Salary survey: US firms in London

Associates at US firms in London are notoriously the best-paid in the UK market, with salaries in many cases far outstripping the magic circle. At the very top of the pay scale for newly-qualified solicitors, the likes of Davis Polk and Latham & Watkins match the $160,000 rate for New York first-year associates – between £96,000 and £100,000, depending on the exchange rate.

Not every US firm is quite so generous. There is a marked difference between US firms that have merged with London ones and those that grew organically in the City. The latter group tend to pay higher salaries than the former. Mayer Brown, for example, had an NQ salary of £64,000 for NQs in 2014/15 while K&L Gates paid £62,000 (neither firm has released their latest pay rises). This reflects their UK heritage as Rowe & Maw and Nicholson Graham & Jones respectively. Some other UK firms, such as Covington & Burling and Shearman & Sterling , pay a ‘mid-Atlantic’ salary somewhere in between the two groups. Taking all this into account, the average salary for an NQ at a US firm is still more than £83,000.

Associates at US firms that do not pay top-dollar can have little cause for complaint, for they will be earning in excess of £100,000 soon enough if they stay with their firm. The average salary for a solicitor with one to three years of post-qualification experience is over £100,000 – although again there is a difference between different types of US firm. By the time they are a mid-level associate (4-6PQE), they will likely earn well over £125,000, and those who make it to senior associate level can expect to pick up something in the region of £145,000. However, senior associates in banking and finance teams may earn considerably more: the average salary for a 7+PQE banking lawyer at a US firm exceeds £160,000.

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