London pulls away from regional law firms with assistant salary increases

Regional firms are being left behind in the salary wars, according to a new survey commissioned by The Lawyer.

The latest survey by TMP QD Legal shows the UK legal market remaining buoyant, with most rises above the rate of inflation. However, the London salary hikes have not been matched in the regions.
TMP director Will Cock said: “London firms have pulled away. This year's salary changes have put more water between London firms and regional firms.”
This year, newly-qualifieds in regional law firms earned between £26,000 and £34,000 compared with between £45,000 and £50,000 in the City – except Gouldens, which pays £55,000.
Concerns about the US slowdown were not completely unfounded, and 2001 did not see as dramatic a jump in salaries as in previous years. However, in May all the magic circle firms except Allen & Overy increased pay for newly-qualified lawyers to £50,000.
There is still a long way to go before the City firms match their US counterparts, but the evidence suggests that the process has begun.
Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom remains at the top of the scale, offering newly-qualifieds £85,000; but Debevoise & Plimpton and Sidley Austin Brown & Wood are close behind.
Not all of the 44 per cent of firms that employ a bonus scheme award their assistants. The average bonus is 11 per cent of basic salary, although salaried partners receive nearly twice that amount.
US bonuses continue to outweigh the UK's, but Cock said: “Whereas US bonuses only kick in when lawyers bill over a certain number of hours, UK firms take into account a lawyer's overall contribution.”
Unsurprisingly, corporate and commercial came out as the highest-paid area, followed by banking and finance.