US firms beat UK rivals on salaries

A newly qualified solicitor (NQ) at a New York firm in London can earn almost 50 per cent more than a salaried partner at a West End firm, recruitment consultant Laurence Simons has revealed.

In its latest salary survey Laurence Simons states that a London NQ at a New York firm can command a salary of £96,000. This compares with the £60,000 salary that junior partners at some small West End firms take home.

The survey said: “West End firms face a new and as yet unresolved challenge: how to raise pay to ever-rising market rates while still preserving the work-life balance and realistic route to partnership that has historically made them an attractive career option.”

London equity partners looking for a move to a top US firm must be sure of a big client following. The survey found that most US firms will only open their equity to laterals with billings of at least £2m a year. In comparison, medium-sized City firms will accept partners with a client base bringing in £500,000.

As a general rule, equity partners looking for new firms should be confident of billing at least three times their earnings. Despite a wave of City salary rises, senior lawyers in London are better off at US firms. The top New York rate for a lawyer with five years’ PQE is £140,000, which is up to £45,000 more than the level paid by the magic circle.