one rule

All in it together though.


Allen & Overy is restarting pay reviews for its fee-earning lawyers - but keeping everyone else's salaries on ice.

The Magic Circle firm cancelled scheduled salary reviews in the first quarter of the financial year when the pandemic hit. But, confirmed a spokeswoman, "Following a recent review, we have taken the decision to increase lawyer salaries to align to the market as appropriate to their band or relevant discretionary increase for their role". 

The increase will be reflected in their December pay, backdated to November. 

"We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our people for their ongoing contribution to the firm in these extraordinary times", she said.

A source who sent the news from Allen & Overy rejoiced, "Spread the good news, the Covid-Era seems to be behind us. God bless the MC, god bless ROF".

The blessings shot wide of business services staff and practice professionals, however, who received an email from management explaining that their salaries would remain frozen, because no-one was looking to hire them.

"We continually review the external market to ensure that our salary bands are competitive when compared to those of our Magic Circle peers", staff were told in the leaked email. "This is vital if we are to recruit and retain the right people".

Alluding to pay reviews being commenced at other Magic Circle firms, the email explained that "in recent weeks, the market has moved with some of our peers lifting salary freezes for their London lawyers and so the changes we are making are market driven".

But the economic outlook "for the coming months remains uncertain" and "therefore, in the absence of any significant market pressure, the salary freeze will remain in place for practice professionals and support staff for the time being".

Staff were told that if the business "continues to perform well", they would receive year-end bonuses which would include an amount equivalent to the salary raise they would have got if they weren't being skipped over.

Affected staff complained that A&O was acting like a sheep following the flock, paying fee-earners more because there was market pressure to do so, but, because there was no such competition for anyone else, they would just have to suck it up.

"Wow...the rich just keep getting richer", commented one employee to RollOnFriday. "Off to the food bank I go... #canwebemoredivided".

While the financials make sense, when the market recovers it remains to be seen how long talent in the marketing, finance, IT, tech, HR and BD teams will hang around at firms which have told them so clearly where they stand in the pecking order.

A spokesperson for Allen & Overy said, "If we continue to sustain our good performance through the second half of the financial year, we will ensure that year-end bonuses appropriately reflect this performance and also undertake a review of market reward levels". 


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Comments

Anonymoose 13 November 20 08:47

"Affected staff complained that A&O was acting like a sheep following the flock, paying fee-earners more because there was market pressure to do so, but, because there was no such competition for anyone else, they would just have to suck it up."

Business service staff in sudden realisation that a law firm is a business shocker.

Mardy 13 November 20 08:50

’it’s a Business shocker’ - fair enough, except that some firms constantly tell their people they’re all one team, culture is important, and you’re not fee burners you’re an asset - then this goes and shows it all as lip service. 

Anonymous 13 November 20 09:07

Since when was "one team" the same as saying "you'll all get to be paid on the same basis"? Football players form a team, but they don't all get paid the same or get pay rises at the same time. Just because Bale gets a pay rise from £200k to £250k a week, doesn't mean the guy running on with water should get a pay rise too...

Nonniebale 13 November 20 09:35

True about Bale an the water boy but.... if you don’t give the water boy a raise do you trust him not to add a little something to the water? 

Blah 13 November 20 09:47

A business requires more than just fee earners to make money. Take away the back office and things would quickly fall apart. Bills would not get sent and collected, IT would fall over and make your “fee earning” impossible. That pitch you want doing would miss the deadline because you are so f’ing disorganised without someone wiping your arse. When you want to fire someone don’t look for support from your HR as they have no value to add as a non fee earner. You want to get paid your six figure salary every month - good luck with that if your non fee earner payroll jock decides to screw with you. Stuff like this makes all the BS about inclusivity stand out for exactly what it is. The sector will never change - elitist, discriminatory and full of greed. 

Anonymous 13 November 20 09:49

If you think that everyone in your business services team equates to "the guy running on with water" in a football game then either you or your firm is not looking at the way the industry is moving and you might get caught with your pants down in a couple of years time. There is going to be more use of technology, data and analysis, process improvement, pricing analysis and strategic partnering to deliver profitable legal services in the future.  I am a lawyer working at a MC firm and increasingly we look to key business services roles to deliver value and we need to shift from the fee burner mentality and us/them when it comes to pay rises. 

