International firm Ashurst has become the first firm to delay partner promotions because of coronavirus, as the City braces itself for more cash-saving measures. 

Ashurst said ‘continuing market uncertainty’ prompted the ‘difficult decision’ to delay partner promotions until later this year. Candidates have been selected by the admissions committee but a final partner vote has yet to take place. It is expected that successful applicants will be made up in November, when employee salary reviews will also be reinstated.

A spokesperson for the firm said: ‘We have an outstanding group of future partners and we want to ensure they are set up for success in relation to this next important step in their careers. We continue to monitor global market developments and look forward to celebrating the achievements of our new partners when we have a clearer understanding of ongoing market movements and their longer term impacts on our business.’

Ashurst is also reducing the monthly sums paid to partners by 20% for the next six months and employees – excluding those in the busiest areas and those paid below a certain threshold – have been asked to adopt an 80% work pattern for three months from May, with an equivalent pay cut. Salary reviews have also been deferred until November and bonuses have been split into two tranches.

Following Ashurst's example, Simmons & Simmons has also deferred its partner promotions until later this year. A spokesperson for the firm said: ‘The annual partner promotions process has been slightly delayed but will continue as planned in June using video conferencing. We are pleased that technology will enable us to continue with this significant stage in our associates’ careers.’

A number of City firms have defied the coronavirus downturn, announcing strong partner promotion rounds this month. Herbert Smith Freehills has taken on its biggest cohort of partners since its merger in 2012, while Linklaters has elected 30 new partners worldwide, down from 33 last year. Slaughter and May, Allen & Overy, Norton Rose Fulbright, Reed Smith and Hogan Lovells have also announced partner promotions this year.