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Bingham has emerged as one of the most generous US firms in London, paying its newly qualified (NQ) lawyers a salary of £100,000.
The Boston-based firm topped the first-ever US salary survey carried out by The Lawyer’s sister publication Lawyer 2B.
The findings highlight the continuing gulf between the wages paid at leading City firms and those at their US rivals, even though some US firms, including New York’s Weil Gotshal & Manges, have slashed their salaries recently.
Lawyer 2B surveyed 23 US firms that offer training contracts in London. Latham & Watkins, Debevoise & Plimpton, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and Kirkland & Ellis pay NQs £96,000, £94,250, £94,000, £92,000 and £90,000 respectively.
In contrast, magic circle NQ salaries range from £59,000 to £61,000.
Graduate recruitment partner at Bingham Natasha Harrison said: “We want to recruit the top talent and have therefore set our pay at a competitive rate to secure the best.”
The firm, which typically hires two trainees a year, denied that it sets chargeable hours targets for NQs and first- and second-year trainees, who get £40,000 and £45,000 respectively.
One graduate recruitment partner at a rival US firm in London slammed Bingham for setting its NQ rate so high.
“I don’t think it can be sustainable,” he said. “Even if Bingham isn’t setting targets for trainees and NQs the sub-context points to this. You simply can’t pay NQs £100,000 unless you charge an outrageously high hourly rate or they’re clocking up lots of hours.”
Another graduate recruitment partner concurred, arguing that no firm can justify such a high salary.
“It’s ridiculous,” said the partner. “Whenever a candidate mentions pay during an interview it makes me want to puke.
“Salary isn’t really an influential factor for the really good candidates, who are after the best-quality training.”