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Why Choose a US Law Firm?

Many US law firms now have offices in the UK and offer training contracts and vacation schemes to talented students and graduates on this side of the pond.

If you complete a training contract or vacation scheme with a US law firm in the UK, your training is likely to follow the same structure as it would with another firm. For instance, you will focus on UK law, not US law, and you will complete a series of seats in different practice areas during your two-year training contract.

However, there are three main differences which set US law firms apart from the rest…

1. Salary

US law firms in the UK typically offer higher remuneration packages to trainees and newly-qualified solicitors, which makes them particularly attractive destinations for aspiring lawyers.

If you’re a trainee solicitor at a US law firm based in London, you will earn somewhere between £35,000 and £42,000 in your first year. What’s more, this will increase significantly in your second year.

Bingham offers the highest salary for newly-qualified solicitors in the UK at £100,000 per annum; although, Latham & Watkins and Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton are not far behind, offering NQ salaries of £96,970 and £95,000 per annum respectively.

Here is the salary breakdown for 11 of the top US law firms in London at the moment:

US Law Firm

1st Year Trainee

2nd Year Trainee

NQ Salary

Sidley Austin

£39,000

£43,000

£72,000

Kirkland & Ellis

£41,000

£44,000

Not specified

Reed Smith

£37,000

Not specified

Not specified

Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton

£40,000

£45,000

£95,000

Dechert

£38,000

£43,000

Not specified

Mayer Brown

£37,500

£42,300

£61,000

Bingham

£40,000

£45,000

£100,000

Shearman & Sterling

£39,000

Not specified

Not specified

Latham & Watkins

£42,000

Not specified

£96,970

K&L Gates

£35,000

£38,000

Not specified

White & Case

Competitive

Not specified

Not specified

But why are US law firms more generous with their pay scales? Well, we recently interviewed Victoria Widdows, the Legal Recruiting/Attorney Development Managerat Bingham, and she told us: “The reason for this is that we pay all of our associates at the New York rate, so there’s no distinguishing between offices. It may appear high in the London market, but it’s the normal rate for the New York market.”

2. Smaller trainee intake

Typically, the annual intake of trainee solicitors at US law firms is smaller and more exclusive. This means trainees are given more responsibility much faster and receive a more intimate level of support from the senior solicitors who are training them.

3. Vacation schemes

The vast majority of US law firms in the UK place major emphasis on the importance of vacation schemes in the application process. Bingham, which doesn’t currently offer a vacation scheme, is the only exception that we are currently aware of.

Most US law firms offer a large number of vacation scheme placements in the UK each year, with some firms offering as many as 50 places (White & Case). US firms are also keen to offer healthy remuneration for students who take up these opportunities. Both Latham & Watkins and White & Case, for instance, offer vacation scheme students £350 per week during the programme, whilst Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton offers its ‘vac schemers’ a whopping £500 a week.

Although US firms don’t recruit trainees entirely through their vacation schemes, most are keen to highlight that a large percentage of their intake will have completed a vacation scheme with the firm first. For instance, Latham & Watkins explicitly states on the careers section of its website:

“We encourage anyone who is interested in pursuing their career at Latham to apply for a place on one of our vacation schemes in the first instance, as the majority of our training contracts will go to people who have participated in one of these schemes.”

Likewise, Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton states: “We actively encourage all candidates who are considering applying for a trainee solicitor position with the firm to undertake a vacation placement with us, as almost all our trainee solicitors have done.”

So what are you waiting for? If you're currently on the hunt for a training contract or vacation scheme, head over to the law jobs section on AllAboutLaw.co.uk!