The legal profession is generally considered one of the best paying, not far behind banking and the hedge fund industry in terms of compensation, but which firms in Britain offer their lawyers the best pay packets, and which firms match the pay of bankers?
According to data from salary benchmarking site Emolument, lawyers working for US-based mega firm Latham & Watkins pick up by far the biggest pay packet of any in the UK.
Emolument looked at the pay of hundreds of junior lawyers, generally working at the associate level, and found that Latham & Watkins employees pick up in excess £100,000 as a basic salary.
Given that in terms of revenues, the firm is the largest on earth, it is perhaps not surprising that its lawyers earn the most of any in London.
Lawyers at Latham earn far more than those at so-called Magic Circle firms — the five largest, most prestigious legal practices based in the UK — and even more than the basic salaries of associate bankers at the UK’s top banks. Last year, associates at JP Morgan earned an average salary of £93,000, the highest of any bank in the UK. Here’s Emolument’s chart of the top paying law firms in the UK:
But while junior lawyers can earn a pretty huge pay packet, they don’t pick up bonuses anywhere near as large as their colleagues in the banking sector. Recent data from Emolument showed that the best compensated bankers get an average bonus of £83,000, but for lawyers the most is roughly £10,000, and many lawyers — including those at Latham & Watkins — don’t get a bonus of any kind.
Here’s what Emolument has to say about the lack of bonuses for UK lawyers (emphasis ours):
One of our key findings is that some law firms, such as Latham & Watkins, the largest law firm by revenue globally, make a clear decision not to pay bonuses to their junior lawyers, but to compensate with large fixed salaries and that the market for Associates is highly inefficient with large gaps in pay from one firm to the next.
While in the financial industry performance-based bonuses are an important part of pay packages, lawyers’ pay is almost exempt from such incentives at Associate level. Only half of the best-paying law-firms pay bonuses, which account for a maximum of 12% of an Associate’s total annual pay.