancel a fourth time. Firm responds by preventing associate from attending a wedding at which she was to be a bridemaid...

- associate is in Manchester at engagement party of good friend. New deal comes in late on Saturday night. Firm sends car to pick up associate and take him straight to the office (leaving his wife and kids behind). Associate doesn't leave the office for 48 hours...

anon-y-mous 04 July 21 08:57

@ I wish I was Lender side

"The largest clients of these firms DO NOT pay their legal fees directly. They are typically the lenders to a deal and the legal costs get passed down to the borrowers."

I work in house at an energy company and I am usually borrower side on these larger finance deals. As we actually pay the legal fees, we lead discussions with counsel when they are engaged and I assure you we push back hard on fee quotes we receive from all the law firms we use. If the firms don't play ball and reduce their quotes, we use someone else. It's that easy. No firm is so great that you can't get a similar client service somewhere else. The clever firms realise this (which is why we keep engaging them...and they tend to be US firms strangely enough). They do try showing us their massive WIP write offs occasionally to get some leverage on the next fee discussion, but we end up in the same place on the next deal (or for them, a bit worse).

Fake Partner 05 July 21 21:00

Do plaintiffs' work. I got a $80,000 referral fee for sending a case to an established plaintiff's firm. I literally didn't do any work on the case and just waited for the fee to come in. The case settled, like 99% of civil cases do in the US, and ca-ching. 

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