Partner compensation and profit share models in law firms : a new approach

Williamson, Quintus (2006-03)

Thesis (MBA)--Stellenbosch University, 2006.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: A, sometimes, very controversial concern in any professional service firm across the globe, be it a law firm, accounting practice or consulting engineering firm, is how to construct an equitable, performance-based reward system for executives and professional partners. This study project will address those key issues that affects partner compensation and profit sharing decisions within professional law firms on a daily basis, by establishing which factors influence the current and future legal environment as well as the factors which drive the decision making process when selecting a partner compensation system for a specific law firm, regardless of size and legal focus. This study project also establish which partner compensation systems are currently available and frequently being used by several law firms across the globe, by investigating and analysing their intrinsic features and operations. A total of eleven compensation systems have been identified and will be reported on. This includes the different lockstep models, the merit or performance–based model (also referred to as the discretionary model), the peer-review system as well as other least frequently used systems like the equal partnership, ownership percentage model, 50/50 subjective-objective system, the modified “Hale and Dorr”, simple unit and the team building systems. The study project, by focussing on the operations of a specifically selected South African law firm, will furthermore investigate what effects a possible firm-wide approach to profit sharing, instead of the traditional partner / owner profit sharing systems, might have on the overall operation and / or performance of a law firm. Several performance appraisal concepts and general remuneration principles will be addressed which forms the backbone of this firm-wide approach and which are the key issues to effectively evaluate a person’s overall performance and contributions to a firm – those elements that should be aligned with your firm’s remuneration system. In essence, the aim of this study project is to establish an information resource base on partner compensation and profit share models in law firms, to establish the viability of introducing a firm-wide approach as alternative to the traditional partner-only profit sharing models, to establish a formal framework and model for firm-wide profit sharing for the selected South African law firm and ultimately presenting an effective decision making tool and concept document when selecting a fair and equitable remuneration system for your legal practice.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Een van die mees kontroversiële aspekte in professionele dienste firmas wêreldwyd, hetsy binne ‘n regsfirma, rekeningkundige praktyk of konsulteringsfirma, is hoe om uitvoerende bestuur en professionele vennote op gelyke voet te vergoed gebaseer op hulle werklike algehele prestasie. Hierdie werkstuk sal daardie kern aspekte adresseer wat vennote vergoeding- en winsdelingstelsel besluite, binne regsfirmas, op ‘n daaglikse basis affekteer deur die lewensvatbare faktore te identifiseer wat die huidige en toekomstige regsomgewing sal beïnvloed, asook daardie faktore wat die besluitnemingsproses dryf wanneer dit kom by die keuse van ‘n vennote vergoedingstelsel vir ‘n spesifieke regsfirma, ongeag die relatiewe grootte en fokus van die regsfirma. Hierdie werkstuk sal verder vasstel watter vennote vergoedingstelsels tans op ‘n gereelde basis gebruik word deur regsfirmas wêreldwyd, deur ondersoek in te stel na die verskillende stelsels se inherente eienskappe en operasionele werking. Elf vennote vergoedingstelsels word in hierdie studie bespreek. Dit sluit in die verskillende tipe “Lockstep” modelle, die prestasie-meriete gebasseerde modelle, die “peer-review” model asook ander modelle wat minder konsekwent toegepas en aangewend word soos die gelyke vennootskap model, die eienaarskap persentasie model, die 50/50 subjektiewe-objektiewe model, die aangepaste “Hale and Dorr”, die “simple unit” en spanbou modelle. Die werkstuk, deur spesifiek te fokus op die werksaamhede van ‘n spesifieke Suid-Afrikaanse regsfirma, sal ook die effek van ‘n moontlike firma-wye benadering tot winsdeling ondersoek, in teenstelling met die tradisionele benadering van net uitvoerende bestuur wat kan deel in die wins, en sal fokus op die invloed van so ‘n stelsel op die algehele werksaamhede en prestasies van ‘n tipiese regsfirma. Verskeie konsepte van prestasie meting, asook die algemene beginsels van vergoeding word aangespreek wat die fondamente vorm van so ‘n firma-wye benadering – dus daardie kern aspekte wat effektiewe prestasie meting verteenwoordig en wat in lyn gebring moet word met die firma se gekose vergoedingstelsel. Die doel van hierdie werkstuk is dus om ‘n inligtingsdatabasis oor vennote vergoeding- en winsdelingstelsels in regsfirmas te vestig, om vas te stel of daar moontlike potensiaal daarin is om ‘n firma-wye benadering te ontwikkel as alternatief vir die tradisionele modelle waar net uitvoerende bestuur of eienaars deel in die winste, en vervolgens om ‘n formele raamwerk en model vir firma-wye winsdeling te ontwerp om moontlik geimplementeer te word in die spesifieke regsfirma wat ondersoek word. Die werkstuk sal dus dien as ‘n effektiewe besluitnemings- hulpbron wanneer daar op ‘n spesifieke vergoedingstelsel vir jou regsfirma besluit moet word.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/80779
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