Allen & Overy associates were told this week that if their business for the year is deemed to be "low" then they will not be eligible for a bonus. Insiders say that "low" in A&O terms is around 85% of capacity.

Bonuses have previously been awarded based on associates' annual reviews. But last April Managing Partner Wim Dejonghe confirmed that in future associates with 2+PQE would only get the cash if they were putting in the hours. After all, the firm needs to bill the hours to get enough money to pay bonuses in the first place. And it has to maintain average partner profits of at least £1m if Wim's not to be teased by his chums at the rest of the Magic Circle.

An email was sent out on Monday to London corporate associates clarifying that "it has been agreed by the London Managing Partners that Associates with low busyness will not receive an award this year, unless there are compelling reasons for one to be made on an exceptional basis". Insiders have complained that they are angry at the short notice as bonuses are to be awarded in the next few weeks, giving more workshy associates almost no time to rectify their situation.

The email stressed that the calculation would also take into account non-chargeable work such as business development, and at 1750 hours their chargeable targets are lower than at many other big firms. And to be fair, the lawyers at A&O who have been pulling all nighters might feel a little miffed if bonuses were also pocketed by those who've clocked off at 6pm via the fire escape every day.

    No extra cash for you

A spokesman wouldn't confirm the figure, but said that "given associate busyness levels in London, we anticipate this will only lead to conversations with those associates who have fallen behind their peers. That is only right and proper given the incredibly hard work a significant number of associates have put in over the past year."

Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 21 March 14 09:34

There is a great article waiting to be written about the effects of presenteeism v efficiency v how satisfied clients are with the big bill or indeed whether the firm is satisfied with the oft ignored write offs because of over runs that are created by a desire to be "hard working". This antiquated approach to measuring performance really does need to change. Maybe the associates of this world need to find themselves a Bob Crow (RIP) to stand up for them or maybe just grow some and stand up for themselves.

Anonymous 21 March 14 10:12

They seriously used the word "busyness" twice? Do they know it means "lively but meaningless activity"?

KingMup 21 March 14 13:42

These lazy associates who only bill 85% of 1750 hours whilst maybe pulling in between 400 and 600k for the firm. Clearly such individuals should think themselves lucky with their basic salaries of what 70 - 80k. Even that's too goods for the lazy bastards.

Roll On Friday 21 March 14 14:26

Not fair to tell people so late. Has a feel of breach of contract about it.
Also you do better work the fewer hours you do so to give cash for people who in effect give clients worse work is so perverse.

Roll On Friday 21 March 14 15:29

Lydia, you know I have mad love for you, but I'm not sure I agree on the breach of contract point. I thought bonuses were usually at the total discretion of the firm?

Anonymous 22 March 14 11:16

Lydia - if Mr Dejonghe told associates "last April" that "they would only get the cash if they were putting in the hours" I don't think it fair to criticise him on the ground that he has notified them late in the day that the threshold is 85%. I'm not a huge fan of Mr Dejonghe (e.g. look how few partners A & O have made up this year) but on this one I think the criticism is unfair.

Anonymous 24 March 14 11:20

In my A&O office (not London), the threshold is 90%, below which the bonus cuts out entirely. And to make budget while still taking annual leave and public holidays, you need to bill 8 hours every single working day. A pretty low (and very unpopular) change to spring on lawyers.

Anonymous 26 March 14 09:11

If you choose to work for the devil you must expect the odd pitchfork to the nether-regions.

Anonymous 26 March 14 09:16

Charging 8 hours a day isn't a significant burden provided the work is readily available, particularly when you factor-in the minimum recordable unit and the inevitable "padding" activities. If you extrapolate from their time recording data, you'll find many magic circle associates in the 25-30 age range are actually approaching retirement.

Anonymous 26 March 14 12:49

Some firms (such as the one I currently work for) expect a 100% compliance with targets, regardless of the availability of work, as part of a fee earner's normal performance. They don't even consider bonuses before then. At 85% A&O's statff should feel lucky.

Anonymous 26 March 14 13:05

Given the incentive to pad bills and spend unnecessary time to reach targets, A&O has just proved to me that their operating model is completely at odds with their clients' interests.

Anonymous 26 March 14 22:15

Are you sure 85% utilisation is measured against the chargeable hours target? Some firms have some funny measures, eg measuring it against a nominal ten hour day which means billing 8.5 hrs a day.