Leeds-based Walker Morris has added new metrics to its year-end bonus structure and increased the bonus pot in a bid to improve the firm’s financial hygiene.

The firm has had a year-end bonus in place for several years now linked to chargeable hours, but during the last financial year it added elements linked to firmwide rate recovery and business development contribution.

Malcolm Simpson, managing partner at Walker Morris, told The Lawyer: “We agreed with our guys that if they helped us to improve the recovered rate – so pushing to agree the right headline rate and to maximise the recovery of that rate instead of writing time off – then we would bonus that improvement.

“For business development, it’s about getting every single lawyer in the business to understand that they’ve got a role to play. It’s about learning business development skills right from the beginning of their career, rather than getting to the cusp of partnership and suddenly realising you need to acquire some new skills to make that next step.”

When Walker Morris added the two new metrics, it increased the size of the bonus pot so that lawyers could receive up to 35 per cent of their salary instead of the previous 25 per cent. Around 25 per cent of the bonus was linked to chargeable hours, with 5 per cent apiece allocated to business development and rate recovery.

Last week the firm announced that it would tweak the breakdown for the current financial year, with 2.5 per cent allocated to rate recovery and 7.5 per cent linked to business development. The reasoning is that lawyers are in better control of their contribution to business development, whereas rate recovery relies more on external behaviours.

The change has already had an impact, according to Simpson. Up to 60 business development reports were recently submitted and most of them were rewarded with bonuses.

He added: “Rewarding our people to help us shift the needle on some of these metrics has made a big difference, so that’s pretty exciting.”

The news links into the firm’s decision to increase its chargeable hours target and salary offering as it closes in on its 2024 target of £70m.

Indeed, Walker Morris reviewed its value proposition last year and decided to increase its rates, as well as up salaries and its chargeable hours target from 1,200 to 1,350.

Walker Morris isn’t the only independent firm to have reviewed its bonus structure recently. Just last week The Lawyer reported that Covent Garden-based Fladgate has introduced a new bonus for associates who are willing to work longer hours, in a bid to better compete with the ever-increasing financial compensation packages of other City law firms.

The bonus scheme has been developed for non-partner fee-earners who are willing to exceed the set billable target of 1,350 hours. The percentage of the bonus is determined by the base salary of each individual and the number of hours they work beyond the target.