Law firms are changing the way they hire, evaluate, develop, promote and pay their associates. Case in point: the accelerating interest among law firms in moving from “lockstep” to “levels.”

Many firms are jettisoning the traditional lockstep system of promoting a whole class of associates each year (along with a standard pay raise and increase in billing rates) in favor of a more dynamic, performance-based system in which promotion, pay raises and pricing are based on an associate’s demonstrating mastery of a well-defined set of competencies. In this new “levels” or “competency-based” system, associates from the same class year can advance at different speeds, depending on how quickly they develop their skills.

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