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RPC abandons all-equity structure in sweeping partnership shake-up

Reversing a common trend among many City firms in recent years, RPC is to introduce the roles of fixed share and salaried partner for the first time in its history – a move the firm said reflected ‘changing expectations of people, market and client demand’.

However, the status of its current 76 equity partners will remain unchanged – the move only applies to future promotions and hires.

The UK top-40 firm announced today (19 November) it will move away from an all-equity partnership structure with immediate effect. ‘We’ve spent a lot of time listening to people’s expectations and considerations when it comes to their career progression; and listening to what’s happening in the wider market,’ said managing partner James Miller (pictured). ‘We’ve taken on board what we’ve heard and created a career structure that is right for our people and right for our clients, now and into the future.

‘Our all-equity structure has served us very well, but we know that the bar to achieving partnership here has been seen as very high. High standards are a good thing, of course, and that won’t change, but we saw the need to offer our people alternative career destinations with titles that reflect their seniority and value – value to clients and value to the business. These new roles give people a credible and recognisable alternative to full-equity partnership – if that’s the route they wish to take.’

The changes mean there will be five senior roles for lawyers at the firm: full equity, fixed share and salary partner, as well as of counsel and senior associate.

RPC has tightened its equity lately. It shrank its partner ranks by nine to 74 in 2018/19, resulting in a 27% growth in its profits per equity partner (PEP) to £442,000 in 2018/19, while revenue was £108.6m.

While a number of firms have in recent years have edged towards all-equity partnerships, RPC feels this approach tackles concerns in the industry around retaining senior associates and junior partners at a time when competition for talent is tough and several US firms offer quicker career paths to their lawyers. Kirkland & Ellis has long made a success of its strategy of promoting many associates to salary partner early before giving a selected few a shot at its tighter equity.

Miller concluded: ‘This new flexible partnership structure will broaden the pool of people we can bring in to the partnership to offer greater strength in depth for clients across our core areas of focus. The battle for talent is fierce. This new structure will help us to retain our best people, attract new talent, and deliver better outcomes for our clients.’