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Ashurst remuneration review sees partner profit points allocated up front

Ashurst is to adopt merger partner Blake Dawson’s system of allocating partner profit points at the start of the financial year, potentially ending criticism that its original appraisal system lacks transparency.

Before its full financial merger with Australia’s big six firm Blake Dawson last year, Ashurst appraised its partnership at the end of the financial year, leading to criticism of unfairness from a number of partners.

Ashurst moved to a modified lockstep system in 2007 – under which partners can be moved up or down the ladder – and the combined firm has adopted this system over Blake Dawson’s merit-based system by which to allocate its shared profit pool.

This latest change was put in place this year and is understood to have been one of the pre-conditions of the merger, along with agreements such as Blake Dawson losing its name and divisions being led by dual-heads from both firms.

The move has been welcomed by some partners who say privately that the previous system was ‘unfair’, especially if a partner was nearing a particular gate on the lockstep.

Ashurst’s lockstep runs from 25 to 65 equity points, with gateways at 29, 33, 37, 41, 45, 50 and 57.

‘There are many things that got tweaked as part of the merger deal. The firm is trying to look at the best things and implement those,’ says one ex-partner. ‘But when you work for a year and find out at the end what you get paid, that is unfair. If a firm operates a pure lockstep, then it doesn’t matter. But when it is based on performance or a managed lockstep, then it does matter.’

However, Ashurst denied that its appraisal system has ever lacked transparency and managing partner James Collis said: ‘As we announced at the time of our merger, the firm has a single profit pool and uses a lockstep remuneration structure worldwide. To be fully integrated in this way obviously requires a synchronisation of the partner calendar globally.’