SOLUTIONS: GOVERNANCE

We do not subscribe to the notion that partnerships are likely to become extinct. We believe that these frequently remain the most appropriate governance structures for highly talented professionals, including lawyers.

We do not subscribe to the notion that partnerships are likely to become extinct. We believe that these frequently remain the most appropriate governance structures for highly talented professionals, including lawyers.

We do not subscribe to the notion that partnerships are likely to become extinct. We believe that these frequently remain the most appropriate governance structures for highly talented professionals, including lawyers.

While the business entities that are law firms are becoming more complex and corporate in nature, there is much that can be done to foster a sense of partnership and collegiality in such businesses, through systems and structures that are overlaid on top of the basic structure.

Transitioning from a people-leveraged, pyramid-shaped business model to one where substantive legal work product and value is produced by a combination of humans and digital algorithms, and sometimes the algorithms alone, requires a different approach to governance.

How decisions are made and by whom, how success is measured and rewarded, the way in which the firm’s executive committee and other leadership structures operate, and even the core culture of a digitally-enabled law firm are different to a firm that is built solely around ‘brilliant minds.’

We support our clients in:

  • developing effective partner remuneration systems that align compensation with performance and ensure that the firm’s best talent is retained
  • developing equitable arrangements for referrals and other incentives to drive collaboration across offices or other firm sub-units, or across firms in alliance or joint venture arrangements

  • succession planning, including the very complex task of shifting partnerships from founder-led to perpetual models, that transition power to the next generation of leaders

  • evolving governance structures as the firm grows and operations become more complex and (frequently) geographically dispersed

  • developing competitive intelligence gathering processes in order to ensure that decisions are based on the best possible data

  • making difficult decisions where external facilitation helps, for instance when the firm’s leaders are too involved in an issue to be objective or where those leaders wish to be active participants in the debate

  • supporting firms in developing more effective consultation-mechanisms, aimed at collecting in-firm insights for strategic decision-making and for enhancing talent engagement

  • enhancing effectiveness of the firm’s board, executive committee (or similar) or both, including through group coaching and supporting decision-making with outsourced market and business intelligence

  • adapting existing partner performance evaluation protocols to meet new requirements (such as during digital transformation, post-merger integration or correcting strategic misalignments)

  • articulating a law firm’s culture and proactively evolving that to align better with firm-wide values, or strategy, including across national and other cultural dimensions

  • leadership enhancement initiatives, with our primary experience and focus being on partner-level and senior leadership teams

  • development of objective criteria for partner selection, both internally and through lateral hiring

  • initiatives aimed at enhancing diversity, sustainability and talent engagement.

Case Study:
Resolving conflict over governance issues in a mid-sized U.S. law firm

The partnership in a medium-sized U.S. law firm was having difficulty delegating enough authority to its executive committee and managing partner, for them to function properly. The firm’s partnership deed required that consensus be achieved for even relatively routine decisions and a small, vocal minority of partners strongly opposed amendment of these provisions. In addition to the governance difficulties, this had caused a very serious breakdown in trust and inter-personal relationships.

We interviewed all partners and compiled a scoping report that outlined the issues involved, in detail. A retreat was organised at which the partnership would debate these. The level of acrimony was so high however that the entire first day needed to be devoted to conflict resolution and building common ground between the partners.

The following day, we were able to resolve the issues enough for the partners to agree the amendments that were required to the partnership deed and create a situation where the firm’s governance systems could henceforth function properly.

Case Study:
Transitioning a law firm’s governance from founder-led to a perpetual partnership model

A leading independent firm in its region was transitioning from a first generation of partners and seeking to better define its succession process. In doing so, it identified the need to articulate the expectations of partners more clearly. We worked with the leadership team of the firm in reviewing the existing constitution and evaluation tools. We analysed performance at an individual level. We then facilitated a workshop of partners to define expectations at each phase and the measures to manage these.

The result was far greater engagement amongst partners at every level of seniority, greater consensus around the need for change and a short- to medium-term process for delivering it. The engagement also highlighted further potential for the firm to increase its competitiveness, including through closer cooperation between partners and more active management of the talent pipeline.

The firm continues to incorporate changes in developing a sustainable high-performance culture.

Case Study:
Recalibrating an international alliance

Our client, a leading law firm in its jurisdiction, wished to reconfigure the terms of a formal alliance with another firm in a different country. We worked with them to build a new value proposition for the alliance around an ambitious new strategy, to be set and executed collaboratively between the firms. As part of the engagement, we also redeveloped the firm’s partner compensation system to align with their new strategic priorities and advised on amendments to their partnership deed. We also advised our client on developing the governance structures necessary to ensure that strategic decisions involving the alliance (especially seizing opportunities to the firms’ mutual advantage) could be taken quickly and effectively.

Case Study:
Working with the senior leadership team of a global firm, to develop new metrics for leadership effectiveness

The firm wanted to move from a ‘challenger’ to a market-leadership position. In doing so, it needed to drive a series of change initiatives from the top down with clear accountabilities and executive ‘line-of-sight’. We assessed the firm’s existing leadership metrics and advised it on adopting individual performance measures consistent with the firm’s strategy, the functional expectations of individual leaders, and the firm’s aspiration of establishing a high-performance culture.

The process has helped to create greater focus and is enabling leaders to better collaborate around high priority projects.