Governance & Structure
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In this short opinion piece (June 2010), Nick discusses the perils of over-hasty decision making and suggests ten decision-making rules which firm leaders should apply
Law firm partners and leaders ought to have some plans to cope with some of the obstacles to their projects and the implementation of them which could occur along the way. Anticipating such barriers can often lead to them being headed off. Nick considers some of the main obstacles to change in law firms and sets out six communication and implementation steps which should be applied in any change programme
As a law firm grows, many of the governance and management systems need to change as well. Firms can find that their management and decision-making can become stifled either by the need for consensus in a growing partnership or where the founder partners just get too busy to make decisions quickly. In this article(March 2011) – which first appeared in Managing Partner Magazine – Nick examines the stifling points in law firm governance and decision-making
This White Paper suggests some essential steps which law firms should take to establish promotion criteria to equity partnership/membership and suggests a framework for promotions
In this article (May 2010) – which first appeared in Managing Partner Magazine, Nick suggests 20 objectives for Equity Structures in law firms
Most law firms claim to have appraisal systems but the trouble is that very few of them are effective. Nick suggests that a well-run Appraisal system can be a powerful addition to any law firm’s people management/development toolkit and proposes ways in which the system can be introduced or re-invigorated
No governance structure can entirely prevent disasters occurring but a coherent and balanced management structure clearly helps if aligned to the strategic and business needs of the firm and which contains the appropriate provisions for mature and sensible accountability. This article (2007) examines the issue of governance in the growing law firm and suggests some possible management models
Growing Culture – Can Professional Service Firm Leaders keep a grip on their firm’s Culture in a period of growth and change?
Most law firms find that they are quite different now in the way they do things, from what they were five or ten years ago. In this article, Nick examines the impact of changing conditions on culture and considers whether leaders can control culture as the firm grows. Practical suggestions and steps are summarised to ensure that fine rhetoric is matched by partner behaviour
For many firms, partner compensation has long been managed in isolation from the firm’s overall business strategy, which is primarily focused on external factors, such as markets and clients. But, by aligning compensation models with strategic objectives, firms will be far better equipped to achieve their goals. Nick suggests four main ways in which a Compensation and Rewards System can support the firm’s strategic direction and goals.
The development of partners requires them to have an advanced set of life & business skills in order to be owners and managers of their law firms and at the same time to become trusted and valued legal advisers to their clients. This article (October 2010) first appeared in the New Law Journal and sets out how partners should develop additional skills
An important feature of law firm leadership is to try to understand what it is that inspires and interests your people. This White Paper suggests that partners can be bracketed according to their orientation towards performance and their attitudes towards altruism.
The ‘First 100 Days’ for any managing partner may be challenging but life tends to get even harder during ensuing periods in office. Managing partners often find that they have been selected or elected with a mandate to deal with short term problems which need no more than competent administrative skills to solve. After their initial honeymoon period, they then need to develop leadership skills to succeed in taking the firm further forward and to deal with resurfacing longer term issues. This article helps leaders to focus on leadership skills for the long haul and to convert from well-paid administrators into true leaders
Effective leadership can help a law firm to thrive, but it relies on not only suitable management structures, but also appropriate management styles, and aligning the two to achieve results. In this article August 2010) – which first appeared in Managing for Success – Nick shows you how to get the balance right in law firms
The issues of partner performance and rewards are rising on law firm agendas, especially with the impact of new age discrimination legislation. Law firm leaders talk a good game about how the firm ‘rewards what it values, and values what it rewards’ but in reality many firms give scant regard to anything except seniority and billing. What targets should a firm set for its partners if it wants to build for its future and not just recognize past achievements? The success of law firms in the future will depend heavily on the extent to which they can improve and renew their intangible assets and intellectual capital. Nick suggests ways in which law firms can get the best out of partners across all areas of the firm by setting the right targets and sharing profits based on the achievement of those targets.
This article (first published by Law Business Review in Winter 2010) considers the steps needed for the successful implementation of new profit sharing systems. The issues touched on include partner accountability and performance, the wider role of a law firm owner, partner development and progression, and how firms reward, compensate and reward their partners – all of which go to the very heart of the partnership ethos. In many larger firms, partners have become disillusioned and cynical about the nature of their relationships with their firms. Many partners complain about no longer being ‘true partners’ but merely paid employees on fixed term contracts. Partners can also come from a tradition of independence evidenced by membership of a loose franchise of soloist autonomous individuals. Such partners also find it hard to adjust to the increasing need for a more cohesive organisation. At the same time, partners in firms with a history of pure lockstep are finding it equally hard to accept the increased scrutiny of their performance which merit based remuneration systems require. The brutal truth is that any radical changes to a firm’s partner remuneration systems require a great deal of time and planning and will involve the firm in considering a whole range of other issues.
This article first was first published in Managing Partner on 24th May 2012 and is reproduced by kind permission (www.managingpartner.com). In it, I suggest ten typical reasons for partner underperformance and ways of dealing with them. The article is extracted from a much longer chapter in “Tackling Partner Underperformance in Law Firms” (Ark 2011). this is the pdf version as published and a text version is available on my blog.
Partner performance management systems attain their sharpest focus in how they cope with the issues of non-performance and under-performance. Nick suggests three essential infrastructure elements which will help firms address this difficult problem area.