Lawyers at Ince will now progress up a four-step career programme applicable to trainees, associates, senior associates and managing associates.
They will only move on to the next stage once they have demonstrated a set of competencies focusing on legal skill, client management, business development, working with and leading people, business and financial awareness, and ethos and culture, rather than moving up year on year.
Lawyers who reach the level of managing associate will also be given the option of taking up the new role of legal director, instead of moving up to partner. The firm so far has one lawyer who will be the first to take up the role this year.
Those that choose the legal director path are still given the flexibility to make partner later on in their careers, if they demonstrate the level's competencies as set out by the firm.
Ince will create pay ranges for each level which gives it flexibility to link reward, promotion and performance, moving away from the previous PQE model. These ranges will be reviewed annually for the next financial year.
Although current bands are based on Ince's previous post-qualification experience model, these will be reviewed at the end of the financial year. Performance bonuses worth between 10-25% of a lawyer's salary will also be available for top performers.
The firm's City appraisal system has now been moved from paper-based reviews to an electronic-based system. This way, partners can provide feedback to associates with records reviewed at regular intervals throughout the year.
All feedback will then be formally reviewed by an associate's mentor at the end of the year to assess whether or not a lawyer should move up.
The initiative was rolled out in London on 1 May. Ince expects the new structure will be adopted by the rest of its 13 offices at the start of the next financial year.
The initiative is being implemented in conjunction with the firm's learning and development function, headed up by Andrew Jameson, a former barrister and HR specialist for the Royal Navy.
Ince senior partner, Jan Heuvels, told Legal Business: 'The benefit is that it plays to people's strengths. You will very quickly be able to identify that some people naturally are potentially at the next level but need to fill in some other skills.
'You then focus on those and you are therefore able to drive quality in your firm and your associateship far more effectively than if you were treating everyone the same, hoping that time will make them all exactly the same,' Heuvels said.
'It's also about getting people to take responsibility for their own careers,' he added.
This article first appeared on The Lex 100's sister publication, Legal Business.