Professional partnerships are owner-managed businesses with a difference. As organisations without much hierarchy they are flat, flexible structures readily adaptable to changing circumstance.
That flexibility also brings challenges: co-ordinating partners has been likened to herding cats. Working out how to balance client service delivery and firm management is particularly demanding. Some firms choose to bring in professional managers to manage the business for them, leaving partners to focus on client relationships and project management. Other firms take the view that to command the respect of the fee earners, management needs to be drawn from the ranks of the fee earners themselves.
Flexibility poses questions about profit sharing, voting power and authority. Performance management and reward, and partner appraisal are key issues.
The flatness of the organisational structure has implications for organisational culture and values and other aspects of organisational development, which in turn determines how whether the firm is able to achieve a sustainably distinctive place in the market.
As if this weren’t enough, professional practices are facing changing and challenging times. The Legal Services Act 2007 has huge implications for the future of organisations doing business in the law, in particular implications for structure and governance. Turmoil in the markets has profound implications for firms involved in property and financial services markets including brokers, accountants, surveyors and architects. Never has strategy formation been so important.
Partners in Rupert Merson LLP have significant experience of partnerships and other professional practice structures, and have helped firms, big and small, in the law, architecture, property, financial services, management consultancy and technology.