Ashurst kicks off plan to ‘consign PQE to history’

Ashurst kicks off plan to ‘consign PQE to history'” />
Ashurst managing partner Simon Bromwich has called for the abolition of PQE as a measure of progress, with the majority of the UK’s largest firms seeking to dismantle associate lockstep systems.

Bircham Dyson Bell and US firm Arnold & Porter both announced that they were scrapping PQE earlier this month. Exclusive research by The Lawyer shows that the majority of top 20 firms are creating systems that will make PQE references redundant.

Bromwich told The Lawyer: “We’d like to consign the PQE to history.”

For the second year running, this week Ashurst will assess its associates and their pay based on merit and not seniority .

“Remunerating lawyers and determining their charge-out rates to clients based solely on their seniority is not commercial and is outmoded,” said Bromwich.

Allen & Overy (A&O) has rolled out a competency framework with three types of associate: junior, mid-level and senior. Associates are assessed on expertise such as client-facing skills.

HR director Genevieve Tennant said: “PQE doesn’t have any relevance anymore to senior associates, who used to be known as lawyers with five years’ PQE and above.”

Firms such as Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP), Pinsent Masons and Simmons & Simmons have introduced similar associate bands, breaking from traditional lockstep.

It is deemed that the term PQE could contravene the Age Discrimination Act, which prohibits recruiting with reference to age. A&O, BLP and Pinsents have scrapped PQE references in recruitment advertising.

However, Clifford Chance will continue to use the PQE system, as will Norton Rose, while a Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer spokesperson said: “We looked at the age discrimination argument and felt it was a non-issue.”

Addleshaw Goddard, BLP, Denton Wilde Sapte and Linklaters are reviewing the term.