US firms pay a packet in London

US firms in London are paying their lawyers bumper bonuses and increasingly paying salaries well above their UK rivals, according to a survey by recruitment consultants Taylor Root.`The 2001 survey of US law firms in London, conducted in association with The Lawyer, shows that 72 per cent of US firms now pay mid-Atlantic or New York rates to UK lawyers in London, compared with 57 per cent last year.`Last year only 18 per cent of law firms paid bonuses of more than 16 per cent of base salary, compared with 45 per cent of firms this year.`Taylor Root’s head of the international division Gill Jones said: “I think one of the main things that stands out is the level of bonuses that were paid last year was very high. Last year was obviously a superb year for all lawyers, but what it seems to indicate is if you work in a US firm you really do get to see that. Thirty five per cent of firms paid more than 21 per cent of base salary in bonuses last year.”`US firms paying New York rates did not increase their salaries last year but instead stuck to an average newly-qualified salary of £81,500. By comparison, UK City rates increased for newly qualifieds from an average of £34,000 last year to an average of £46,000 this year.`Jones said: “New York rates didn’t go up this year and that is compared to the UK law firms who have shifted them quite substantially. It means the gap is coming closer together.”`But more US firms decided to start paying their UK lawyers a closer rate to their US lawyers. Weil Gotshal & Manges shifted from premium UK rates to mid-Atlantic rates and Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy shifted from mid-Atlantic to New York rates.`Jones predicts the imminent disappearance of premium UK rates, with firms moving instead onto mid-Atlantic rates.`The average US firm in London now employs 50 legal staff, up from 38 last year.