The Lawyer Africa Elite 2014 features an in-depth look at 46 leading independent firms’ strategies in 15 key sub-Saharan jurisdictions, as well as the views of in-house counsel from some of Africa’s largest companies... Read more
This year, The Lawyer’s annual ranking of the largest UK law firms by turnover is available as an interactive, digital benchmarking tool. For the first time this will allow you to manipulate each data set against the metrics of your choice.
Firm hopes internal transparency will tighten lock-up
SJ Berwin’s debtor days for the end of 2011-12 rose marginally compared with 2010-11, from 88 to 90, while work in progress (WIP) for the year-end dropped from 62 to 55. The firm’s financial management story is mixed, but it is trying.
The firm rolled out a financial hygiene regime six months ago in a bid to improve WIP and lock-up. The secret: making information more widely known to partners.
Under the previous system partners were left somewhat in the dark: the only members issued with clear data about financial performance were a cabal comprising the top management team of managing partner Rob Day and then-senior partner Jonathan Blake, so-called ‘finance partner’ Craig Pollack (who is actually a litigator, to confuse things) and the finance representatives of each of the five practice groups of corporate, finance, litigation, real estate and EU and competition.
The group - responsible for nagging partners who refused to pull their financial management weight - were issued with a helpful overview that crunched the numbers down to bite-size.
But this year SJ Berwin tried something truly radical: it decided to give everyone in the partnership access to this data including, dare one say it, practice heads who, remarkably, were not previously included in the elite team of number-crunchers. Instead, muggles had been given an unfathomable 30-page spreadsheet.
Day’s analysis is sensible: the firm launched in 1982 as a start-up where everyone know what was going on and corporate communications were unnecessary. This has changed, with the £180.1m business now engaging 150 partners worldwide.
The increase in debtor days points to a marginal drop in the quality of financial management at the firm, but Day claims the issue in play is variability of this across the year - it should be constant, not up and down - rather than the final figure at the end of April.
The firm has upgraded its financial management software to help get a grip on the matter, but the task of getting partners into line continues.