Maybe this was inevitable. After Cravath — a firm once known for its lockstep partner compensation — ditched the model in favor of increased flexibility for its “partners,” perhaps the collegial, true partnership of Biglaw was doomed.
In any event, another major law firm is reportedly changing up what it means to be partner there. Rumors are swirling that Clifford Chance is thinking about changing up its lockstep partner compensation model to better attract the top rainmakers who can demand mega paydays at firms unencumbered by the lockstep method.
In fairness, the changes to Clifford Chance partnership have been in the works for a while, as reported by Law.com:
In 2015, the firm introduced a mechanism to its 100-point lockstep that allowed the firm’s leaders to move partners up to 115 and 130 equity points, but also down to 70 points. Then in 2017 a ‘super-pointer’ tier was introduced to reward star performers in London and New York. The change seven years ago enabled the firm’s best partners to exceed 130 points.
Since then, the firm has further lengthened its lockstep to around 280 points, one person said. Those at the top of this scale earn in the region of £2.8 million, two of the people said, with the strongest performers able to break through the 280-point plateau; the firm’s current top of equity stands at £4.8 million. Now, with partner retention a growing concern for law firm leaders, the firm is expected to once again lengthen its super-pointer ladder, allowing for more competitive pay.
The firm itself is tightlipped about the potential change, saying, “The details of partner compensation are a private matter for the partnership and we won’t be commenting on this.” But if the firm starts attracting some big-name legal talent to its partner ranks over the next few years, we’ll have all the confirmation we need.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter @Kathryn1 or Mastodon @Kathryn1@mastodon.social.