Law firms must update partner structure, says new survey from Bygott Biggs

Legal professionals are increasingly becoming disillusioned with the traditional model of partnership in a law firm, according to a new survey from Bygott Biggs, the specialist legal recruitment consultancy.

After contacting over 1,000 legal professionals, over three quarters (78%) said that they thought the traditional model of partnership in a law firm is outdated.

Those already at partner level also showed a level of unease with the current set-up at partner level within the UK’s firms. One respondent said that partnership did not necessarily result in the ability to influence decision-making. “Politics often prevails. Good lawyers can be very poor leaders,” said the respondent.

Another said: “I feel increasingly disenfranchised but still liable,” while a third complained: “The larger the firm, the less actual influence all partners have. The real influence is shared among a minority.”

Meanwhile, 35% of respondents said that partnership liability was a concern for them.

Despite this seemingly negative outlook, 44% of legal professionals answering Bygott Biggs’ survey said their ambition was still to achieve partnership.

The survey also found that over half (54%) of respondents were concerned about the capital contribution requirement to become partner, while 78% want to become partner to have a say in the running of a business. 45% believe that winning new business is the key to becoming a partner and just under a quarter (20%) were looking to pursue a completely different career altogether.

Catherine Boyle, regional director at Bygott Biggs said: “What is clear from our survey is that law firms need to change in order to attract and retain key talent.

“With nearly 80% of legal professionals telling us that they think the traditional model of partnership is outdated, law firms need to look at their structure, the routes they offer lawyers to progress their careers, and especially, how they encourage and enable those seeking partnership to rise to the challenge.’’

She added: “Whilst many lawyers are looking to leave the profession, it’s heartening to see that a large proportion of our respondents still strive for partnership. The question is, can law firms make it worth their while?”