Top City firm sets salary ceiling for associates

A TOP 10 City law firm is taking the unusual step of imposing an u80,000 salary ceiling on its senior associates.

Nick Robbins, partner of recruitment consultants Garfield Robbins, says that salaries for the two thirds of solicitors not making partnership in City firms tend to stick around the u80,000 mark. However this is the first time a firm has set a limit on salaries.

Robbins refuses to disclose the firm, but predicts other City firms will follow suit.

A survey of in-house salaries conducted by Garfield Robbins in association with The Lawyer and published this week reveals that solicitors at the six-year post-qualification stage can make more money through working in-house than they would in private practice, unless they become partners.

Salaries for in-house lawyers peak at about u100,000 – a powerful incentive for solicitors disillusioned with private practice.

Firms are increasingly introducing pay and benefits improvements such as bonus payment schemes to dissuade solicitors from moving in-house where they can improve their working hours and lifestyle or joining US firms where they can potentially double their salaries.

Cameron McKenna meanwhile is currently researching ways to improve the lot of senior associates, as part of a wider review of salary, benefits and conditions at the firm.

Personnel director John Renz says senior associates earn between u80,000 and u85,000 at Camerons, although “there is no hard and fast rule”.

Renz reveals: “We are currently investigating ways of rewarding senior associates – solicitors qualified for eight years or more.

“We are looking at the whole structure of it – at what is the role we expect of that level of people. The previous system was all about progress towards partnership, and we need to be more imaginative.”

Renz is spearheading a review of salary and working conditions which began last week under the heading “Aligning the Reward Strategy with the Business Strategy”.

In-house salary review: see pages 10-11