At one time, most premier U.S. law firms divided profits among partners on the basis of seniority, through a system known as "lockstep" compensation. As business economics began to dominate important decisions in the legal profession, many firms moved away from the historical model and today only a handful of law firms adhere to lockstep compensation.
Why does Cleary Gottlieb continue to follow the lockstep compensation model throughout the world, and what impact does that model have on our firm dynamics and associate life? To us, it is about more than answering the question of "how to split the pie." We believe the lockstep system appropriately rewards partners for their contributions over a lifetime of work, while recognizing that each partner's contributions will be unique. At Cleary Gottlieb, partners don't waste time arguing about money or assigning credit for matters, and we don't create incentives for our lawyers to compete with each other or to hoard client relationships. We allow ourselves to concentrate instead on the values and objectives that benefit the firm on a longer term basis.
Our lockstep compensation model reinforces a culture in which teamwork and the interests of our clients are prioritized, and where the contributions of every lawyer are respected. Among the benefits associates frequently identify from our lockstep model are the absence of competition among lawyers and the enthusiasm shown by lawyers at all levels for assisting and training even our most junior associates.