Skip to main content


Huge bonuses offered by law firms in ‘talent war’

Law firms lead the way on incentives.

Ian McCawley

Credit: @j.jarmoszko via Twenty20

Unleash Your People Discover how far leading companies in different sectors are willing to go to recruit and retain talent.

Job dissatisfaction, burnout, and a frenzy of takeovers have sparked a “talent war”, with the recruitment race heating up.

This is leading some US law firms to offer inflated bonuses to attract and retain employees – in some cases to the tune of $250,000.

The Financial Times reports huge offers are being made at all levels of law firms’ ranks, including junior and mid-level roles.

According to the report, one recruiter claimed the world’s highest-grossing law firm, Kirkland & Ellis, is offering mid-level lawyers who have offers to join other companies up to $250,000 to stay.

The “golden handcuff” bonus must be returned if the employee leaves before a certain date.

The company is reportedly offering new recruits sign-on bonuses to the same value as well, states Business Insider


Referral incentives are also on the table.

Paul Hastings and Goodwin Procter, both leading US law firms, are offering bonuses of $50,000 and $30,000 respectively to lawyers who recommend new associates.

Recruitment experts say law firms are prepared to match rivals’ pay deals to get candidates to sign on the dotted line, in addition to offering substantial seasonal bonuses at least once per year.

The talent war has reached Britain’s shores too, with legal companies responding to increased base salaries for junior associates employed by top-tier US firms.

For example, Slaughter and May announced last week that it would boost annual pay for newly qualified lawyers to £100,000, matching rival Clifford Chance which had already made the commitment. 


The legal sector is not alone in overhauling bonuses and incentives in response to the talent war.

McDonald’s has decided to invest millions of dollars in order to raise hourly pay, introduce more time off, help cover tuition costs and offer emergency childcare for its restaurant workers, according to the Wall Street Journal.

It’s a common approach in the US hospitality sector – Papa John’s and Chipotle have also introduced sign-on bonuses and expanded benefits for caregivers. This makes sense as hospitality has been one of the industries hardest hit during the pandemic.

More like this

It looks like you’re using an ad blocker that may prevent our website from working properly. To receive the best experience possible, please make sure any blockers are switched off and refresh the page.