The so-called career milestones system has come following consultation with associates, making Freshfields the latest firm to move away from using post-qualification experience (PQE) to assess development.
The Freshfields model will see associates placed at one of three career milestones, based on seven key elements, such as technical skills, client relationships, business advisory skills and project management.
The system has been designed to offer more flexibility than PQE.
HR director Kevin Hogarth said: “It allows people to move through at a faster or slower pace and allows us to focus on where someone might need to progress to reach the next milestone.”
Initial appraisals of London associates will take place in March and April 2010. These will offer an indication of which milestone an associate is likely to be placed on in April 2011 and give clear objectives for the 12-month period.
Bonuses will be paid as normal in 2010, but will be based on progress against milestone progression from 2011. However, Freshfields insisted that the move would not have a significant impact on remuneration policy.
Hogarth added: “We’re not making any immediate changes to the way we approach salaries and bonuses; the focus is on development, not on pay.
“If we want to attract and retain the best people we can’t have a system that restricts what we can pay as a bonus.”
The firm hopes to extend the system globally and has begun consulting with its international offices to assess how it can be applied across each jurisdiction.