UK legal companies have been forced into a bidding war for junior associates employed by top-tier US firms.
Top US law firm Goodwin Procter is offering sign-on bonuses to its London staff worth up to £36,000, according to a recruiter, City A.M. understands.
Last week Slaughter and May announced that it would increase pay for its newly qualified lawyers to £100,000, matching that of rival Clifford Chance which only a month earlier said it would raise its junior lawyer salaries.
The competition for talent is being driven by a boom in demand for legal expertise during one of the busiest periods for mergers and acquisitions.
A number of UK-based law firms have reported their best results as well as generous payouts for senior partners. At Allen & Overy, and Clifford Chance, partners received in the region of £2m on average, it is reported.
Across the pond
The bidding war is more acute in the US where some firms are reported to be offering sign-on and retention bonuses worth tens of thousands of dollars or more.
A recruiter told the Financial Times that law firm Kirkland & Ellis was offering retention bonuses worth around a quarter of a million dollars (£180,000) to mid-level lawyers who held offers from other companies.
The “golden handcuff” bonuses came with a caveat though: they would have to be returned if the employee leaves before a specified date.
The company is also offering new recruits sign-on bonuses worth up to the same amount, according to a Business Insider report.
Kirkland & Ellis declined to comment on the claim.