Editor’s weekly: In the money

How would you feel if you woke up one morning and discovered that your salary had increased by over 100 per cent? That’s exactly what would happen if you were one of the lucky few to secure a training contract with the London arm of US law firm Bingham.

As we revealed on Monday (read article), the Boston headquartered firm has emerged as one of the most generous employers in the legal market, paying its newly qualified (NQ) lawyers an eye-watering salary of £100,000 plus a bonus – yes you did read that right!

When we mentioned this figure to some of our key graduate recruitment contacts many were left speechless. Others, meanwhile, questioned how many hours an associate would need to bill to earn such a sizeable pay package. It is therefore even more surprising to discover that Bingham doesn’t even have chargeable hours targets.

To put the £100,000 into context, NQ salaries paid by the magic circle range from £59,000 to £61,000. Indeed, a magic circle associate will have to wait until they have four years’ post-qualification experience behind them before they can expect to earn £100,000.

And of course, if you look beyond the legal sector, the magnitude of Bingham’s NQ salary becomes more apparent. For instance, a top-earning head teacher at a London-based school is likely to take home a salary of just over £100,000 according to The Times Educational Supplement website.

Historically US firms have always had a reputation for paying sky-high salaries, but as some graduate recruitment partners have pointed out to us, choosing a law firm based solely on pay can be very shortsighted. Other factors, such as a firm’s reputation, future prospects, quality of training, the size of its graduate recruitment programme and NQ retention rates are arguably just as important.

Indeed, as they say, money isn’t everything.


PS – if you want to find out more about training with US firms then check out the Spring 2010 issue of Lawyer 2B magazine, which is out this week.