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‘Giving the partnership back’: Linklaters to ditch individual partner metrics to target team performance

In a highly symbolic break from its 2000s incarnation, Linklaters is to phase out individual partner metrics and annual assessments to focus on broader measures of team and firm performance.

In a notable shift from numbers-driven assessments, Linklaters is planning to abandon individual partner targets in favour of focusing more on team performance. The Magic Circle firm also wants to ditch annual appraisals for partners, instead hosting more regular feedback sessions for individual partners and teams.

Moving away from the metric-driven approach ushered in under influential former chief Tony Angel during the 2000s, Linklaters global managing partner Gideon Moore proposed the overhaul at Linklaters’ recent annual partners’ meeting in Monaco.

The aim is to ensure assessments give added weight to practice performance as well as client-winning, business development, training and innovation. The move is touted as addressing concerns that its codified approach to benchmarking encouraged defensive gaming of the metrics and a focus on narrow utilisation and billing benchmarks rather than broader business goals. Linklaters’ leadership argues that approach will allow the City giant to focus on cooperation, strategic practice development and its strengths as a lockstep-based firm.

The shift will be watched in the profession as Angel’s pioneering use of metrics was hugely influential in the global legal market.

Moore (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘We won’t have individual partner metrics for billings and other measures. Some might see it as taking away the streetlights and the signposts, but we are looking at other things such as client successes, regional and global practice performance.

‘Being a lockstep firm means two things – pay is less of a distraction and the firm has uniform expertise across the network. With individual metrics, people would be less likely to feel that their indirect contribution was appreciated. We feel this is a way of giving the partnership back to partners.’

Asked how the firm would identify indirect contribution, senior partner Charlie Jacobs said there will be a more active dialogue involving teams and peers.

The proposals come as part of Moore’s ‘Strategy Refresh’ presented to partners as a one-page document at its partnership conference at the end of March.

It also suggests a more flexible approach in contrast to the series of top-down partnership restructurings under Angel and his successor Simon Davies and an attempt to address defensive behaviour among partners that dulled Linklaters’ entrepreneurial edge in recent years.

Linklaters’ leadership maintains that the shift, which came after an extensive consultation period through January to mid-March with partners and staff, has been warmly received by partners.

The shift in tone also reflects the efforts of the incoming leadership team of Moore and Jacobs to build bridges with Linklaters’ partnership after a troubled post-Lehman period dominated by controversial restructurings.

Moore added he had no further plans for major changes to its lockstep. The firm recently saw partners vote for lockstep reforms proposed by Moore, which see the London ladder increased by two years, shifting the ratio from a 10-25 point system over 10 years to a 14-50 point system over 12 years.

For more on the leadership of Moore and senior partner Charlie Jacobs, see ‘Rain men’