RPC scraps associate bonuses after ditching performance reviews

RPC has overhauled its pay structure for associates by axing bonuses in favour of higher basic salaries.

The changes come just months after the firm scrapped annual performance reviews for associates.

Associates have now had their salaries increased to “reflect anticipated previous bonus arrangements”. On average associate pay has increased by 7 per cent.

The firm refused to confirm details of its associates’ pay claiming that the broad nature of the pay scales means the figures would be “meaningless”.

RPC operates a fully merit based remuneration structure for its associates, which means that individual salaries can vary dramatically among those of the same level of experience.

Salaries are determined by a range of financial and non-financial factors including financial contribution to the firm, leadership skills and client relationships.

In 2013 the firm introduced a merit based pay system for its newly qualified (NQ) solicitors for the first time. The changes meant that NQ salaries increased to between £58,000 and £63,000.

RPC’s junior lawyers move through four career levels, which are: trainee; associate level one; associate level two; and senior associate. The firm then operates an all-equity partnership structure.

Speaking to The Lawyer RPC director of brand and talent Clint Evans said: “The overall level of remuneration is performance related but because it’s now focused on salary it’s anticipatory rather than retrospective.

“The difference to the old system is the change of timing and that the performance related pay isn’t variable.

“Obviously the firm takes more risk in approaching pay in this way but our people value the certainty. There is a small budget set aside for truly exceptional contributions but that’s not a part of our regular pay award system,” Evans continued.

Evans said RPC’s clients were increasingly being charged on a flat fee basis meaning it was impractical to continue to use a bonus system based on chargeable hours.

RPC had also examined using a bonus system based on a mix of financial and non-financial measures but could not find a system that worked effectively.

The firm also recently overhauled its performance review framework for associates. The changes saw the firm ditch annual reviews in favour of regular conversations between associates and partners about their current workloads and future assignments.

Lawyers will also have quarterly meetings with partners to discuss their individual performance and their professional development. These meetings will take the place of the annual review.