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Cracking the whip: Addleshaws Joyce forced into action to push through recent partnership changes

Noted for introducing a more assertive style of management to Addleshaw Goddard since being elected as managing partner two years ago, it has emerged that John Joyce had to coax fixed-share partners to vote on recently agreed changes to the firm’s partnership deed.

While a spokesperson for the firm said when the proposals had been voted through that ‘the commercial bargain between the partners remains fundamentally unchanged’, the process of obtaining partnership approval now appears to have been less than straightforward. One partner at the firm has told Legal Business that upon discovering many of the firm’s fixed-share partners had not yet voted, emails were sent out by Joyce ahead of the vote to the entire partnership to ensure sufficient participation.

The partner said: ‘Joyce sent round an email basically saying, “I see you haven’t voted. If you don’t vote for this, you must not believe you have a career here”. It was very aggressive.’

However, a spokesman for the firm said in a statement: ‘There were no messages along those lines and so the picture being painted isn’t accurate.’

Under current rules the firm requires 50% of the partnership to vote, of which 75% is required to pass through any changes. This means a minimum of 38% of the total partnership was required to approve the changes.

Changes were first floated in October last year and had gone through several rounds of consultation before being put to a vote at the start of July. Speaking to Legal Business before the vote Joyce (pictured) said that ‘consultation had been done to death’ but ‘some points were taken on board.’

While the majority was secured, the firm would not state how many partners had approved the changes, which come into effect on 1 May 2017.

Currently 87 of Addleshaw’s 189 partners are full-equity partners and, as part of the voted through changes, the firm is moving toward an all-equity partnership model. While fixed share partners have now been given more powers and rights, including participating in elections for the remuneration committee, it is believed that resistance to the changes largely centred on new restrictions on partners leaving the firm.

The original deed had a ‘bottleneck provision’, which meant no more than seven equity partners could leave without board consent in one financial year. The provision has now been extended to fixed-share, or ‘category A’ partners. Other changes include the introduction of ‘bad leaver’ provisions and restrictive covenants relating to fee-earners.

For more on Addleshaw Goddard under John Joyce, read ‘Welcome to the John Joyce show: Addleshaws’ head aims to push national firm centre stage’