DLA Piper introduces partner gardening leave for the first time

DLA Piper is putting departing partners on three months’ gardening leave after overhauling its members agreement to reflect its international growth.

Janet Legrand
Janet Legrand

A team of partners started work on drafting the new members agreement in October last year and the document was approved by a partner vote in February. The agreement applies to the firm’s international LLP, which excludes the US, and comes into force on 1 May.

The members agreement was last rewritten more than 20 years ago.

“The old agreement was drafted such a long time ago,” said DLA Piper senior partner and board chairman Janet Legrand. “Now more than 50 per cent of our partnership speaks English as a second or even third language, and the agreement we had was pretty impenetrable, even for those of us with English as a first language.

“As we’re only going to get bigger as a firm, we felt it was increasingly important to have a transparent and clear members agreement.

“The changes to gardening leave and non-solicitation were about recognising that we’re now an institutional business and have institutional relationships, so we need to manage ­ourselves in a different way. Before, a lot of our partners would have had a self-­standing book of business.”

The firm has also amended other internal processes, including partner votes.

“When DLA Phillips Fox joins we’ll have around 740 partners, so the logistics around that area have changed too,” said Legrand.

The firm’s international LLP includes partners across 28 countries. DLA Piper agreed to merge with DLA Phillips Fox in ­Australia on 1 May and is now looking at possible tie-ups in Canada.