Partnership model “outdated”

by Hannah Norton13 Mar 2015
The traditional partnership structure of law firms could is “outdated” and could soon be a thing of the past, a leadership specialist warns.

Leadership presenter and author Simon Tupman will examine the unique challenges facing law firms – including the emergence of new business models and potential redundancy of the partnership structure – in a workshop called The Leadership Challenge this month in Auckland.

“I wouldn’t be the only person to suggest the partnership model is outdated. Running a firm where partners sit down at a table and agree whether to hire a new secretary or not is just not the way to do business these days,” he told NZLawyer.

“So what’s going to take its place? A business model that allows for greater flexibility, innovation, and ease of use headed up by people with leadership skills.”

Leaders will need to be able to guide firms forward while also offering a vibrant culture that is attractive to the next generation, Tupman said.

“[Firms] need to be focused on the future and aware of what might be around the corner, rather than trying to preserve the status quo. The law firm of the future is likely to look very different from what it is today.”

Other challenges to be discussed at the March 23 workshop include the rise of technology, the growth of in-house counsel and staff retention.

“In a number of industries, technology has become a substitute for people, and with the exponential growth of technology that is likely to happen even more in the future.

“Already we see in law firms processes being systemised, software packages that are even more sophisticated, and access to legal services becoming more available for Joe Public via the internet.”

Staff motivation, engagement and retention were also recurring challenges for firms.

“I think firms now appreciate the importance of having motivated and engaged people on the team, yet many firms have difficulty in attracting and retaining good people, whether in the major centres in New Zealand, but particularly in the provincial centres.”

“I’ve been talking to those partners who say, ‘we bring in good people, we train them up and then they are with us for 18 months and then bingo – their resignation comes in and they are off to London or they have had a better offer somewhere else, and they are going out the door’. So I think this is a big issue for firms in private practice.”

The key in addressing such issues was ensuring good leadership, Tupman said.

“The leadership challenge for law firms is to ensure they have people in the driving seat who can build their firms and who have the capacity to think beyond the boundaries that traditionally have limited their effectiveness.”

More details about the workshop – and an online survey for lawyers – can be found here: