In my experience, people often refer to the top-paying firms in London such as Kirkland & Ellis, Simpson Thacher etc., as paying New York rates. I recently received an email from a consultant encouraging me to move to a US firm on the basis it is paying "full NY rates". Other firms paying somewhere between those rates and the MC are described as paying "Mid-Atlantic rates".(Original post by MrLintonJones)
When you say "NY rates" I am assuming you mean $180k - which only 2 US firms in London are at, and only since this year. Ranking US firms by whether or not they pay NY rates is a bit new and does not give the true picture of US London salaries - US firms, even before their reputation of paying high, were never at NY levels - not least because NY billable targets are higher than London billable targets.
The majority of US firms pay at least £20k above MC firms, and do not fold their bonuses into the salary in order to inflate them. You say that US firms pay closer to MC rates, but that does not give a true reflection of the situation. The majority of US base salaries (excluding bonuses) are above the MC maximum salaries (inclusive of bonuses), so it is rather a significant jump from MC-->US. One could coast by in a US firm and be paid more than a MC lawyer who works 9am-9pm and most weekends in order to achieve the max bonus.
I agree the reference to "NY rates" may not be entirely accurate but it seems to be the phrase used in the market.
I think there might be less of a difference between MC salaries and most of the US firms than you might think.
For example, the US firm with the largest office in London is White & Case (I think). According to rollonfriday, they are paying NQs £90k. Another very well known US firm is Shearman & Sterling, they are listed at £95k. Taking a random MC firm, an NQ at Freshfields makes £85k + bonus so there is not a great deal of difference.
Some US firms with large offices in London - such as Reed Smith - operate on UK pay scales and pay their associates less than the MC.
But did you bother to watch?