Tackling Partner Underperformance in Law Firms

The only guide to handling this extremely sensitive issue both compliantly and effectively to improve the financial and overall performance of your firm.  

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  • Publication date: January, 2011
  • Pages: 91
  • ISBN: 9781907787553
  • This book will develop SRA competency:


Disagreeable as it is, the matter of partner underperformance is a live issue for law firms today. Not handling it correctly can have severe consequences for your firm including damage to its reputation, the morale of your high performers and overall bottom line.

Based around the importance of Tackling Partner Underperformance in Law Firms, this is the only guide to handling this extremely sensitive issue both compliantly and effectively to improve the financial and overall performance of your firm.

Packed with real-life examples, models and checklists along with the sought-after advice of leading law firm consultant Nick Jarrett-Kerr, this critical guide will enable you to:

  • Define roles and communicate clear and measurable expectations of partnership;
  • Customise a balanced performance management system for partners;
  • Implement a performance measurement framework that aligns reward with performance;
  • Assess the most appropriate options available for supporting or dealing with struggling partners;
  • Follow a step-by-step plan and timetable for managing underperformance;
  • Understand the sensitivities involved in changing governance to deal with underperformers; and
  • Implement an effective strategy for communicating throughout the process.
  • Real-life case studies from Taylor Vinters, Cobbetts, Capsticks and a number of other undisclosed firms highlight both the successes and failures in the field.

You will also find practical resources within the report that can be adapted and implemented immediately within your firm, including:

  • Example partner role descriptions;
  • Example indicators of competency behaviours for an entry-level equity partner;
  • Sample performance criteria and checklists for managing partners, finance directors and department heads;
  • Models for rating, scoring and ranking partners; and
  • A template for a partner business plan.

PLUS...Key findings from the Edge International 2011 Survey into the Management of Underproductive and Underperforming Partners are also revealed within the appendix.


Chapter 1: Introduction and trends

Chapter 2: Clarifying and defining the expectations of partnership

Chapter 3: Understanding why partners underperform or are underproductive

Chapter 4: Judging, rating and assessing partners

Chapter 5: Aligning with the partner rewards system

Chapter 6: Supporting and rehabilitating underperforming partners

Chapter 7: Systems for partner performance management

Chapter 8: Managing underperformance

Chapter 9: Options for coping with underperformers

Chapter 10: Governance issues

Chapter 11: Communications

Case study 1: Partner performance systems and rewards at Capsticks

Case study 2: Managing underperformance at Cobbetts

Case Study 3: Taylor Vinters – Managing performance in a smaller firm

Case Study 4: How a large US firm deals with brown-out and underperforming partners

Check our Executive Summary and full table of contents here


Nick Jarrett-Kerr
Nick Jarrett-Kerr LL.B is a member of Edge International, a leading global consultancy to law firms. He is a specialist adviser to law firms worldwide on issues of strategy, governance and leadership development; as well as all important business issues facing law firms as they compete in difficult market conditions. In the past nine years, Nick has established himself as one of the leading UK and international advisers to law firms. He was a founder member of the (England and Wales) Law Society’s Law Management Section and served as its chairman for two years. He is also a member of the UK Association of Partnership Practitioners. Nick is a regular writer and speaker on management and leadership topics with an emphasis on strategic and business planning, as well as issues of governance and structure, partner compensation and strategy execution. Nick regularly writes for Managing Partner and has contributed to three Ark reports: Financial Management in the Legal Profession; Internal Communications for Law Firms; and Pricing and Profitability for Law Firms. Prior to becoming a consultant, Nick (who is a solicitor by training) was for eight years chief executive partner at Bevan Ashford, a leading regional firm in the UK. He oversaw a period of enormous growth starting in the depths of the 1989-92 recession. In the past five years, he has consulted firms in 16 different countries on three different continents. Nick is the author of Law Firm Strategy – After the Legal Services Act published in November 2009 (Law Society Publishing). He is a visiting professor at Nottingham Trent University, where he leads the strategy modules for the Nottingham Law School MBA. Nick can be contacted through his website, by telephone on +44 (0)1275 331519 or by email.

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