Freshfields freezes associate pay as trainee salaries unchanged again

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has frozen its associate pay rates following the introduction of a merit-based system, with trainee salaries kept static for the fifth year running.

The news compares with figures unveiled by magic circle rivals Allen & Overy, Linklaters and Slaughter and May, which have all increased pay rates significantly.

Freshfields, which moved to a career milestones (CM) arrangement last year, will pay between £65,000 and £72,500 to career milestone foundation (CMF) lawyers, the equivalent of newly-qualified associates. The 2012/13 salaries are the same level as 2011/12.

Salaries for CM1, the next level up, remain at £80,000 at the lower end to an upper limit £92,500.

CM2 pay for 2012/13 is between £100,000 to £107,500, the same rates as 2011/12, while the CM3 band starts at £115,000 – also unchanged from last year.

The current salary levels take effect from this month, with associates receiving their first pay checks at these levels at the end of June backdated to 1 May.

Last year the firm switched to the merit-based system, abandoning its tenure-based scales to incentivise high performance (8 May 2012).

Under the new setup, associates’ reviews determine where in the scale they stand within a band and whether they should move to a higher rung.

The base rates exclude bonuses, which remain determined by a performance-related system. Basic salaries and bonuses are set following associates’ performance reviews with supervisors, which run from February to late spring.

Meanwhile, trainee pay, which remains tenure-based, has also been frozen at £39,000 for first years and £44,000 second years. These levels have not changed since 2008, when the figures increased from the 2007/8 rate of £38,000 in the first year and £43,000 in the second.

Freshfields London people partner Nigel Rawding said in a statement: “We remain committed to our strategy to promote a high performance culture which recognises and incentivises individual development rather than tenure, and we have invested heavily in our career milestones structure. Attracting and retaining the very best people is about much more than remuneration, however, and we also continue to focus on ensuring our all people have excellent opportunities for development through training and application.”