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Newly-qualifieds at US firms are earning up to double their UK counterparts, prompting speculation that Clifford Chance may have to bump up wages for junior lawyers to bring it in line with New York merger partner, Rogers & Wells.
A survey of 150 London firms by recruitment consultants Garfield Robbins shows US firms are paying newly qualifieds up to u63,000 compared with an average of u36,000 for UK firms.
For salaried partners, the gap widens, with US lawyers raking in more than u200,000, compared to an average of u85,000 in UK firms.
Garfield Robbins' private practice manager Penny Stevenson claims the disparity represents a huge problem for firms considering transatlantic mergers.
She says: "In merger talks it's got to be a stumbling block. It's got to be the subject of very lengthy discussions."
If after a merger, she says, firms keep lawyers on smaller salaries than those in the same office doing the same job just by virtue of where they qualified, "all hell would break out internally".
"I should think people will be watching Clifford Chance and Rogers & Wells pretty closely to see how it pans out.