Partner and associate lockstep compensation systems are a hand-me-down from the early 1900s. If the legend is to be believed, it was developed at Cravath and over time most of the old “White Shoe” law firms in the city adopted it as a mechanism to promote cooperation and collegiality among the partners.
Eventually the custom was extended to associates at those firms and the moniker “Going Rate Firm” (GRF) was born. At GRFs every associate was compensated based upon her/his graduation year and received annual increases—again awarded to every member of the class. Gradually, a second tier of firms developed that were uniformly below the GRF in compensation but very similar to each other in amount of compensation their associates received, and this resulted in the “Near Going Rate Firm” (NGRF) category.