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Sharing the pie: DLA Piper launches meritocratic remuneration review

While other major firms break their locksteps to bring in high-profile recruits, DLA Piper is going the opposite way, launching a review of its remuneration structure to encourage greater cross-selling throughout the firm.

The review is being led by co-chief executive Simon Levine, who pledged to review the firm’s remuneration system as part of his successful bid to take over from Sir Nigel Knowles last year.

The firm wants to give greater reward to partners who cross-sell clients across the firm’s 89 offices and help advance the firm’s push in chosen sector groups.

DLA is analysing how it can move pay up or down based on more factors than billings alone, bucking a recent trend by other City law firms breaking lockstep to extend how much they can pay heavyweights who bring in new clients and high billings.

Given the firm has more than 4,200 lawyers, DLA is considering how it could use an automated system to measure the qualitative information. Such an approach marks a change in direction for DLA, a firm where partner ownership of client relationships and files has traditionally been the main deciding factor in remuneration.

Speaking to Legal Business, Levine said: ‘It is about how you achieve better performance management so the starting point is to go around all the offices and talk to partners and see how they feel. We’ve just started that process and once we’ve got all that data, we can decide to what extent we change things.’

One DLA Piper partner in London added: ‘There will be a lot more emphasis on what people are doing to grow the size of the pie, through referrals and advancing the sector push, as that will improve the quality of our advice and our cross-referral and growth of client relationships.

‘It’s not surgery, but there will be sensible changes to get everyone thinking about the greater good. It is a very collaborative process; Simon’s a great communicator.’

Levine, who was previously co-head of practices and sectors with corporate partner Juan Picón, has made the sector focus a core part of his integration strategy as verein-structured firms seek organic growth.

He now wants to influence partners’ behaviour by making sector activity a part of DLA’s remuneration assessment. After splitting the practice and sectors group into separate teams with dedicated management when he took the helm on 1 January, Levine commissioned a report into the sector strategy, which will narrow investment into seven core areas.

Overall sector heads Ann Ford and Jan Geert Meents selected banking and financial services; life sciences; real estate; insurance; technology; media, sports and entertainment; and energy as areas to target.