Pay freezes thawed at KWM and HSF in Australia, Bird & Bird eyes up merger

Plans for firm-wide individual appraisals have just been announced, lifting the 2013 decision by King & Wood Mallesons and Herbert Smith Freehills to put any salary reviews on ice… and a merger looms for Bird & Bird and an Australian ally.

King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) and Herbert Smith Freehills’ (HSF) positions on pay have thawed, with both firms announcing plans to lift the salary freezes that were implemented in 2013 as a means of cutting costs.

The two firms say they will announce pay changes in July and August this year that will encompass both associates and support staff.

HSF said the decision to put salary raises on hold was due to ailing market conditions, which saw a series of firms scale back business by way of recruitment freezes, real estate cuts and redundancies, Legal Week reported.

But in a statement, HSF’s partner for Australia, Jason Ricketts, said commercial recovery and recently consistent activity in the firm has contributed to the decision to reverse the freeze.

“Under these conditions it was important that a review went ahead this year,” he said. “Leading up to July 1 all lawyers and staff in Australia will be individually appraised. In a high performance environment such as ours it is important to recognise and reward outstanding work in line with our market.”

HSF in Australia doesn’t set firm-wide annual salary increases for staff in certain bands – rather it rewards each individual based on merit.

The coming review will also take into consideration the success of the firm as a whole over the past year and the local market rate for lawyer salaries, it was reported.

Ricketts added that uncapped bonuses would be handed out for those who had performed “above and beyond” expectations.

The salary review process at KWM will be announced this August.

Reports indicate the firm will also shy away from salary banding and will instead assess support staff and lawyers based on individual performances.
KWM said it would be giving out bonuses.

And in more Australian news, UK firm Bird & Bird is understood to be working towards an autumn merger with Australian ally Truman Hoyle, reported Legal Week.

The decision is subject to a partner vote, but would see the 30-lawyer Sydney-based firm rebranded as Bird & Bird in Australia.

Although the UK outfit would not comment on when the merger could take place, it did make its intentions to extend to a full union within 12 months clear when the cooperation deal was announced in March.

Truman Hoyle was selected as Bird & Bird’s Australian partner due to the pair’s long relationship and mutual specialisations, spanning telecoms, technology, media and ecommerce.

However it appears that not all is conflict-free: One partner from Truman Hoyle was reported as saying he didn’t understand the rationalisation behind a merger given the insignificant amount of referrals and intermittent client conflicts.  

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