Lawyer Pay

$20M for top rainmaking lawyers? Kirkland's poaching started a trend

  • Print

pile of 100 dollar bills

Eight-figure pay packages and bidding wars for lawyers are increasingly common in BigLaw. (Image from Shutterstock)

Eight-figure pay packages and bidding wars for lawyers are increasingly common in BigLaw.

Pay packages of $20 million are not uncommon for top lawyers, particularly for those with private equity expertise, the New York Times reports.

Sabina Lippman, a partner and a co-founder of Lippman Jungers, a legal recruiting company, has heard of pay packages of $20 million or more offered or contemplated by at least 10 law firms over the last few years.

Those compensation packages far exceed top pay of the past, Lippman said.

“Twenty million dollars is the new $10 million,” she observed.

Some firms have taken a new tack in bidding wars, the article reports. They are awarding poached partners a number of shares in the partnership for a set time period, typically for two to five years.

The firm “at the center of the action” is Kirkland & Ellis, which “made an early play for private equity clients when few rivals saw them as big moneymakers,” the article reports.

Kirkland’s poaching “inspired fierce competition among top law firms,” including Simpson Thacher & Bartlett; Latham & Watkins; Davis Polk & Wardwell; and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

Some firms “changed their compensation structures or stretched their budgets to keep stars from leaving,” the article reports. “Others have countered by raiding Kirkland to build their own private equity businesses.”

One “particular target of poaching by Kirkland” was Simpson Thacher, which lost at least seven top partners to Kirkland in the last decade, according to the New York Times. Simpson Thacher responded by changing.

“We intentionally made the decision to adjust our compensation structure to attract and retain the best talent in strategically important practices across our global platform,” Alden Millard, chair of Simpson Thacher’s executive committee, told the New York Times in an email.

See also:

BigLaw firm will pay up to $20M to top partners, an amount needed ‘to be at the big table’

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.