Slaughter and May is set to introduce its highest salary increases to date in a bid to stop assistant departures and in recompense for an increasing workload.
It is understood that the firm is proposing to introduce pay increases of up to 15 per cent for assistants, compared with an average of five per cent in previous years. It currently pays newly-qualifieds £42,000.
According to sources, certain areas within the firm have had a higher attrition of assistants than in previous years, specifically in areas of the corporate department.
One lawyer says: "It's partly because the economy is booming that there's such a lot of work around, and it's also desperately hard to retain people."
The Beaumont, one of the five corporate units (which are all named after pre-eminent partners), and which is known in the industry as "death row" because of its high turnover and heavy workload, has been hit particularly badly.
One source says: "[The department] works people very hard, and it has a higher concentration of clients."
"Things are desperately short everywhere," says one lawyer. "[The firm] has lost a lot more than usual, but then there are always a large number of lawyers going out of the firm. There are about 80 trainees who qualify each year, and people typically decide whether or not they want to go on at two, three or four-year qualified level."
However, one source says that the firm always experiences a high turnover of assistants, since its limited partner numbers mean not many achieve a partnership.
Neil Morgan, head of personnel at Slaughters, denies that there has been a higher incidence of assistant departures this year, adding that the rate of increase in pay has not been decided by the firm's management as yet.
Slaughters has two pay reviews each year, in May and November. Earlier this year the review - which is merit based in that assistants are assessed on an individual basis - averaged out at 30 per cent overall.
This was in line with major increases throughout the City, when many of the top 20 firms upped their rates to fight off competition from US practices and new technology companies in London.