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Brexit is good for the lawyers as legal pay shoots up

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The UK’s vote to leave the European Union is having an unintended consequence: higher pay for some of London’s top young lawyers. 

The increases for lawyers at Kirkland & Ellis and other large practices come after some US firms decided to set pay in dollars, and then convert it to pounds for distribution to UK employees. With the currency’s plummet amid the Brexit vote in June 2016, the Americans had to pay more in pounds, and local firms including Clifford Chance risked losing talent if they failed to follow suit.

“Salaries shot up at the top New York law firms” in London, said Daniel Smith, director of the recruiter Noble Legal. Local competitors, known as Magic Circle firms, “are paranoid the US firms are hoovering up their best people: they need to bridge the gap” in pay.

The Brexit vote has left companies and politicians scrambling to prepare for the UK’s departure from the EU in 2019. Uncertainty about contracts and legal appeals mean lawyers are finding plentiful work to make sure clients aren’t at risk when Britain is no longer subject to EU rules and courts.

Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis, which has 210 lawyers in London, changed its UK pay system in June 2016, just before the Brexit vote. The salaries are converted to pounds every month, which means that pay fluctuates.

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