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Mid-tier firm overhauls pay, slams 'churn and burn'
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Mid-tier firm overhauls pay, slams 'churn and burn'

A mid-sized law firm is overhauling its remuneration program, eliminating the lock-step system and replacing it with performance-based pay which it says will boost productivity.

A mid-sized law firm is overhauling its remuneration program, eliminating the lock-step system and replacing it with performance-based pay which it says will boost productivity

Kemp Strang managing partner, Michael Joseph said the new partner remuneration system will help motivate participants.

The move is part of a broad new program the firm is putting in place as part of a 3-year plan. The program has been designed to build a better performance culture by boosting productivity, mental agility and physical fitness, as part of what it says is its strategy to drive strong, sustainable growth.

“We aren’t looking for New Year’s resolutions that are vague memories by Valentine’s Day – we are working on sustainable improvements that will change our culture and make our firm a better place to work,” Joseph said.

“So linking this program with a move to performance-based pay is really a no-brainer for us.”

The firm, which has recently moved to new premises, says the new remuneration model balances financial results with client development and people leadership achievements.

Joseph said Kemp Strang has always been a little different to other commercial law firms: regularly working extremely long hours is unusual; staff are encouraged to have a life outside of work (there’s a big focus on sports); and it shuns the ‘churn and burn’ model of hiring junior lawyers and loading them with work until they leave.

“In fact, we often benefit from the ‘churn and burn’ approach of some of the biggest firms – staff who still enjoy the challenge and variety of work provided by private practice but who no longer want to be consistently slaving away for 12 hour a day, six days a week, often end up bringing their ‘top tier’ experience to us,” he said with a smile. “It’s a trend we will be looking to encourage as we continue to grow.”

Joseph said the new performance program will help partners and senior staff work more productively, deal with pressure more effectively, and take satisfaction in their achievements, both in their professional and personal lives.

The decision to engage to deliver the program is a recognition of the mental and physical pressures faced by corporate lawyers at the top of their game.

“The traits that make top corporate lawyers successful are the same ones that can lead to problems that can impact all aspects of their lives. Perfectionism, for example, is positive when it produces quality work, but when overdone it can lead to anxiety and a paralysing fear of failure,” Joseph said.

“And the physical toll that stress and long hours spent in the office or in court can take on lawyers is also an issue across the industry.

“Our program, which has been designed for us by The Performance Clinic, uses a strategic approach to optimise the way we think, work, recharge, eat and move.”

Program leader Andrew May said the impact of both physical and psychological health on work performance is now well established, however, it can be hard to balance both for those in the legal profession.

“Lawyers can – and should – train their brain like an athlete trains their body: for agility, speed, strength and endurance,” May said.  

The program is deliberately multi-faceted: it assesses psychology, productivity, stress and recovery, using tools such as the Bio-Age assessment, a 48-hour heart rate monitor, and an extensive online questionnaire. It’s followed up by a 10 week program of workshops, coaching and exercise sessions.

The leaders who are enrolled in the performance program will “cascade” the changes though the firm by modelling their new attitude and behaviours for their teams.

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