SJ Berwin scraps associate lockstep

SJ Berwin has become the latest firm to abandon the associate lockstep model as it moves to a merit-based remuneration system.

Rob Day
Rob Day

Associates at the City firm will be remunerated according to their performance against a range of both legal and business competencies. There will be three bands based broadly on SJ Berwin’s Insight programme, which assesses progress at two, four and six years’ PQE.

The new model, which comes in on 1 May, replaces a lockstep system that saw associates move through seven narrower pay bands based purely on PQE.

Managing partner Rob Day introduced the new system following consultation with the firm’s associate solicitor forum and within individual practice areas.

He commented: “This is the way the market’s moving and we want to move with it. The previous system was inflexible and with smaller bands you end up with angst over smaller differentials.”

The move is designed to better mirror the modified lockstep model used to remunerate partners.

Day added: “We want to get to a situation where there’s a similar approach throughout the firm. It seems silly to pay partners one way and associates another.”

Several other firms, including magic circle duo Allen & Overy and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, have also ditched PQE-based systems in recent years.