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US law firm Senior Associates are now out-earning partners at the UK Silver Circle

Following last year’s increase in US firm base salaries, that saw NQ pay rise from $160,000 to $180,000, the elite US firms in London are continuing to hire associates at all levels, with some at the senior end earning more than salaried partners at UK firms. This month, Third Way saw the first offer for a Senior Associate, with a base salary in excess of £200,000.  The lucky finance lawyer in question is also due to get pension contributions and a bonus of up to 25% of their whopping base!

It has not been uncommon historically, for non-partners at US firms to earn above £200k, but to do so, they would need to be at “Counsel” level.  However, in the current market, when Associates at top paying US firms reach a mere 6PQE, they can be on a higher base than most entry-level partners at some of the most prestigious UK firms.  And this is before bonus payments, which amongst firms matching the Cravath scale, can be significant.


There are differences within the US firm pay scales, with the most significant factor being whether the firm adopts a fluctuating or fixed FX conversion rate. For firms such as Latham, Milbank and Cadwalader, a fixed conversion rate has an NQ on a £124,000 base salary, 3PQE on £161,000 and a 6PQE on £206,000 (excluding bonus). For the likes of Kirkland & Ellis and Akin Gump who use a fluctuating rate, their corresponding salaries are roughly £140,000 for NQs, £178,000 for 3PQEs and £226,000 for 6PQEs! (again excluding bonus). 

Demand for top Associates within elite US firms remains high with several actively hiring within finance and corporate.  With the prospect of earning as much, or more, than junior partners at UK firms, keeping hold of their best and brightest talent is going to be an increasingly difficult challenge for the Magic and Silver Circle.

If you have a view on the above or would like to discuss the market, do get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.

Added by David Krist on 02/08/2017