The success and stability of any professional services firm will often depend on its ability to retain its best people. There are of course many “push” and “pull” factors (some of which will be outside the firm’s control) that will determine whether some partners remain committed to a firm. Long-term home working during the pandemic for example has had the effect for some firms of loosening the ties between colleagues and causing partners to reassess their priorities and reimagine their professional environment. Whilst it is impossible and counter-productive to force people to stay, it is possible to optimise the firm’s position under its LLP Agreement so that it is not wrong-footed by unwelcome partner departures.

In this second article in our series on The Key Building Blocks of an LLP Agreement, we explore the various tools that can be included in an LLP Agreement which are designed to protect the stability of an LLP’s business in the face of potential voluntary partner exits.

Read the full article: Securing Long-Term Stability of your Firm through your LLP Agreement – The Key Building Blocks of an LLP Agreement: Part 2

The LLP Agreement of any professional firm is a living document, as it is a constant reference point throughout the business cycle of the firm. As well as containing day-to-day management and decision-making provisions, an LLP Agreement needs to adequately address all of the crucial junctures commonly faced by professional services firms, for example partner admissions, retirements, disputes and capital events.

In the first of our series of pithy articles on the fundamental building blocks of an LLP Agreement, Partners Zulon Begum and Clare Murray look at Decision-Making and Management Structure in LLP Agreements.

 

Interesting results from today’s Professional Practices Alliance polls:

  • Only half of attendees have a will in place, despite the intestacy rules being a (too) blunt instrument for most partners’ affairs. Unmarried couples and those with second (or more) families are particularly exposed.
  • A tiny fraction have LPAs.
  • But attendees support the principle that firms and partners should engage and cooperate on planning for risks like partner illness, incapacity or death.

Thanks Stuart Smith for preparing these slides.

Excellent session this morning at the Professional Practices Alliance webinar ‘Professional Risk Management for Partners’, with great advice from Rachel O’Donoghue, Fiona Poole, James Currie, Beth Hale, David Shufflebotham and expertly chaired by Corinne Staves.

Planning for things we expect to happen, is one thing. But planning for “what if?” is quite another and it seems we professional practices folk are often guilty of not making sure our own arrangements are in order, or leaving it until it’s (almost) too late. I’m off to check my Will, pension, insurance………

Individuals who may be described as “neurodivergent” bring a plethora of skills and different perspectives to an organisation, offering firms a sustainable, competitive advantage that will be particularly beneficial in the current economic climate. Harnessing and embracing the cognitive divergence of a workforce will enable professional services firms to home in on an untapped pool of innovators and high performers to inform its decision making and wider strategies, and promote an inclusive workplace culture. It is important for firms to raise awareness about neurodiversity related issues, whether through the day-to-day advocacy of senior management or the delivery of firmwide training, to help managers and colleagues to better understand neurocognitive differences and the needs of their neurodivergent colleagues.

We are pleased to share with you the recording from our recent Professional Practices Alliance (PPA) expert discussion, Neurodiversity in Professional Services Firm Leadership’.

In this webinar, you can hear session Chair, Emma Bartlett, CM Murray LLP, and speakers Daniel Aherne, Adjust Services, Caroline Ramsay, TLT LLP and Rob Millard, Cambridge Strategy Group, discuss a range of issues relating to neurodiversity for professional services firms to carefully consider.

 

Can neuro-atypical team members help improve the quality of decisions in teams responsible for the complex problem-solving in VUCA situations, such as in addressing strategy business transformation and innovation?

I enjoyed watching the ABC TV series ‘The Good Doctor’. Starring Freddy Highmore as the likeable Dr Shaun Murphy, an autistic surgical resident at a California hospital, the series has been massively popular. I thought it to be an interesting, engaging example of neurodiversity in a highly professional workplace.

As both a keen scholar and a practitioner of business strategy, I have a deep interest in strategic decision-making processes. In particular, I like to explore how firm leaders and leadership teams make sense of volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (‘VUCA’) situations and reach the best decisions, to deliver the best outcomes for their firms.  So, it was very easy for me to imagine the benefits of having somebody on a firm’s leadership team who, although perhaps lacking in some social skills, can visualise the most difficult challenges and opportunities and to conceptualise innovative solutions that are far beyond the capabilities of colleagues. Who would not want such a person on their team?

I was surprised though to be taken to task by my daughter Shannon, a neuroscientist, who told me that in her opinion the series misrepresents autism and might even harm the cause of neurodiversity.

Dr Murphy is not only autistic but also a savant who is blessed with a photographic memory.  Savant syndrome is exceedingly rare. A mere handful of true savants (perhaps a few hundred) are alive on earth today. It does occur more frequently amongst people with autism, but still only at a rate of one percent or less of that population. So, the story in ‘The Good Doctor’ is about an especially rare human being with extraordinary savant talents, who is autistic, rather than about a ‘typical’ autistic person.

Download the full PDF: Harnessing neurodiversity to enhance strategic decision making in your firm

Recent changes to working practices and attitudes of the next generation of professional advisers have reignited an old debate on whether a Limited Liability Partnership (“LLP”) is the most desirable legal structure for today’s professional services practices.

Many practices are structured as either an LLP or a private limited company (“Company”). There are also some practices which have chosen to remain as a traditional unincorporated partnership (“Firm”). A small number of practices have taken the plunge to float as a public limited company. However, in recent months, we have seen growing interest in LLP conversions from professional services firms.

What makes LLPs so attractive to professional services practices, and what issues can deter or prevent a Firm from converting to an LLP?

Read the full article

I’m not really following this SDT case, but it is interesting to see the SDT tackling the question of billing figures provided on a partner-move. It is clear that sharing confidential client data is not permitted under SRA Standards. And I would imagine internal data was contractually protected from unauthorised disclosure by a partner. But it will be interesting to see if disclosing confidential internal information like billings figures is considered a professional regulatory issue or not.

As the economy starts to emerge from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and multiple lockdowns, many law firms will be considering not only how they can ensure the firm survives but how to bounce back stronger and more resilient to the economic challenges they may have faced during the past year. This might include reviving shelved pre-COVID-19 merger plans or re-appraising their existing business plans in light of the ‘new normal’ to include mergers or bolt-on acquisitions aimed at enhancing strategic growth opportunities. Inevitably, there will be some distressed law firms that are seeking a merger as a protective measure to mitigate against financial difficulties.

A successful law firm merger was not easy before the pandemic let alone amidst the current turbulent and uncertain trading conditions. In this news alert, Zulon BegumWendy Chung and Wonu Sanda discuss some of the key issues that need to be addressed for a merger to be successful:

Achieving a Successful Law Firm Merger in the New Normal

As law firms review partner ranks in the wake of Covid-19 it is vital all parties understand their legal powers, write Clare Murray and Jennifer Ly.

In the current climate of global uncertainty and with many firms facing a dip in revenue and PEP, some are inevitably reviewing their partner ranks. Some partners perceived to be underperforming are facing the prospect of their teams, reporting lines and responsibilities being negatively restructured; others are staring down the barrel of de- equitisation or even involuntary exit. Many are asking whether the unilateral changes they are facing may amount to constructive dismissal and give rise to related protections to support them in their discussions with their firms.

Read the full Global Legal Post article: Can partners and LLP members claim constructive dismissal?