Clifford Chance approves plans to scrap ‘improvement period’ for underperformers

Clifford Chance has approved plans to scrap its period of grace of up to a year for underperforming partners before they are asked to leave.

The firm launched a consultation period with partners earlier this year to sound them out on the plans, with the proposals put to partners consisting of an abolition of the one-year improvement period in favour of a longer termination period (7 May 2012).

The improvement period was a nine to 12-month term during which partners deemed to be performing under par were given the opportunity to pick up their game before being dismissed. If they did not improve, they were given a 14-day termination notice to leave.

This termination period will now be extended, with the original plans outlined earlier this year seeing it increased to at least three months followed by a notice period.

A partner said these plans have been upheld with some “tinkering round the edges” following the review.

The plans are seen as a way of speeding up exits for underperforming partners and removed the cultural impact of a firm having disenfranchised partners who are the subject of a formal warning on its books.

A Clifford Chance spokesperson said there had been amendments to the originals plans following feedback from partners but declined to comment on how the proposals had changed.

The spokesperson said in a statement: “Following a consultation with partners, the firm has reviewed some of its policies around how partner performance is managed. The new policies reflect our discussions with the partnership and bring the firm into line with practice elsewhere in the industry.”

For more on dealing with underperforming partners, see here.