De Brauw commits to lockstep

The managing partner of Dutch heavyweight De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, Jaap de Keijzer, has said his firm has no plans to restructure its lockstep despite the decision of fierce rival Nauta Dutilh to introduce a bonus element into its remuneration system.

De Brauw is currently working towards a consolidation of the entire firm into Amsterdam in an effort to capture more high-margin corporate and finance work to complement its core litigation strength. The strategy will see De Brauw close its offices in Rotterdam and The Hague by 2008.

Rival Nauta has also begun a similar process, although it has so far stopped short of closing its office in Rotterdam.

Nauta has introduced a system into its lockstep by which underperforming partners can be docked points. It is expected to vote in a bonus before the end of the year.

De Keijzer has ruled out any similar development at De Brauw.

“I’m a big fan of lockstep,” he said. “It means you have to be very demanding of your partners, and if they’re not reaching the appropriate level they have to leave the equity.

“If you begin to allocate fewer points to a partner because of underperformance, it means you’re carrying them, which is not acceptable to us.”

In a veiled criticism of Nauta, De Keijzer also said he believes Nauta’s copycat strategy would lead to the firm closing its office in Rotterdam.

“I’m not surprised they had a similar debate to us in relation to Rotterdam,” he said. “I think they’ll do the same as us ultimately and close Rotterdam.”