White & Case latest to raise pay for London lawyers

NQ pay hiked 7% to £150k as junior salary wars continue
White & Case's London office, the front entrance taken from the opposite side of the road

White & Case's London office

White & Case has become the latest US law firm to raise pay for its junior lawyers in London.  

Newly qualified (NQ) lawyers in the firm’s 500-lawyer City office have seen their salaries increase to £150k, a 7.1% rise on their previous pay of £140k. 

Meantime salaries for lawyers with one year of post-qualified experience (PQE) have increased by 7.5%, from £147.5k to £158.5k, and for 2 PQE lawyers by 6.9%, from £160k to £171k. Pay for the firm’s 3+ PQE lawyers is discretionary, with White & Case saying it expected their salaries to be as competitive as those for its more junior lawyers.  

The raises, which came into effect on 1 January, extend to the firm’s roughly 90 London trainees, with pay for first years rising from £52k to £56k and for second years from £57k to £61k.  

White & Case’s new rate of £150k for NQs sees the firm extend its lead over the UK Magic Circle firms, which have currently settled on a rate of £125k, although it remains some way behind many US rivals, the majority of which have smaller operations in the UK. Paul Hastings, Sidley Austin and Ropes & Gray confirmed last week they had raised pay for their London NQs to £173k, £166.5k and £165k respectively amid an ongoing junior salary war happening on both sides of the Atlantic.   

At the start of this month Davis Polk and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton also hiked NQ pay by 3% to £170k and £164.5k respectively, while in December Weil Gotshal & Manges lifted pay from £165k to £170k.   

The latest round of increases saw Paul Hastings, Davis Polk and Weil join the elite group of US law firms that pay their London NQs £170k or more. Kirkland & Ellis and Latham & Watkins pay just north of £173k, according to research by Legal Cheek, with the figure approaching £174k at Vinson & Elkins. Meantime NQs at market-topping Milbank and Akin receive a whopping £177.5k.  

Elite UK firms have also been upping NQ pay, though they still lag far behind their US rivals, which benefit from being anchored in the lucrative US market.  

Slaughter and May increased pay by nearly 9% at the start of last November to £125k, a move that saw it match its Magic Circle rivals Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Linklaters and overtake Baker McKenzie and Hogan Lovells, which upped NQ pay earlier in 2023 to £118k and £120k.   

Allen & Overy and Linklaters had raised their NQ pay to £125k earlier last year, having failed to match Clifford Chance and Freshfields in raising their rates in 2022, citing challenging market conditions.    

The UK increases also echo pay hikes in the US, where Milbank fired the starting gun on the latest round of raises early last November when it said it was upping pay for all its associates by $10k to create a new salary scale starting at $225k, rising to $425k for the class of 2016.  

Three weeks later elite Wall Street firm Cravath Swaine & Moore – repeatedly the pacesetter for pay among the top US firms – went one better, equalling Milbank’s salaries for junior associates but paying its mid-level and senior associates between $5k and $10k more than their contemporaries at Milbank.  

A raft of US firms announced shortly after that they would match the so-called ‘Cravath scale’, among them McDermott Will & Emery, Kirkland & Ellis, Paul Hastings, Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz, Paul Weiss, Dechert, Hogan Lovells, Proskauer Rose, Baker McKenzie, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, Sidley Austin and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom. 

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