Editor’s weekly: Fair pay

Do you think it’s fair for corporate associates who often put in all-nighters to earn exactly the same as their colleagues in non-transactional departments who enjoy more regular working hours?

If not, you’ll probably be surprised to learn that’s how most major law firms pay their associates. Known as lockstep an associate’s pay is linked to the number of years they have been qualified.

But some firms are gradually phasing out such systems in favour of ones that are more flexible. Allen & Overy, Denton Wilde Sapte and Norton Rose have already stopped using post-qualification experience (PQE) as a benchmark for assessing associates and determining remuneration, while CMS Cameron McKenna and Simmons & Simmons are understood to be conducting reviews of their development systems.

Magic circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, meanwhile, is overhauling its career development model in London from spring 2010 and replacing PQE to assess development with a so-called career milestones system (see article).

As you would expect, any moves to do away with associate lockstep will generate resistance from some quarters with even some City managing partners warning against it (read article). Indeed, many Lawyer2B.com and TheLawyer.com users have also come out in defence of associate lockstep.

“Nobody is pretending that locksteps are a good system, but as Churchill said of democracy, it is the least worst that has been tried. Big firms just aren’t equipped to properly assess merit across practice groups, let alone assess potential recruits against their existing crop of associates,” wrote one poster.

Elsewhere, for those of you who are contemplating a career in legal aid you might be interested to learn that according to the Law Society legal aid lawyers earn less than sewerage workers (read article).

Last but not least click here to find out why girl power rules at LG.


PS – congratulations to University of Leicester law student Elizabeth Garcia, the winner of our Legally Blonde competition.