Reed Smith introduces new three-tier pay structure for associates

Reed Smith has become the latest global law firm to overhaul its lockstep system in favour of a new focus on associate training.

The new programme, launched yesterday (27 October) will divide associates into three tiers – junior, mid-level and senior.

Associates across the firm’s entire network will now be required to meet a set of competencies in order to advance, with courses set out to help associates in the process. Partners at the firm will act as career advisers to associates.

The programme covers four main areas – legal skills, citizenship, business skills and clients – and nine core competencies. Some of those competencies include mastering fundamental legal skills, support of the firm’s culture, demonstration of leadership and business skills, and understanding and effectively managing client needs.

The firm has not decided yet how its pay structure will change to reflect the new set-up.

The firm has placed first and second-year associates into the junior rank, third through to fifth-year associates into the mid-level category, and sixth-year associates and above into the senior rank. There is no set time for each associate to move through the ranks.

A team was set up 18 months ago to start working on the programme, with associates and partners providing input throughout the process. The firm said the changes were not made in response to the recession.

Global head of legal personnel Nicky Dingemans (pictured) said: “This provides a real road map for associates to understand what is required of them at every step along the way. Being a great lawyer today is not just about having great legal skills.”

Alison Suttie, HR director for Europe and the Middle East, said: “This global programme is very positive for our European network. The new programme will ensure that everyone gets the same opportunities. This is a huge step forward.”

Top 10 City firm Norton Rose ditched its lockstep programme last year in favour of implementing a competency-based assessment system for associates. The firm now assesses associates on a merit-based system and moves them through three tiers.

Other firms currently reviewing associate appraisal systems include CMS Cameron McKenna and Eversheds.

This story first appeared on The Recorder, a US sister title of Legal Week.