Morton Fraser is taking the ground breaking step of abolishing annual fee targets. And getting associates to compete with their colleagues instead...

The Scots firm has come up with a new initiative called "peer benchmarking". The idea is that a league table is created for each level of fee earner, and the aim of the game is to get to the top of it. Rather like the Scottish Premier football league, with possibly more talent but the same number of pitch-side scuffles.

The management board clearly thinks that introducing an element of competition with your best drinking buddy will make both of you work harder and generate fistfuls of cash for the firm. At the other end of the table, even the most workshy associate should be sufficiently scared of a transfer to the dole office to raise their game a little.

    Some Morton Fraser associates  discussing work allocation yesterday 

There are obvious downsides to this brave new world. Embracing a culture where, as one insider put it, "an individual's files will be guarded by Securicor during holiday periods". Making staff aspire to be the mateless, workaholic drone in their year who has always put in Stakhanovite hours. And just generally turning a professional institution into a joyless workhouse. Still, it should keep the partners in Porsches for another year.

Duncan Murray, the firm's Chief Executive, denied that the firm would publish a league table, but said that "we are going to publish figures which will show top and average performance by grade to encourage individuals to compare and benchmark themselves against their peers. The feedback we have had is that many of our staff already compare their figures with others through our practice management system."

Morton Fraser follows Taylor Wessing (and others) in getting staff to duke it out over their hours. And Field Fisher Waterhouse has just jumped on the bandwagon: lawyers in the corporate department will receive "a monthly table of all fee earners' hours and billings so that we can all see how we are doing in comparison with our peers". A spokeswoman for the firm said that associates had requested greater transparency on financials, and "we are now encouraging all practice areas to circulate billing statistics".
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