Ashurst issues ultimatum to plateau partners

Ashurst management has given partners at the top of equity a warning to keep up their game if they want to stay at that level of the lockstep.

Remuneration committee head Nigel Ward sent partners an e-mail stressing that members on 65 equity points, the top of the ladder, had to conform to the high standards of performance expected of members of that level and that no one was guaranteed to stay there.

It is understood that no partners have ever been moved down from the 65-point plateau since it was introduced in 2008, with the number of equity partners at that level nearly trebling last year as part of a lockstep overhaul that also saw 17 partners moved down the ladder (8 August 2011).

An Ashurst spokesperson said: “We’ve always had a managed lockstep. We clearly expect the highest performance from all of our partners and although we always aim to achieve more, the benchmark against which this is set hasn’t changed.”

The note, sent on 1 March, comes alongside the firm informing partners of their position on the firm’s lockstep. Partners have been told where they stand, but the list of partners’ lockstep positions, open for all members to see, is set to be circulated shortly before the partnership votes on it.

Partner remuneration at Ashurst is officially decided by the remuneration committee, which carried out a review of the lockstep in 2008 (31 March 2008).

The lockstep has nine levels, running from 25 to 65 points. The firm introduced a modified lockstep in 2007,  allowing partners to be moved up or down, after previously operating a pure ladder where remuneration was determined by seniority alone.