Clients value teamwork very highly but this is hampered when there is pressure on lawyers to meet individual billing targets, says Alejandro Ortiz
At Linklaters, we are taking steps to eliminate all systems that measure lawyers’ performance in terms of individual financial metrics. We have taken this step for a number of reasons. The feedback from our partners was that individual metrics were an artificial barrier that did not help, and we wanted instead to recognise total partner contribution by encouraging and reinforcing behaviour that leads to greater collaboration.
Under the leadership of our current global senior partner Charlie Jacobs and managing partner Gideon Moore – both of whom assumed their roles in 2016 – we decided we had to become even more innovative in order to maintain our leading position in the market. This meant we needed to rethink and improve our strategy. A fundamental element of this is removing barriers in order to enable us all to be an even more united team when we face the market, putting clients at the heart of all that we do. We believe that this approach will help to underpin and drive a more entrepreneurial approach to markets, as well as giving impetus to the innovation we are already seeing, and also helping the firm to attract and retain talent.
Talented people like teams
It is our view that the most talented people really like working for a law firm that has a team mentality. Before we created our new strategy, everyone at all levels of the organisation was consulted – including all business teams – and we also sought input and feedback from our clients too. Indeed, one of the things we have learned from clients is that they value teamwork very highly. However, it has traditionally been the case that there has been huge pressure on lawyers, individually, in terms of expectations with regard to the amount of hours they bill.
Now, when measuring lawyers, we don’t just look at the numbers. It’s not a competition about who is billing the most hours as there is a mindset that values behaviours and efforts beyond this. In Spain, although we now have more than 130 lawyers, the size of the office allows us to know very well how each of us works. Therefore, this new strategy does not involve a big change in Spain, as to a large extent we are already applying many of these principles.
Change of mindset
Whenever you adopt a new approach, there will inevitably be challenges along the way. Of course, it can take some time to adapt to a new type of environment. But by changing the mindset to a team mentality, the idea is we increase efficiency, our teams are better placed to cross-sell the whole firm’s offering, and it also generally creates a better environment in the office.
Another of the changes being introduced in the firm is the creation of a culture of feedback. Lawyers in the firm are being given training on how to give feedback constructively. We have believed in the benefits of continuous feedback for a long time, but now we are really pushing people to do it. Again, it involves changing the mentality of people, empowering them and telling them to not be scared of asking for feedback. As a result, everyone talks to each other about how they are performing in order to better understand what they should continue doing and where they might want to consider taking advantage of training or development opportunities. We believe that this is another measure that helps when trying to attract talent.
Attracting better people
If we have a culture of feedback, we are able to create an environment where people understand how they are performing, where there are opportunities to learn and which direction their career is going in. The feedback so far has been really positive. It is important that our lawyers feel proud about where they work and continue to be highly motivated. It is with this attitude that we will continue to attract and retain the best talent and, ultimately, this will mean we provide a better service to clients. When an environment such as this is created, it becomes easier to attract better people.
Alejandro Ortiz is senior partner at Linklaters Madrid