US firms hike incentives for London

US firms are offering higher bonuses than ever before to UK lawyers.

According to 2000 Survey of US Law Firms in London – carried out for The Lawyer by global recruitment specialists Taylor Root – the amount paid out in bonuses since last year has shot up. 94 per cent pay more than 6 per cent of base salary compared to 71 per cent in 1999. And the number of firms paying between 16 and 20 per cent of base salary in bonuses has more than doubled. 86 per cent of US firms in London pay bonuses.

Salaries for UK qualified lawyers have also increased, with 33 per cent of US law firms in London paying UK qualified lawyers New York rates, compared to 29 per cent last year.

However, the percentage paying the same rates as UK firms is up 2 per cent on last year to 14 per cent. And 29 per cent of US firms offer premium UK rates (5-25 per cent on top of UK rates), and 24 per cent pay mid-Atlantic rates (up 25-60 per cent on UK rates).

Taylor Root spokeswoman Gill Jones says: “In the last year, a lot more juniors have been working incredibly long hours for UK firms and have felt they have not been paid very much.

“As US firms have expanded and they hear by word of mouth from friends that it’s not so bad after all, they have thought, ‘It couldn’t be worse, the pay is better – let’s go for it!’

“Their difficulty is with the mid-range lawyers. If you have worked for four years and you have done your long hard slog you may think it is going to be more difficult to get a partnership in US firms, but the opportunities in these firms for the good ones are amazing.

“US firms have been incredibly successful players at junior levels and part and parcel of that has been the attraction of US salaries. At the same time, they are still attracting big name partners from the City too.”

And more lawyers are beginning to take risks, ignoring the traditional scare stories that the work is not as high calibre, that there is no training and that US firms will take off back to the US if things do not work out.

As a result, office sizes for US firms have increased by 15 per cent on last year.

Jones concludes that consolidation and an ability to show that they can provide a career path to new recruits have proved to be major keys to the successful growth of US firms.