Paying the associates

  • December 08, 2011
  • Carol Neshevich

Compensation for associates is often based on a progressive salary system. According to Colin Cameron, president of Vancouver-based Profits for Partners, Management Consulting Inc., most large firms will start associates with a base salary and increase it by a certain amount annually for the first four years or so.

“But then when you get to the fourth year of call,” he says, “it gets more interesting.” At this point associates are considered “trained,” and many forward-thinking firms begin preparing them for eventual partnership.

“You start to think, well, maybe we should start to bring in elements of partner compensation into the associate system to prepare associates for what will be expected of them when they become partners,” he explains. “So as a result of that, you’ll start to see the potential for some subjective bonuses as well as objective bonuses.”

When offering bonuses for associates, Cameron recommends clearly defining and communicating the criteria for those bonuses: “Associates of today really like to hear what the goalposts are. They want to know what, exactly, they have to do to get that bonus.”