Some firms are starting to recognize that a focus on the marketplace (i.e., client wants and needs) isn’t something that should be relegated to the time left over after a typical managing partner’s day. Especially when the days run long, with a demanding focus on things like hiring, compensation, development and mediating inevitable conflicts (both legal and personal).
Canada’s Financial Post notes that the Gowlings firm has adopted a rather novel way to ensure that client interests don’t get the short shrift.
It has split managing partner duties into internal and external groups, each of whom are on an executive committee with the firm CEO and COO. This committee then answers directly the firm board of trustees, akin to a corporate board of directors.
According to Scott Jolliffe, CEO of Gowlings:
The external-facing group is headed by Jane Steinberg and her committee consists of the leaders of the various practice groups and those in charge of marketing them, which is an added twist on the governance model.
“We’re making a statement to ourselves and the world that managing the external side of our business is just as important as managing the internal side of our business,” he says.
At first blush, this would appear to add to complexity, but there’s a method behind it:
While a second management group for the external side of the business arguably adds another layer of bureaucracy, Mr. Jolliffe stresses that it will allow the firm to better serve and respond to those who pay the bills. “I think it will distinguish us in the marketplace,” Mr. Jolliffe says. “It’s quite unique. We’re pretty enthused about it.”
The picture of large law firms is drawn in good measure by the focus of the legal press on sexy things like starting associate salaries and rising profits-per-partner. This can leave the the client feeling a bit left out. Or like the meat in the sandwich.
Anything that serves as a reminder of the reason there are law firms in the first place deserves at least two cheers.