Skadden ditches associate sabbaticals in $1m economy drive

The balance of power between law firms and their associates is beginning to shift back towards the partnership after New York giant Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom announced plans to scrap its sabbatical programme.

The Lawyer can reveal that Skadden will phase out the programme, in which associates gain an extra four weeks holiday or the equivalent pay after six years at the firm.

It is estimated that the scheme, variations of which will still apply to lawyers who joined before 31 May 2001, will save the firm around $1m (£606.3m) a year.

Skadden introduced the scheme three years ago when the US legal market saw associate attrition rates skyrocket as young lawyers were tempted to in-house positions, often with dotcom start-ups or investment banks.

Skadden’s European office head Bruce Buck said: “In light of the current economic environment, which is much different than three years ago, the programme is viewed as inappropriate and is being phased out.”

Skadden was just one of a huge number of US firms that introduced large salary increases and a wide range of perks to keep associates.

In 1999 Shearman & Sterling announced a range of perks, setting aside $2m (£1.2m) annually to finance them. They included career-related sabbaticals and retention bonuses, where three year and six year-qualifieds received up to $50,000 (£30,300) at each juncture.

A Shearman spokesman said that the firm would keep its programme in place.