Does the partnership model matter?

Macfarlanes senior partner Charles Martin tackles the sector’s biggest white elephant this week: is partnership an idea on the brink of extinction? 

That Addleshaw Goddard is reeling from a managing partner election shrouded in the 10-year legacy of a north-south merger and Pinsent Masons is preparing for a similar period of managerial uncertainty, highlights precisely the difficulties that partnerships can face.

Among those firms looking to move away from the traditional partnerships are the consumer insurance firms. They are the focus of this week’s feature and are arguably the barometer of the emerging legal services market. 

Having felt the pressure from highly competitive and commoditised businesses with sophisticated procurement models before the rest of the sector, insurance firms are all too aware of the need to channel corporate values and more corporate structures themselves.

Of just three consumer insurance firms to increase their profit margin over the five years between 2009 and 2013 it was Parabis, the one that deviates most from the traditional partnership model, that recorded a 630.7 per cent increase in that time.

So is the partnership model dead? Not necessarily. BLM senior partner Mike Brown, for example, is striving for the best of both worlds by centralising decision making “rather like shareholders can”.   

Elsewhere on The Lawyer: