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Lawyers in private practice 'feel insufficiently valued'

Posted by: Laurence Simons 17/01/13

It might be thought that partners at law firms, having scrambled their way to the top of their profession, putting in years of graft and striving to reach the peak of their legal Everest, might be happy to relax a little bit. To draw a bath, light some candles, pour themselves a nice glass of wine and luxuriate in the warm glow of self-satisfaction kindled by their impressive career performance.

On the other hand, it may be completely unsurprising to learn that almost half of partner lawyers in private practice feel that they should be remunerated more lavishly for their hard work.

A survey on partner pay and performance from BDO, published in The Lawyer, has indicated that close to 50 per cent of lawyers in this position believe they ought to be paid more than they are.

There is good news for the charities that they presumably intend to donate their surplus wealth to over the coming years, as well - 69 per cent of respondents expect average profit per equity partner to increase in the next three years.

Nick Carter-Pegg and Colin Ives, the report's authors, also indicated that firms could be losing value simply because of the lengthy and detailed remuneration process itself.

"Very senior people are often heavily involved, which means it costs money. Firms should review their profit-sharing methods because of the time it's taking and the fact that, according to our research, 50 per cent of partners feel it needs fixing," said Mr Carter-Pegg.

According to the report, the lost value caused by the remuneration process at a £200 million turnover firm totals £17 million - certainly an indication that, in these straitened times, law firms could do with tightening up their procedures in order to improve efficiency across the company.

Furthermore, the two authors indicated that the way for firms to cope with their partners' concerns could be to continue with one of the top legal trends of 2013 and engage in further merger activity.

"If the majority of partners think they should be paid more, then the only way to pay more is if the firm generates more turnover and more profit," claimed Mr Ives.

A December report from Deloitte also predicted that more mergers are to come over the coming months: in the tough economic climate firms are currently operating in, consolidating resources and skill-sets is allowing them to get ahead.