Back in December, WilmerHale announced that it was moving away from lockstep associate compensation. The plan will be phased in through 2012, but at the time of the announcement, WilmerHale gave precious little information about how the firm would determine which associates were meritorious and deserving of advancement. At the time, I wrote:
Many lawyers were liberal arts majors in college, so they should be comfortable with the array of soft and nebulous factors that will now determine how much they get paid.
WilmerHale supporters didn’t like that line too much. They told me that I should give the firm time. They told me that the firm would eventually come up with objective indicators of merit, so that associates wouldn’t feel that their pay was tied to soft factors and office politics.
In fact, word on the street was that WilmerHale was working with consultants to come up with the merit factors crucial to their anti-lockstep plans.
Well, a tipster reports that WilmerHale has given associates some more guidance on the new merit-based factors — and, well, you’re going to want to check these out for yourself…
Remember, according to our sources, WilmerHale paid somebody to come up with these merit based core competencies:
In December, WilmerHale announced its move to a “merit based” compensation system for associates and counsel (counsel = associate above 6th year). At that time, they informed us that there would be “core competencies” that would determine our “merit” and thus our compensation, but they hadn’t yet figured out what those core competencies would be. Well, hallelujah, after hiring administrators for the “talent” department and paying high-priced outside consultants, they figured out the “core competencies.” Associate pay will now be based on: Commitment; Confidence; Matter Management; Oral Communication; Problem Solving; Relationship Building; Teamwork; and Writing.
Yes, these competencies are even more soft than I initially feared. If I may go into my Allen Iverson voice: Confidence? Confidence! Not merit. Not hours. We’re talking ’bout confidence. Confidence.
I guess it’s good work if you can get it. If I got paid based on my “confidence” quotient, I’d be a millionaire, and this would be the best blog post in the history of the world.
I’m focusing on confidence because confidence isn’t even a soft skill, it’s a state of mind. Applications are being filed to bestow protected class status upon the insecure as we speak.
But there are other “core competencies” that are just as easy to rip on. “Problem solving” sounds like associates with high scores on Tetris will get a larger raise. I understand what they’re driving at with “relationship building,” but I fear that it will lead to WilmerHale management stealing our Courtship Connections matrix and sending competing associates out on blind dates with clients. And “teamwork,” I mean, where to begin? Damnit Jim, these are law firm associates, not camp counselors.
And if WilmerHale supporters think the firm needs even more time to nail down what any of these eight core competencies actually means, know that time is running out:
They have not yet defined what those eight core competencies actually mean, but will nonetheless evaluate us in late May on those competencies. They also have not determined which competentices will be weighed more than others. In addition to the competencies, associate bonuses will be based on hours billed, input from practice managers (I don’t even know who my practice manager is, or what a practice manager does), “firm citizenship” (e.g., ass-kissing, participating in committees, and generally being a nice person (as defined by ass-kissing abilities)), market forces, and firm profits.
Really, this is every associate’s fear when it comes to merit-based compensation schemes. When the factors are this
meaningless amorphous, “merit” sounds like office politics by another name. Associates who work for powerful partners are part of the “team.” Associates who work for weaker partners “need to improve their firm citizenship rating.”
I guess we’ll have to wait and see if WilmerHale associates feel they are being treated fairly under the new system.