It didn’t make much news when Howrey matched the first-year associate market at $160,000 in Washington; ho-hum, just more money for 26-year-olds without a shred of professional experience.
But this addendum is noteworthy: The firm is working on a compensation plan for all of its associates that would trash the lockstep system used by nearly every firm.
“We want to individualize how we take associates and move them along the development cycle,” says Robert Ruyak, chairman of Howrey, based in Washington. “This would allow us to pay people a different rate based on skill.”
The fledgling program, first reported in The Recorder, is still being constructed with input from the associates at the litigation firm. Ruyak says he hopes everything will be up and running by the new year.
“I was happy with the positive feedback I got,” he says. “We think it would be a better system that, once people progress at different speeds, you can advance them at a different pace.”
Ruyak envisions the flexibility allowing women associates more freedom to spend time raising a family while remaining on track to make partner.
“I think, because we have a relatively narrow specialty, it gives us the freedom to try a program like this,” says Ruyak.
The bottom line is that there would be a new bottom line: skill would outweigh billable hours.