Morgan Cole dumps lockstep

Focus on retention of younger partners as new merit based remuneration scheme is launched

Morgan Cole is in the throes of its first review of individual partner performance as it moves into a purely merit-based compensation system.

The firm – which has offices in South Wales, the Thames Valley and London – will for the first time pay partners according to how well they have met their own individual targets.

Under last year’s lockstep system, the firm’s top equity partners took home £200,000, compared with those at the bottom who earned £80,000, according to The Lawyer 100 survey.

But chief executive David Main says the firm has been working for the last 18 months to reach the introduction of its new system.

He says: “I think most of our people have responded pretty well, and I think it’s only fair that you look at current contribution rather than how long people have been at the firm. It’s fairer to the younger people. I mean, what’s the rationale to a lockstep system that holds them back? They should be rewarded for their contributions.”

Partners have been set specific targets to meet over the last year and they will be assessed on these rather than only on their billing.

Main says: “We look at the size of the role we’re asking a partner to perform and how well they perform it. We actually look at the size of the role in terms of the ability to develop the practice and contribute to the firm’s internal development such as knowledge base and the ability of the lawyer to innovate and come up with creative solutions, as well as the teamwork concept.”

Chairman John Cole says: “The practice area heads have defined the roles that partners are performing; we set objectives, and now we’re having partner appraisals. The real benefit of objective setting is that you can link all the objectives together to make them face in the same way for the firm.”

The firm voted in 1999 to cull 15 of its partners in an attempt to boost profitability. Morgan Cole’s strategy is to now focus on four core industry sectors – energy, insurance, technology and construction.

The firm’s clients include BP, Norwich Union, Axa and Xerox. It has around 750 lawyers, with roughly 300 based in South Wales, 250 in the Thames Valley and 200 in London.