There are many ways of dealing with the dual challenges of under rewarded high flyers and over rewarded under performers. Making sure that reward and performance systems are right is critical to the growth strategy of a firm.

In the first webinar of the Professional Practices Alliance Growth Strategy Webinar series, Chair Zulon Begum, (CM Murray LLP) and expert panel, Beth Hale (CM Murray LLP), David Shufflebotham (Pep Up Consulting) and Corinne Staves, (Maurice Turnor Gardner LLP), share their experiences and top tips for dealing with under-rewarded high flyers and over-rewarded under-performers.

We are all getting old. In the UK especially so, due to declining fertility rates and people living longer. But are law firm demographics keeping up? There has been a concerted push for diversity and inclusion in gender, ethnicity and other underrepresented groups across the professional services sector, but have we done enough to include older workers and partners – so that we, and our clients, can see the full breadth of modern society reflected in our profession?

In this article, first published in The Global Legal Post, CM Murray ‘s Partner, Andrew Pavlovic, Managing Partner, Clare Murray, and Senior Associate, Pooja Dasgupta, discuss the potential legal and regulatory risks of partner age discrimination for professional services firms along with some practical tips on how firms can help to promote and maintain a positive and inclusive culture for older partners.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light: time to rethink mandatory retirement for partners?

The SRA recently launched a new consultation on proposed rule changes on health and wellbeing at work, following their recent guidance and thematic review on workforce environments.

The consultation proposes the introduction of a limited fitness to practise regime, enabling the SRA to place conditions or restrictions on a solicitors Practising Certificate where a medical condition means they are unable to meet their regulatory obligations and/or be subject to a disciplinary process.

In this second Ten-Minute Talk on the consultation, my Professional Discipline and Regulatory Partner, Andrew Pavlovic and I discuss this proposed change.  Whilst some may consider that the introduction of a fitness to practise regime is long overdue, bringing the SRA into line with other regulators, there are concerns about the pressure this may place on individuals to declare medical conditions, and whether the interference by the SRA into an individual’s ability to practise has potential disability discrimination implications.

If you would like to discuss the SRA Consultation on rule changes on health and wellbeing at work further, or if you have any questions arising from this video, please contact Andrew Pavlovic or Clare Murray.

On 4 March 2022, the SRA launched a new consultation on proposed rule changes on health and wellbeing at work, following on from their recent guidance and thematic review on workplace environments. The consultation proposes the following change to the Code of Conduct for Individuals and Firms:

‘You treat colleagues fairly and with respect. You do not bully or harass them or discriminate unfairly against them. You challenge behaviour that does not meet this standard.”

In this video, I discuss with CM Murray LLP’s Regulatory and Professional Discipline Partner, Andrew Pavlovic, whether the proposed change will have the desired effect of improving work culture and empowering individuals to challenge undesirable behaviour, or if some of the proposed changes could be counter productive, increasing the stress and regulatory burden on individual lawyers, including junior lawyers themselves, and creating a parallel jurisdiction with the Employment Tribunal.

If you would like to discuss the SRA Consultation on rule changes on health and wellbeing at work further, or if you have any questions arising from this video, please contact Andrew Pavlovic or Clare Murray.

Results from one of the polls during this week’s webinar, ‘Partner Performance Management and Remuneration Systems: Under-Rewarded High-Flyers & Over-Rewarded Under-Performers’, with the majority of attendees stating that their partner profit allocation system deals with ‘high-flyers’ “well enough”, and 29% agreeing their system deals with them “very well”.

If you missed the webinar, the recording will be available shortly.

Thanks again to our excellent speakers:

David Shufflebotham, Founder and Partner Remuneration specialist, Pep Up Consulting

Beth Hale, Partner and General Counsel, and Employment and Partnership Law specialist, CM Murray LLP

Corinne Staves, Partner and Head of Professional Practices, Maurice Turnor Gardner LLP

We are delighted to invite you to the Professional Practices Alliance (PPA) discussion, ‘Partner Performance Management and Remuneration Systems – Under-Rewarded High-Flyers and Over-Rewarded Under-Performers’ on Wednesday, 20 April 2022. Join our chair, Zulon Begum (CM Murray LLP), and expert panel, Beth Hale (CM Murray LLP), David Shufflebotham (Pep Up Consulting) and Corinne Staves (Maurice Turnor Gardner LLP), as they share their experiences and top tips for dealing with these dual challenges.

Getting your reward and partner performance systems and decision-making right is critical to any growth strategy. Get them wrong and you risk stifling growth and lacking the sort of solid business platform from which to grow.

This webinar will focus on guiding you through why firms often face these common issues, why they can be so distracting and destabilising, and the practical steps you can take to deal with them and establish a solid basis for growth:

  • Short-term – what immediate actions can you take?
  • Longer-term – how adapting partnership agreement terms and profit allocation systems might help.
  • The cultural and other limiting factors to watch out for.

Register for this event here

Date: Wednesday, 20 April 2022
Time: 9.30 am – 10.30 am GMT

Speakers:

David Shufflebotham, Founder and Partner Remuneration specialist, Pep Up Consulting

Beth Hale, Partner and General Counsel, and Employment and Partnership Law specialist, CM Murray LLP

Corinne Staves, Partner and Head of Professional Practices, Maurice Turnor Gardner LLP

Chair:

Zulon Begum, Partner and Head of Non-Contentious Partnership Practice, CM Murray LLP

Should you have any questions that you would like to be put to the speakers, please email Zulon Begum.

The Professional Practices Alliance is a multi-disciplinary collaboration between leading UK independent legal, accounting and law firm management specialist advisers, CM Murray LLPMaurice Turnor Gardner LLPPep Up Consulting and Cambridge Strategy Group.

