As a result of associate pressure, last year many of the firm’s associates received market-leading pay-rises as well as promotion to the newly created of counsel position.

Associate engagement is set to increase in 2008, with a second associate away-day in March. This follows last year’s inaugural event, which pushed issues such as career development to the fore. As a result, Freshfields plans to overhaul its appraisal process, making it less laborious and more transparent.

Freshfields HR director Tim Cole says: “My sense is that associates have enjoyed leading the changes. We want their continued and sustained participation in matters that affect them.”

Freshfields’ associates are among the City’s best paid and the firm’s retention rate of trainees on qualification is high at 90 per cent. But the firm still has one of the longest partnership tracks, and Cole says he sees no reason to change things.

“Promotions should only happen when there is a clear business case and the candidate is ready for partnership,” he adds.

Still, Freshfields did see fit to promote a whopping 22 to the partnership in April 2007, the most in more than four years.