Embattled SJ Berwin ups salary rates to match magic circle pay

SJ Berwin‘s management met with the firm’s associates last week to inform them that salaries would be raised to equal the magic circle as the firm looks to ease public debate over the firm’s bonus shake-up.

Senior partner Jonathan Blake confirmed that SJ Berwin would match headline magic circle salaries at the middle of its salary bands as part of its end of financial year review.

“So for the best people at the top of the bands we intend that they will have base salaries higher than the magic circle,” Blake said.

The salary change was raised during the firm’s six-monthly meeting with associates, held at the London office on Thursday (7 December), to discuss the firm’s financial performance and strategy.

Several questions about the new bonus structure were raised, however, it is understood that these were largely technical enquiries.

SJ Berwin has faced some public criticism following the shake-up of its associate bonus structure (www.thelawyer. com, 24 November) which saw it offer increased bonuses of up to 60 per cent of salary for utilisation and a new 12.5 per cent bonus for non-chargeable contributions.

Managing partner Ralph Cohen said: “It’s not incentivisation, it’s compensation. It’s about compensating people who work very hard and very unsocial hours and that is why we are backdating it [to May 2006].”

Only one associate is understood to be on track to hit the top of the new chargeable hours structure (2,500 hours).