Derivatives lawyers up the pay stakes

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With headhunters battering down their doors, derivatives lawyers globally have not been slow to ask for higher pay.

In London, Siobhan Lewington at search firm Sheffield Haworth says mid-level derivatives lawyers with five years' post qualification experience can command a base salary of between 90,000 ($158,000, €131,000) and 100,000, with a bonus of 100% or more.

In New York, Edna Messick at E M Messick Legal Recruiting & Consulting, says banks pay derivatives lawyers with five years' experience a salary in the region of $150,000, plus a bonus of around 160%.

In Continental Europe, pay is predictably lower. In Milan, Maximillian Redolfi at Michael Page says lawyers with knowledge of derivative documentation can command a base salary of €80,000, plus a 25% bonus. Frankfurt-based Gary Mackney of Neumann Legal Recruitment says German derivatives lawyers can expect a base salary of €120,000, plus a 30% to 70% bonus. In Paris, Antoine Morgaut at Robert Walters says lawyers with experience in products such as collateralised debt obligations can command total packages of €140,000 or more.

In all countries, banks pay mid-ranking derivatives lawyers substantially more than law firms, where base salaries are comparable but bonuses substantially lower. Law firms are digging deep in response: Allen & Overy reportedly boosted salaries for non-partner level lawyers in its London office by 20% last October.

But once lawyers at law firms make it to partner, the financial incentive to quit for a bank disappears. Partners at law firms can make 800,000 or more. Similar packages for general counsels at investment banks are rare.

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