Top City firms pledge to equal NY bonus payouts

Top UK law firms are to shell out whopping end of year bonuses to their US lawyers in a bid to match the benchmarks set by New Yorks elite last year.

Top City firms pledge to equal NY bonus payoutsClifford Chance and Allen & Overy (A&O), which both have large US operations, have promised to match benchmark bonus rates ranging from $30,000 (16,000) for first-year lawyers to $60,000 (32,000) for senior associates.

Wall Streets powerhouses last year set unprecedented bonus levels, with Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison unveiling a $60,000 bonus for seven-year qualified associates, with $30,000 for first-year associates.

Meanwhile, first-year associates at Sullivan & Cromwell and Cravath Swaine & Moore will also enjoy a $30,000 annual bonus with senior associates taking home $50,000 (27,000).

For Clifford Chance and A&O, the decision to match the New York bonus levels is a costly one Clifford Chance has around 360 lawyers in the US, while A&O has around 230.

Freshfields and Linklaters have much smaller US operations than their magic circle rivals, but have also indicated they will match the levels set.

The remainder of New Yorks main firms, including Shearman & Sterling, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson and Debevoise & Plimpton, are still to finalise their rates but it is expected that they will at least match the $30,000-$50,000 range.

The bonuses, which are regarded as a key yardstick of firms financial performance, represent the first major increases in New York associate pay since 2000 and have been put down to the 18-month upturn in the US corporate market.