Sidley Austin raises London NQ pay for second time this year

Pay climbs to £175k putting Chicago-based firm close to Quinn Emanuel’s and Gibson Dunn’s market-topping £180k
Chicago, Illinois, USA - March 28, 2022: The Sidley sign at the entrance to its headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, USA. Sidley Austin LLP, is an international law firm.

Sidley's Chicago headquarters JHVEPhoto; Shutterstock

Sidley Austin has increased the salaries for its newly qualified London associates to £175k, marking the second time this year it has boosted pay amid the ongoing junior salary wars. 

The raise, effective 1 July, follows the firm upping pay in January from £159.5k to £166.5k and sees it move comfortably into the elite group of US firms at the top of the market handing out £170k or more. 

Sidley will also raise trainee salaries, from £55k to £60k in year one and from £60k to £65k in year two, putting it at the top of the market alongside US rivals including Davis Polk & Wardwell, Kirkland & Ellis and Gibson Dunn, among others, according to research by Legal Cheek. 

According to Pirical, Sidley is the 17th-largest Am Law 100 firm in London in terms of headcount and employs around 120 associates.

RPC also confirmed today that it was raising pay for its commercial NQs in London from £85k to £90k from the start of July. The firm’s insurance NQ salaries in London and Bristol will remain steady at £80k and £56k respectively, a decision it said reflected the fact that market rates for NQ salaries within its insurance practice and Bristol office “have not experienced the same upward movement and our current salaries in these areas remain appropriate”.

The increases continue a junior salary war happening on both sides of the Atlantic that has seen repeated waves of pay increases. At the start of last month Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer raised NQ pay from £125k to £150k, with identical raises subsequently implemented by its international Magic Circle rivals Linklaters, Clifford Chance and A&O Shearman.

This quartet and Hogan Lovells, which raised pay earlier this month to £135k, boast the highest rates among the UK firms but nevertheless are a long way from the top of the market, which is dominated by US firms.

Being anchored in the US market gives US firms the firepower to offer their junior talent in London eye-watering sums, with Quinn Emanuel recently matching Gibson Dunn’s market-topping £180k NQ salary.

Not far behind them is Akin, Fried Frank and Milbank, all of which pay their NQs £177.5k, with Sidley’s rise seeing it sit just behind them and equalling Goodwin Procter, which earlier this month announced it was raising its rate from £160k to £175k

Meantime six more firms – Vinson & Elkins, Kirkland, Latham & Watkins, Paul Hastings, Davis Polk and Weil – have rates ranging from £170k to just shy of £174k.

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