For the past three weeks I have been discussing the characteristics of successful law firms and introduced the following basic building blocks that successful firms typically have in place:
Partner relations, leadership building, and management blocks have been discussed.
The fourth basic building block is partner compensation. Successful firms have a good partner compensation in place. Partners frequently advise us in confidential interviews that they are more dissatisfied with the method used to determine compensation than with the amount of compensation itself.
How much and how partners are paid are probably the two most challenging management issues that law firms face. Many law firms are struggling with compensation systems that no longer meet the needs of the firm and the individual partners. Failure to explore alternatives to failing systems often result in partner dissatisfaction leading to partner defections and disintegration of the firm.
In many law firms compensation systems have been counter-cultural and failed to align compensation systems with business strategies. As more law firms move toward teams many are incorporating new ways to compensate partners in order to develop a more motivated and productive workforce. Team goals are being linked to business plans and compensation is linked to achieving team goals. Such systems reinforce a culture that significantly advances the firm’s strategic goals.
People tend to behave the way they're measured and paid.
What gets measured and rewarded – is what gets done.
However, be advised that compensation does not drive behavior – it maintains status quo. Motivation requires leadership which can have a greater impact upon a firm than anything else.
Compensation systems should do more than simply allocate the pie – they should reinforce the behaviors and efforts that the firm seeks from its attorneys. Many firms are discovering that desired behaviors and results must go beyond short term fee production and must include contributions in areas such as marketing, mentoring, firm management, etc. to ensure the long term viability of the firm.
I will address each of the other building blocks in upcoming postings.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC
Posted at 08:39 AM in Compensation, Culture, Governance, Human Resources, New Firm Startup
Tags: Law Firm Culture, Law firm governance, Law firm leadership, Law firm management, Law Firm Partners, Law Firm Partnership, partner compensation, Successful Law Firms