Freshfields associates issue 10-point wishlist

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer will host its first ever associate away-day tomorrow (23 March) as part of a raft of measures intended to improve communication with its junior staff.

All of the London office’s associates were invited to attend the conference at the Hurlingham Club, with 200 expected to turn up. Team heads and chief executive Ted Burke will also make an appearance in the afternoon to discuss issues that associates will table tomorrow morning.

People partner Hugh Crisp, who was instrumental in organising Freshfields’ event, told The Lawyer: “It’s all about involving our associates in decisions that affect them. We’re in the listening stage now, and then once issues have been aired, we’ll move the process forward.”

The associates have tabled a ten point agenda. These topics include their work-life balance, reward packages, appraisals, career path, training, knowledge management and business development.

These issues have been previously compiled by an associate engagement group, itself newly formed this year. Made up of 12 associates across practice groups and four partners, the group canvassed associate opinion before the conference.

In January, Freshfields introduced an of counsel role as alternative to partnership. It also said that it was in the process of reviewing associate pay, after raising it newly qualified pay to £55,000 in May, along with a 12.9 per cent raise in pay for second-year qualfieds.

Tomorrow’s forum follows that of Allen & Overy, which held its first associate conference last summer.

According to research by The Lawyer, Freshfields has a good trainee retention rate, at nearly 90 per cent, although it does not release its overall associate retention. A spokesperson said, however, that the measures were not a response to a high associate attrition rate.

But Crisp said: “Giving associates a voice is obviously vital because it’s important to have a happy, motivated group of lawyers. A high level of attrition has an economic effect, but it’s also about how the place feels.”