Anonymous 13 November 20 09:51

I’m sure the client account managers helping keep the work coming in and the senior IT personnel who have literally kept the firm working this year are delighted to find Allen & Overy values them less than the most junior lawyer. Way to go. Not really all in it together and it really is a return to the bad old us and them days.

Anonymoose 13 November 20 10:04

@Blah 09:47 

Nobody is disagreeing that we need business service staff.  And we have them.  And they are getting paid market rate.  If we suddenly didn't have them and couldn't find any to recruit, we would put up salaries ...

Anonymous 13 November 20 10:08

I'm Bus Services at Linklaters and can confirm pay rises only for lawyers. It seems the stated one team value is merely lip service.

Anonymous 13 November 20 10:11

Looks like Wim Dejonghe was writing bollox in the press a couple of week ago then. Missed the disclaimer saying NONE OF THIS APPLIES UNLESS YOU ARE A LAWYER.

"As we continue to live through the Covid-19 pandemic and plan for a future that will in many ways look different to before, we need to take account of the lessons we have learnt from previous crises.

The danger in times of economic stress and social upheaval is that organisations understandably become fixated on the business of survival and let other important issues drop down the list of priorities, or fall off the agenda altogether.

Fundamentally, our entire success depends upon attracting and retaining talent – and talent does not reside within one group alone. Brilliance, intelligence and inventiveness exist in all types of people, so if businesses are mostly recruiting and promoting one type of person it implies that they are promoting for comfort, not talent. I don’t see those businesses sustaining their success within a complex and changing world. As one client put it, if you don’t diversify, eventually you run out of new ideas.

Now, during difficult times, we need a diverse mix of people more than ever so that we can navigate our way through the current situation and emerge as a stronger, more relevant and more sustainable business – and one that has stayed focused on the right things, even in the midst of a crisis."

Anonymous 13 November 20 10:19

Eversheds is the same, discretionary bonus for some of the fee earners yet support staff, who have worked extra long hours for NOTHING aren't even getting a bonus, nor anything for any overtime. Sad times.

Anonymous 13 November 20 10:22

You know what would be nice? For Allen & Overy lawyers to stand up for their colleagues and tell management that this isn't right. Will any of them stand up and be counted?

Watergirl 13 November 20 10:44

The key point here, is culture. Culture is not 4 words you have on the wall in the canteen, it surfaces in challenging times either at the individual or collective level. Lawyers being front and centre and rewarded appropriately is absolutely the right thing to do, but when you talk about wanting to attract and retain high-performing business services professionals (which everyone says they do), then you have to act like it, in moments like this. This decision will have a kick-back later down the line. For those staff who were looking to leave, this will confirm they're making the right decision and it will also mean that, some who were thinking about it, will make their minds up to go also. High quality people are always in demand, regardless of whether they happen to practice the law or not.

 

@Anonymoose 10:04 – the attitude you are displaying of high-performing, talented professionals being expendable totally misses the point (and also tells a story). Putting up salaries to attract talent, never solves the problem of having a toxic employer brand in any given market, something very easily acquired and very difficult to shake off.

Anon 13 November 20 11:08

Maybe all of business services in the magic circle should log off for a few days and see how the lawyers describing us a water boys get on

They’re All Arseholes 13 November 20 11:11

Non fee-earning staff should not be expected to work above their contractual hours for nothing. It is an insult and those greedy partners who expect it/demand it wouldn’t look twice at you outside of the office environment. Your time, and worth, is just as important as theirs.

Me, Myself, and I 13 November 20 11:42

@Anonymous 13 November 20 10:08

I used to be business services at Linklaters, you are truly fucked there when you are not a lawyer. Now working for a smaller local firm, my work is being appreciated and I even got a pay rise back in June. 

Anonymoose 13 November 20 12:16

@They're All Arseholes 11:11

"Your time, and worth, is just as important as theirs."

It objectively is not.

Realist 13 November 20 13:17

For all those asserting that non-fee earner are as important as fee earners, can you identify any successful major law firms which evidence that approach?

