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Overview of Partner recruitment in the UK

Posted by: Laurence Simons 22/04/13

Partner level legal recruitment in the UK

In 2012 firms across the market compensated partners in an assortment of ways at a variety of levels. Of course, equity partners’ remuneration is directly linked to profitability, meaning partners in firms with strong international practices and involvement in key sectors including energy, technology and life sciences are benefiting from the rise in work levels and profits across those areas. Conversely equity partners in underperforming firms, including those in some mid-tier City firms, will have felt a pinch on their income levels.

In 2012 changes were made to equity structures with a number of firms moving away from a traditional lockstep model towards modified systems, where partners are rewarded based purely on merit or on a mixture of merit and length of service. Our research shows that the number of partners moving on the equity ladder remained broadly unchanged year on year, with firms continuing to free up equity to incentivise more junior partners. For some equity partners, a small number of firms are continuing to withhold profit distributions where appropriate in order to avoid borrowing / utilising overdraft facilities. Cash-calls and increases in the capital contributions for equity partners have also been reasonably common.

Salaried partner and fixed share partner remuneration levels increased modestly in 2012; although the requirement for capital contributions from fixed share partners has also been on the rise and in some cases has been as high as 25% of the fixed share.