Ashurst has moved four of its top-performing partners to the top of its newly extended equity ladder.
The four partners are spread across the firm’s London, European and Australian offices, with at least one coming from the firm’s corporate group, according to a source close to the matter.
Partners discovered their new positions on the 25- to 75-point scale earlier this month, following the firm’s annual review.
Ashurst overhauled its lockstep last year, extending the top of the equity ladder from 65 to 75 points in a bid to retain star performers, after poor financial results and a run of exits. The bottom of the ladder remains at 25 points.
The firm also introduced a bonus pool, which can be used to reward full equity and fixed-share partners for strong performances in a particular year.
The value per point for the new scale is not clear; however, last year the firm’s highest paid partner took home £1.09m, up from £1.01m in 2014-15.
One London partner said: “A bit more flexibility is a good thing – the firm needs to be able to protect itself against the invaders from the US.”
The firm declined to comment on specific partner remuneration. A spokesperson said: ”This was an evolution of our system which gives us more flexibility to reward exceptional performers and we are very confident that our system is the right one for us in terms of incentivising and rewarding our lawyers.”
The changes are intended to make it easier for the firm to reward strong performers, after profit per equity partner last year fell 19% to £603,000 – its lowest level for more than 10 years – alongside a 10% fall in revenue.
Ashurst saw a steady stream of partner exits during 2016, peaking with 12 departures in September, and earlier this year a five-partner Paris private equity team quit for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
However, regulatory partner James Perry and banking heavyweight Nigel Ward were both last year convinced to stay after handing in their notice to join Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and Paul Hastings respectively.
In December, the firm also overhauled its profit distribution system so partners will receive a single profit payment each year, instead of the current quarterly system.
Ashurst last reviewed its lockstep in 2007, when it brought in a super-plateau 65-point level as part of an overhaul that moved the ladder from 20-50 points to 25-65 points, including a number of gateways.