The profits table, compiled by Legal Week magazine, confirms that a career with a City law firm now guarantees the kind of wealth once associated with banking and broking. A solicitor in his or her early thirties taken on as a partner at one of the top 12 City law firms will start on about pounds 300,000. By the time they retire at 55 they can expect to take home twice or even three times that amount.
The richest lawyers in the City are the 103 partners at Slaughter and May who on average earn pounds 705,000. But Legal Week said its research showed the profits-per-partner of Slaughter and May's most senior solicitors were more likely to be pounds 900,000 a year. Slaughter and May is the most traditional of City law firms and strictly rewards its lawyers for the number of years served in the partnership.
The next-highest earners are at Allen & Overy (pounds 700,000), Freshfields (pounds 700,000), Clifford Chance (pounds 685,000) and Linklaters (pounds 625,000). Although the average drawings per partner will be less than these figures, Legal Week said the longer-serving partners in all these firms were being more richly rewarded.
The figures show lawyers are enjoying a boom time, which eclipses even the record profits of the late 1980s. Profits at the UK's giant City law firms rose 17 per cent on average compared with last year.
Legal Week said most City law firms recorded profit growth of between 10 per cent and 20 per cent. A high level of this growth is linked to increased activity in the mergers and acquisitions market.
Legal Week said: "Corporate departments have acted on a welter of deals in recent months. These included taking listed companies private, mergers or takeovers of smaller listed companies and strong buyout activity."
Law firms which have embarked on an aggressive expansion strategy are already beginning to reap the rewards. Clifford Chance, set to become the world's first billion dollar legal business when it merges with American attorneys Rogers & Wells and German lawyers Punders next year, had a 19.5 per cent leap in profits from last year.
Jeremy Sandelson, a star litigation partner at Clifford Chance, is believed to be on about pounds 650,000 a year, and is likely to earn even more when the firm merges.
Big Legal Earners In The Square Mile
GILES HENDERSON, senior partner of Slaughter and May, believed to be earning pounds 900,000
NIGEL BOARDMAN, head of corporate law at Slaughter and May, believed to earn pounds 900,000
RICHARD SLATER, a leading partner at Slaughter and May, believed to earn pounds 900,000
RICHARD CRANFIELD, partner in corporate finance at Allen & Overy, thought to be on pounds 700,000 a year
ANTHONY SALZ, senior partner at Freshfields, is thought to earn in excess of pounds 700,000
JEREMY SANDELSON, a star litigation partner at Clifford Chance, is thought to be on about pounds 650,000
DAVID CHILDS, head of corporate finance at Clifford Chance, is also thought be on pounds 650,000
DAVID CHEYNE, a partner at Linklaters and Alliance, is thought to be on pounds 625,000