find the latest legal job
Corporate and Commercial Partner
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Adelaide CBD · Join a leading Adelaide commercial law firm
View details
Freelance Project Finance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Australia
· Vario are looking for freelance lawyers with experience in project finance ideally within the renewable energy sector
View details
Vario Freelance Lawyers
Category: Construction Law | Location: All Australia
· We are looking for lawyers who appreciate the endless possibilities that a freelance career can offer.
View details
Freelance Construction Lawyers
Category: Construction Law | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· We are looking for construction lawyers who appreciate the endless possibilities that a freelance career can offer.
View details
Banking Associate - 1-6PQE - Allen & Overy
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: United Kingdom
· Banking Associate - 1-6 PQE - Allen & Overy
View details
Partners unhappy and over-managed

Partners unhappy and over-managed

One of Australia’s leading legal recruiters has told Lawyers Weekly that law firm partners feel they are over-managed and under-appreciated.

One of Australia’s leading legal recruiters has told Lawyers Weekly that law firm partners feel they are over-managed and under-appreciated.

Speaking anonymously to Lawyers Weekly, the senior legal recruiter counts global, national, mid-tier and boutique firms as clients.

He believes there is a strain of unhappiness running through the partnership of the largest firms in the domestic market.

“A lot of the large firms have been over-managed and that has doubled up once again upon many of the mergers happening,” said the recruiter, adding that many partners in such firms feel they are being bogged down in bureaucracy and that the Australian partnership is dictated to from a foreign HQ.

“They are losing their sense of proprietorship and sense of being a partner and feel more like an employee… Senior management aren’t listening enough to partners in making decisions.”

Domestic mergers have also often alienated the partnership of smaller merger partners.

Former Monahan + Rowell (M+R) partner Marc White told Lawyers Weekly that when Sydney’s CBP Lawyers took over the firm, some members of the smaller Melbourne M+R partnership felt marginalised.

“I spent many hours in meetings that didn’t actually grow the Melbourne base; they were more orientated around Sydney,” said White.

The anonymous recruiter said that while senior management at Australian firms was often attracted by the siren call of larger domestic or foreign suitors, clients are caring less and less about law firm ‘brand’ and more about personal relationships.

“I think high quality partners that want to enjoy practising law, and aren’t enjoying it in their current environment, should think about  high-quality, mid-size or boutique firms,“ he said. “They should not be hung up on brand, because clients are not hung up on brand.”

He added that over the past 12 months that in his discussions with lawyers, it was partners at “high-quality boutique and mid-size practices” that expressed the most job satisfaction.

“No one appreciates a micro-managed performance-based system,” he says. “The happiest partners are from mid-sized law firms with much higher profitability and levels of collegiality than the larger traditional machine.”


Show me the money

The past calendar year has seen a number of law firms change their partner remuneration systems in an attempt to convince star performers to stay.

King & Wood Mallesons and Henry Davis York have moved away from pure lock-step systems to a more performance-based structure, while new entrants such as Keypoint Law offer senior lawyers the chance to pocket up to 70 per cent of their billings.

The recruiter believes that partner remuneration systems need to reward both high performance and encourage a sense of collegiality.

“If you take a helicopter view of the market, the majority of the market is struggling to reward partners with a third of their billings,” he said, nominating Gilbert + Tobin as one large firm that is keeping high earners and making numerous lateral hires, partly as a result of the firm being able to reward high performing partners handsomely due to its partner remuneration structure.

"There is only one substantial mid-sized firm, one smaller mid-sized firm and a couple of boutique firms that are performing closer to and above 50 per cent net profit /drawings of revenue. Hence when times get tough such firms are not victims of the really unpleasant, aggressive behaviour (internal competition)."

“So, while everyone is trying to reinvent the wheel, what we have seen is high quality smaller firms are helping clients to make money and also the partners are also making really good money … so everyone seems to be happier.”

The recruiter added that effective partner remuneration systems will also reward referral work, but not try and shoe-horn other factors such as mentorship.




Like this story? Read more:

Book commemorates diamond milestone for WA law society

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

Partners unhappy and over-managed
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Debate rises over Victorian judiciary attack
Jan 24 2018
Debate rises over Victorian judiciary attack
The Victorian Bar has become the latest to go on record condemning recent political attacks on the V...
Michelle Quigley QC
Jan 24 2018
Vic Barrister who helped stop major heritage redevelopment joins Supreme Court
Michelle Quigley QC, who assisted a coalition to oppose the redevelopment of St Heliers villa estate...
Building, construction
Jan 24 2018
Building finish for NSW coroner’s complex slated for early 2019
Efforts to relocate the state coroner’s facilities from Glebe to Lidcombe are on track, according ...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...