Lawyers' bonanza as US firm hikes pay

Recruiters predict `salary warfare' to attract the best young minds

With newly qualified solicitors now able to earn as much as pounds 45,000, legal experts are predicting "salary warfare" in the battle by companies to attract the best young lawyers.

The US company White & Case has recently raised the pay of its solicitors in the London office to bring it into line with the salaries earned by its American lawyers. Legal recruiters, however, say the move will lead to an exodus of talent from the regions, where average salaries are much lower,and have condemned White & Case's decision as "aggressive".

The White & Case recruits will be earning pounds 17,000 more than the London average of pounds 28,000. Bernard Nelson, senior partner at White & Case in London, denied the pay-rise was made to poach the best people. "The principal reason was to reduce the disparity we saw between our English solicitors and our US lawyers," he said. "We are a multinational practice but our US lawyers were being paid on the US scale, which was significantly higher than the British one. The lawyers were doing the same work and we felt it wasn't justified."

But Anthony Tomkins, founder of the leading legal recruitment firm, Charles Fellowes Partnership, said: "You can earn pounds 22,000 in Birmingham if you are a high-flyer. Then you see your chum in London who can get over double that. There has been an acute shortage of good quality lawyers this year. White & Case has taken a very aggressive stance.

"The increase in prestige and growth of firms outside London means that companies outside the capital now compete with London-based firms. But paying their solicitors half the London salary is something that cannot be sustained. In the long term it will have an effect."

Terence Kyle, managing partner of Linklaters and Paine, a UK international law firm which recruits 120 solicitors each year, said that his firm was paying pounds 28,000. "You can put up salaries to compete, but there is a trade-off. The reality is that White & Case are having to offer an incentive to get the good entrants to join them. On the other hand, such a large premium over the normal means it is something we will have to give hard thought to," he said.

Melvyn Hughes, executive partner of Slaughter and May, another large City law firm, agreed: "If other American law firms also start recruiting at this level, the City firms may well feel that they have to respond."

But Richard Fleck, responsible for international business at Herbert Smith, one of the main City law firms, said he would be "very surprised" if the big companies followed White & Case's lead. He also warned that new solicitors could find themselves under increasingly harsh pressures of work because of their huge premiums.

But David McNeill, of the Law Society, was anxious to dispel the notion that all solicitors were being given huge pay packets: "The perception is that solicitors make a great deal of money. Those who do are in a relatively small number of firms. For a newly qualified solicitor, the average across the country is between pounds 19,000 and pounds 28,000.

"But I think it's an inevitable consequence. At the end of the day, all law firms are business-oriented and you have bring the money in. From the media coverage you might think legal aid solicitors are coining it. In reality, a newly qualified solicitor in a legal aid firm will be lucky to make more than pounds 20,000 for a 55-hour week."

No doubt this news will be a great consolation to the junior hospital doctor earning just pounds 14,880, the schoolteacher on pounds 13,866, and the young police constable notching up pounds 14,916. Even MPs, having negotiated themselves a 26-per-cent pay rise this year to pounds 43,000, cannot match - on basic pay - a White & Case solicitor.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
news
New Articles
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Sport
sport
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all