The Top Paying Law Firms of 2023
The legal industry is competitive in many ways including recruiting top talent. Law firms have to compete with each other on a range of factors to ensure the best come to them. Differences in salary between the top firms differ very little if at all, however, it has changed over the years to keep up with the market as in 2022 for the first year the salary was 205,000. In 2023 this has jumped up to 215,00 for a first-year salary.
Here are five of the top law firms and the salary they offer.
|First year salary
|Second year salary
|Latham & Watkins
|Kirkland and Ellis
|Herbert Smith Freehills
This chart is based on Chamber-Associate’s 2023 salary survey.
All five of these law firms are paying their lawyers an exceptional rate, but what else about them is appealing?
- Akin Gump
Akin Gump was founded in 1945 by Robert S. Strauss and Richard Gump having returned from the war needing jobs. They started their law firm in Dallas progressing rapidly as by 1970 they were opening their Washington DC office expanding their reach. They were already a well-established law firm and continually looking to the future.
“Future-focused and dedicated to excellence, Akin is an elite law firm that helps clients anticipate what is next and navigate a path to success.”
This law firm has always been involved in high-value projects and it started long ago in 1963 when Irving Goldberg, within Akin Gump, advised Lyndon B Johnson to take the oath of office. This is a key moment in the firm’s history and one they are proud of.
Akin Gump is now a global law firm with over 900 lawyers and advisors and 18 offices worldwide, Akin has grown in under a decade to become one of the largest law firms in the US. The London office is the hub of Akin’s international practice and is the firm’s third largest office.
They are renowned for numerous market-leading practices; their strengths are in complex transactions, financings and restructurings, high-stakes litigation, public policy, and regulatory matters; and the unyielding pro bono commitment. Their headquarters are based in Washington D.C. and with a third of their offices outside of the US they have an extraordinary global reach with 40 languages being spoken.
- Latham & Watkins
Founded in 1934 and based in LA they are a global law firm with offices in the world’s major financial, business, and regulatory centres. Latham & Watkins have offices in 14 different locations with the largest office in New York and 60 languages being spoken.
Law360 has stated that Latham & Watkins LLP was deemed the most social media savvy BigLaw firm in the U.S. this year by an annual analysis.
Not only are they among one of the highest paying law firms but they also pride themselves on their sustainability commitments and their Women Enriching Business Committee (WEB). They place a focus on the challenges within the business unique to women and address these for employees and clients.
In 2023 alone, Latham & Watkins made 34 new partners and 34 new counsel and among these, 5 partners have been named 2023 MVP of the year by Law360.
Opportunities at Latham and Watkins include juniors with first year and lateral associates being allocated resources to facilitate networking and other mentorship activities.
Latham & Watkins have a high number of high-profile projects including their success from their London finance team advising Permira and Blackstone on their “landmark private credit loan financing for a voluntary tender offer to acquire all outstanding ordinary Class A shares in Adevinta ASA.” Latham & Watkins are proud to announce that this is one of the largest European buyouts in 2023.
- Kirkland and Ellis
The Financial Times recognized Kirkland & Ellis as the “Most Innovative Firm in Digital Solutions” as part of its 2023 North America Innovative Lawyers Report. They were also named a standout firm in the Technology category by the Financial Times. They are following the legal trends of 2023 and successfully competing in more categories other than being one of the highest paying firms.
Founded in 1909, in Chicago, they have grown exponentially now having 3,500 attorneys in offices in 20 separate locations around the world. They are an international law firm serving a range of clients around the world in private equity, M&A, litigation, white collar, and government disputes restructuring and intellectual property matters.
“Each year, our Firm dedicates over 100,000 hours, investing substantial energy, talent and resources to pro bono initiatives across many significant areas.”
Kirkland is committed to taking on cases of immigration, LGBTQ+, veterans, incarcerated individuals and civil rights cases supporting those who need it most. Investing in cases like these gives the law firm a rewarding system of success.
- Herbert Smith Freehills
With over 100 years of history, a 24-office global network and a record for best-in class tech and innovative legal operations, Herbert Smith Freehills are known for more than their high salaries.
In 2023, they were the winners of the Lawyer Award for energy and infrastructure team of the year along with real estate team of the year.
The Legal Cheek stated that juniors have commended them on their quality training programme and their mentorship. At the point of qualification, the law firm keeps on average 27 out of 29 trainees. They also report that the Work/life balance at HSF is better than the average law firm with encouragement to attend important life events and log off if the work is non-urgent.
Being one of the highest paying law firms and one that values their employee’s time they are a large competitor for other law firms recruiting top talent.
- DLA Piper
Compared to the previously mentioned firms, DLA Piper is relatively new as it is the outcome of a 2005 merger between one British and two US firms. However, being fairly new on the scene has not slowed them down as they are now third place among the world’s largest law firms by revenue. The firm operates in fourteen industries ranging from life sciences to construction.
Following legal trends of the time, DLA Piper is invested in supporting sustainability goals for the future. Giving importance to their pro-bono work, including providing free advice to nonprofits, UN agencies intergovernmental organisations and social enterprises. DLA Piper believe it is important to allow them to focus on their missions and objectives and taking out any legal fuss frees up their time to do so.
Their work to create a sustainable future has been recognised and in 2023 they were awarded the Terra Carta Seal from the Sustainable Markets Initiative. This award recognised DLA Piper’s active work to create a positive impact on the environment.