Holland & Knight is the Next to Abandon Lockstep
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I think it’s time for some new terminology. Lockstep compensation referred in the past to associates moving up in pay scale in “lockstep” with their contemporaries. All associates from the same class got the same raise, year after year. But it also holds another connotation – that all biglaw firms move together in lockstep when it comes to associate compensation, in order to not be left behind in what used to be fierce competition for the top graduates each year. Well the firms are still in “lockstep”, but now they’re marching together away from class based yearly pay raises and into merit based systems.

Holland & Knightis the latest firm to join the lockstep march away from lockstep compensation. The firm is moving toward a merit based system but unlike the three tiered system being floated by many of its competitors, H&K will go to an individualized system that they believe is more fair to the attorneys. In a bizarre twist (and a cutting edge use of the English language) H&K characterized the systems being adopted by others as being uncertain, providing little stability for associates, and said “… we’re moving to a system with a lot of quantitative and subjective factors.” Setting aside for the moment that a system using subjective factors to determine salaries is not likely to be universally accepted as fair, certain or stable, there’s also the interesting contradiction between quantitative and subjective factors. Does anyone else think this sounds like being “a little bit pregnant”?

H&K, again like nearly all its contemporaries, is using this time to cut first year salaries. In addition to the overall salary cut that happened in July, first year associates are taking another ding, dropping down to $130k.


Holland & Knight is a law firm with more than 1,150 lawyers in 23 US offices. Foreign offices include Beijing, China, and Mexico City, Mexico, with representative offices in Caracas, Venezuela, and Tel Aviv, Israel.


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