From what I can see, the most successful law firms in London - e.g. US firms - (a) focus on their fee-earners; (b) outsource as much support as possible; (c) pay remaining support staff as little as they can get away with without losing them; and (d) eschew touchy-feely bullsh#t about being 'one team'. If my analysis is correct, the only area where English firms are messing up is in propagating hyperbolic nonsense about being 'all in this together', 'one team', etc. It's rubbish, and when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is, they're exposed as hypocrites. 

I'm not unsympathetic: I used to be a project manager working in IT, then I realised that I was a cost centre, ripe to be outsourced and/or have my pay cut. I therefore retrained, and I now work at a US law firm as a fee earner. Perhaps my business plan was wrong, but it's not looking that way at the moment.

Anonymous 13 November 20 13:35

This is hardly new.

Between 2006/7 and 2018 salaries hardly rose at all for non legal staff.

It's normal in a lot of jobs.

It's shit, but it's normal.

Anonymous 13 November 20 13:45

If people are paid less than market value, isn’t the traditional course of action to move firms?! I have worked with many people who have constantly complained about being undervalued and then remained with their firm for years, whilst continuing to work hard...this attitude seems to be particularly prevalent amongst support staff. 
 

If you don't like it, then leave. If you complain but stay, you confirm the firm’s attitude that you are paid enough to be retained. 

Anonymous 13 November 20 13:50

The news story below this one talks of two firms making support staff redundant....just saying... 

Waterboy 13 November 20 13:55

I still need to live (survive) just like the rest of the world no matter where you are on the food chain.

Anonymous 13 November 20 14:00

@Anon 13.17 for any firm for whom pricing services competitively is important (i.e. most firms) efficient business practices are essential. That makes non-fee earners quite important, as they take time-consuming tasks off fee earners’ hands.

US firms instructed by relatively cost-insensitive clients are a poor barometer for the needs of the rest of the industry and the way other sorts of firms would be best run. 

Anonymous 13 November 20 14:35

I'm sure the Head of IT will be handsomely rewarded for their efforts this year, less so the box boy. 

Anon 13 November 20 16:47

Facilities staff at my firm have been amazing through COVID, and will still get sweet FA as a thank you. But you can bet as soon as the pubs and restaurants open up again, the fee earning element will be getting more than a little tipsy on the firm to reinforce goodwill.

One Firm / One Culture is only when you are facing clients.

Anonymous 13 November 20 18:27

Law firms will lose the decent support staff who will easily transfer their HR, tech, BD skills to boutique consultancies, banks and big-4s, which offer rewards & pay rises. 

Realist 13 November 20 22:31

13:35 -> “This is hardly new. Between 2006/7 and 2018 salaries hardly rose at all for non legal staff It's normal in a lot of jobs. It's shit, but it's normal.“

18:27 -> “Law firms will lose the decent support staff who will easily transfer their HR, tech, BD skills to boutique consultancies, banks and big-4s, which offer rewards & pay rises.”

Both can’t be true. Either (a) support staff are cost centres to be run with the minimum possible expenditure, including salaries; or (b) support staff make a significant difference to law firms’ success, and are worth remunerating similarly to/closer to fee earners, else they will move to alternative employers.

The fact that lots of support staff and their sympathisers are complaining about A&O’s decision suggests that the former is true: support staff have little to low market value, and can be easily replaced. Were the alternative true, support staff would be ecstatic about A&O’s decision, as it would give them a brilliant reason to leave, citing A&O’s miserliness, to pursue exciting opportunities with other employers who will both recognise and reward their true value. That’s not happening, is it? Market forces are telling you what the reality is, and you simply don’t like it. I’m sorry but reality/market forces don’t care about your feelings. Nor does A&O or its peers in the City* by the looks of it. 

* Perhaps I’m wrong and there’s an opportunity for a daring law firm to advertise widely that it pays support staff over the odds. Clients would flock to them, because what clients want is “inclusive, one team lawyers”, don’t they (as opposed to excellent fee earners and cheap support staff)? Don’t they?...

Anon 14 November 20 09:22

Some lawyers have terrible busyness, less than half, and some even less than a third - which has gone on for now close to 11.5 months now. They aren't bringing in work either. It is an injustice to increase their salaries, while non-fee earners are doing the hard work making sure the firm can operate business-as-usual and more.  I mean if we are afraid that some busy lawyers will be poached by other firms, then pat them on the back, have a word with them, hand out targeted bonuses or salary increases. Every dollar counts now. Why throw good money after bad. Leave some of that for the hardworking staff!