 We are delighted to invite you to join the Professional Practices Alliance LinkedIn group, a collaborative networking and information sharing space for professional services firms.

Join our LinkedIn group here.

There are many reasons why a law firm may consider a merger. Mergers can be a useful way of expanding into different practice areas or locations, to increase the operational capacity and efficiency of the firm, increase its revenue and market growth, or for succession planning purposes.

In the latest episode of CM Murray’s Ten-Minute Talks series, Managing Partner Clare Murray and I discuss all things law firm merger, in particular:

  • Why do law firms typically merge?
  • How can firms effectively plan for a merger?
  • Does money typically change hands during the process?
  • What if some of your partners don’t want to be involved?
  • What does success look like?

Cyber risk has been an issue for law firms for many years. However, the changes in working environments brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic have been particularly helpful to cyber-criminals, with increased homeworking and remote authorisation processes resulting in increased opportunities for fraudsters. Many firms have had to invest significantly in their IT infrastructure in order to ensure that their systems are sufficiently robust to resist attack.

In this article, CM Murray’s regulatory and professional discipline partner, Andrew Pavlovic, considers the steps law firms can take to better protect themselves from the rising risk of cyber-security issues and the regulatory implications of cyber-crime on firms, including the obligations firms have to report cyber-security breaches:

Cyber-Security: 3 Key Legal Regulatory & Professional Discipline Trends for 2022 – Part 3

Do you want to make sound, evidence based, decisions on partner performance and remuneration this year? Well, you’ll improve your chances if your RemCom members listen to this podcast on the psychology of good governance and decision making.

Listen out for:

  • the role our most common cognitive biases play
  • tips for making better judgments and decisions by breaking them up into sub-decisions and giving each a score – and delaying taking an integrated and intuitive view until you have all the information at hand
  • anchoring and problems with traditional means of making budget setting decisions and the reinforcement of silos

Podcast: Think with Pinker – Nudges and noise

The way we think makes us vulnerable to bad decision making, but in his guide to thinking better, Steven Pinker explores how we can exploit our cognitive biases to make better choices. Professor Pinker is joined by: Daniel Kahneman, Professor Emeritus at Princeton University, Nobel Prize in Economics winner and author of “Thinking Fast and Slow” and “Noise A Flaw in Human Judgement” Robyn Scott, writer, entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Apolitical, a peer to peer learning platform for public servants designed to make government smarter and more effective.

Do partner reviews, reward discussions and decisions fill you with dread?

In the third and final of my short posts designed to help leadership teams improve process and outcomes, I provide some tips on how to approach evaluating “broader” partner contributions. Those “hard to measure” contributions that fall outside short-term client service commitments and don’t show up in your financial reporting, but which have a profound effect on long-term and sustained business success.

“If we value the present much more than the future, then we’re less likely to make the necessary investments today to reduce risk tomorrow.”

In his 2020 Reith lectures* Dr Mark Carney distinguishes between: (1) the short-term focus and commitment to client service and relationships that are critical to a businesses’ current fortunes, and that tend to be the driver of individually focused remuneration models; and (2) the sort of contributions that amount to “investments in long-term business success”.

As a leader at your firm, you recognise your partners’ laser-like focus on short-term client service and relationships remain critical to your fortunes. You also agree with Mark Carney that the “broader” contributions they make are fundamental to the sustained long-term success of your business.

But you have a problem. At your firm, in common with many others, “broader” contributions are given little, or no, actual recognition or value when assessing partner performance or setting remuneration. As a result, you struggle to get partners to focus on and deliver these meaningful broader contributions to the extent you’d like them to.

To ensure the sustained and stable success of your firm, you want to change this state of affairs. You want to direct at least some of your partners’ focus towards broader business critical tasks and initiatives, as well as to client service and relationships. So, here are some tips to help you do just that.

THE TIPS:

Define it – Define what you want partners to contribute in each of these broader contribution areas. Make sure the descriptions support your strategic aims and reinforce positive cultural alignment. For example, by setting out the type of collaborative intent and action you expect partners to demonstrate. Typical areas of broader contribution might encompass: People & Talent , Risk & Ethics, Firm Leadership & Culture, Technical Excellence & Knowledge Sharing.

Get your partners to help you with the definitions – they’re good at this. Ask them to describe what the best partners in a given area do and how they do it. Also ask them what they’d expect a baseline level of partner contribution to look like. Then fill in the gaps.

Value it – As noted in an earlier blog, give an explicit value to each area of broader contribution. This helps indicate where, and to what extent, you expect partners to direct their focus, time and energy and it ensures that contributions in “broader” areas have evaluatory and remuneration consequence. It also means that you are making good on any assertions that your culture ensures that client-facing financials are not the only thing that matters at your firm.

Evidence it – Go looking for, and start to build, a data set that can act as supporting evidence that your partners can use to demonstrate what they have been delivering. The data is out there and it doesn’t take long to identify it – but it’s not just sat in your Practice Management (Financial) System. So go looking in your HR System, Client Contact System, Document and KM Systems, telephone and email records, risk register and management reports. But also ensure the data you use links to the definitions of expected contribution you have put in place (see 1. above) and not just what is easy to collect.

Contextualise it – Take input from your subject matter experts – Chiefs of Finance, HR, BD, IT, KM, Risk. They have a wealth of experience and in depth knowledge of partner behaviours – good and bad. Have them curate, interpret, contextualise and report against the supporting evidence data set you’ve built. But take care to ensure the their input is provided on a structured, well understood and consistent basis, otherwise their input and the data will be easily undermined.

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*The Reith Lectures 2020: How We Get What We Value – From Moral to Market Sentiments