Carrie Heller, president of legal recruitment firm The Heller Group, says the reduced emphasis on billable hours was exemplified by the recent overhaul of the bonus structure at Bay Street behemoth Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP. Earlier this year, the firm announced it would begin factoring in mentorship, client generation, and other non-billable work when assigning associate bonuses. “It’s not just about someone who can put their head down and churn the work out any more,” says Heller. “Firms ideally want to see an associate who can work hard, and has the technical ability, but also one who can generate work for the firm. Those are the ones that are going to be considered for partnership.”

At smaller firms, revenue generation has long been incentivized with commissions on work brought in, and the survey showed 39 per cent of respondents offered some sort of commission to associates, up from 26 per cent last year. The value of the commission varied between 10 and 50 per cent, depending on the firm.

Heller says the legal market overall feels cautiously optimistic in Canada: “It’s not booming by any means, but things are picking up and confidence is starting to grow,” she says.

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