Anon 14 November 20 10:13

I work in BS at A&O. It’s always been about the lawyers and retaining them. Every salary meeting I have ever been to tells us this so you keep quiet and accept it or leave. That’s the way it is. 

Fake Partner 14 November 20 11:49

Anyone with an ounce of intelligence understands that all this dreaded corporate-speak that we see daily on LinkedIn etc about diversity and inclusion, we're all in this together, etc...knows this is just guff. 

When push comes to shove, companies will screw you over and lay you off to save their salaries. 

Anonymoose 14 November 20 12:05

@Anon 14 November 20 09:22

Senior management do not see individual busyness numbers. They see what the practice group heads want them to see. That's the problem. So its badly fudged. 30% busyness in some cases is a good week... And you wonder why rainmakers want to leave. Just saying.

Realist 15 November 20 12:09

Never, ever, ever, ever trust a law firm, law firm managing partner, or a partner of a law firm who peddles the utter bollocks of “one firm”. 

One senior (ish) partner at my firm peddled that line shortly after Lockdown 1.0 began when the firm was furloughing PAs, cutting salaries by 15%, and outsourcing certain bus services. I’m sure he believed it but he’s a khunt earning £800k!

curiousboy 15 November 20 15:27

Does anyone have any idea how much does a fresh senior associate earn at A&O? And how many years does it take for an average trainee to become a senior associate?

Thanks!

Anonymous 16 November 20 09:56

CC done the same - not a whiff of a pay rise for business services. Always the same - they're a business, they're greedy and they can continue to spout their wokeness - it's all hypocrisy and everyone knows it.

Anonymous 17 November 20 08:55

Do not think it is any better in the big 4, who rarely give business services more than a rise of living increase, if that, bonuses are non existent and promotions are just crazy talk. 

someone with A-levels 17 November 20 11:22

"Affected staff complained that A&O was acting like a sheep following the flock, paying fee-earners more because there was market pressure to do so, but, because there was no such competition for anyone else, they would just have to suck it up."

this is how efficient labour markets work

Anonymous 17 November 20 13:09

Law firms tend only to understand the threat to vote with your feet. It's well understood with respect to fee earners, but poorly understood for business services. I'm sure there are a lot of IT managers who kept their law firms afloat during the lockdown who will find themselves in demand in the job market right now from other employers needing the same. Very foolish to annoy them like this.

Realist 17 November 20 15:05

Law firms tend only to understand the threat to vote with your feet. 

Yes, and so do most employers. Welcome to the concept of "Market forces".

I'm sure there are a lot of IT managers who kept their law firms afloat during the lockdown who will find themselves in demand in the job market right now from other employers needing the same.

That was my point on 13 November at 22:31, above. If you're correct, support staff should be "ecstatic about A&O’s decision, as it would give them a brilliant reason to leave, citing A&O’s miserliness, to pursue exciting opportunities with other employers who will both recognise and reward their true value. That’s not happening, is it? Market forces are telling you what the reality is, and you simply don’t like it. I’m sorry but reality/market forces don’t care about your feelings. Nor does A&O.'"

Support staff are cost centres to be run with the minimum possible expenditure, including salaries. If you don't like it, retrain as a lawyer (or any other career in which you are a profit centre, i.e. you actually bring money into the business rather than taking it out). 

If the utter vacuum of commercial understanding exhibited by support staff in the comments under this story is typical of the level of understanding of business, it's no wonder they're in low paid jobs. 

Anonymous 18 November 20 14:53

There is another more subtle reason why firms should give more than lip service to the 'one team' value and not freeze salaries for bus services when others are getting a raise. When people feel valued they are more engaged and when they are more engaged they deliver more discretionary effort over and above the minimum required. 

Anonymous 18 November 20 19:30

There is another more subtle reason why firms should give more than lip service to the 'one team' value and not freeze salaries for bus services when others are getting a raise. When people feel valued they are more engaged and when they are more engaged they deliver more discretionary effort over and above the minimum required. 

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