Pay for London NQs at Weil hits £150k as salary war goes on

Elsewhere HFW announces 16% salary boost to £85k and extra performance bonus for associates of up to £10k

Newly qualified (NQ) lawyers in the London office of US firm Weil Gotshal & Manges have seen their salaries grow by £5,000 to hit £150,000, as the battle for junior talent goes on. 

The raise, which took effect in January, put the firm in tenth place in terms of pay for London NQs according to Legal Cheek and on an equal footing with US rivals Kirkland & Ellis, Latham & Watkins and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom.

Meantime UK firm HFW is set to boost pay for its London NQs by 16% to £85,000.

The increase from £73,500, set to come into effect from July, will see the firm match UK rival Fieldfisher and put it just ahead of Mishcon de Reya, which pays NQs in its London headquarters £83,000 per year. 

Associates at HFW can also receive a one-off bonus of up to £10,000 this month for strong performance in the 2022 financial year, which the firm will dish out in addition to its annual performance-related bonus scheme. 

News of the raises follows Pinsent Masons announcing earlier this week it was boosting the salaries of its London NQs by 23% to £92,000. The move put it just ahead of fellow UK firms Ince and Stephenson Harwood, both of whom pay their most junior City lawyers £90,000 following raises announced toward the end of last year, and on a par with Dentons. But it is slightly behind Addleshaw Goddard, CMS, DLA Piper, Eversheds Sutherland and Norton Rose Fulbright, all UK firms that according to Legal Cheek are in the £95k club following salary hikes. 

The salary war in the UK, anchored by strong financial performances by firms over the past year, largely reflects the ongoing battle to stand out in a hypercompetitive recruiting market, especially as firms grapple to keep lawyers happy in the face of surging work volumes. Even so, the latest figures at HFW and Weil reflect how UK firms are outgunned in terms of pay by many of their US rivals, which have also been steadily increasing their pay in step with an even more intense salary war in New York.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer bumped up its NQ rates by 25% earlier this month to take salaries for new lawyers to £125,000, understood to be the most among UK firms, but all of the 23 firms that pay more are based in the US. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, which boasts a figure of £164,000, is believed to be the highest.  

Nick Robbins, founder of legal recruiter Nicholas Scott, told GLP last November that firms are trending towards an increase in base salaries with a reduction in the percentage of total compensation coming from bonus structures, adding that associates tend to be more attracted to higher base salaries as opposed to the hold of the retention bonus system. 

“Salary rises are being driven by the need to compete in the merry-go-round of associates moving, but it is really the new reality of the New York law firms' influence and their levelling up of associate compensation packages on a worldwide basis,” he said. 


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