Medium-sized firms plan bonus schemes

Cameron McKenna is understood to be one of a number of medium-sized firms considering introducing a bonus payment scheme for associates to stem losses to US firms and investment banks.

A number of firms are looking at introducing bonus schemes but the payment issue is so sensitive they are remaining tight-lipped. Some are operating bonus payment schemes on the quiet to keep hold of key associates, says an industry source. Bonuses of 25 per cent of salary are increasingly common.

At least three of the magic circle firms have some kind of bonus scheme. Clifford Chance associates have received up to 30 per cent of salary for three years, while Allen & Overy has awarded discretionary payments for two years.

But Alan Hodgart, a director at legal consultants Hildebrandt International, says that middle-tier firms are now introducing associate bonuses, partly driven by the threat from high-paying US firms. “UK firms want to resist some of the overtures of the American firms, where bonuses are a way of life,” says Hodgart.

Another temptation for top associates is the lure of the investment banks. “A number of the younger corporate lawyers can go somewhere like Goldman Sachs and earn huge bonuses,” he says.

The chances of making partnership have reduced over the last few years and firms have to find other ways to reward high quality associates, he adds.