Many law firm partner compensation plans were designed during a time of near unlimited demand for legal services, when clients might whine a little but would otherwise pay ever-increasing hourly rates. High demand served as “bowling alley bumpers,” protecting partners from the adverse effects of ineffective marketing and business development, ensuring that revenues and profits increased every year. And so countless partners came of age believing that simply delivering good legal work was a certain recipe for financial success. In today’s market, clients have a wider menu of options for procuring legal services, so finding and keeping client work is more challenging and more critical than ever. But law firm leaders are waking to the realization that partner compensation plans often underemphasize business development and, in some cases, pose a significant obstacle to fostering a collaborative, client-focused, continuous improvement and growth-oriented culture. It’s time to fix that.
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