North South divide at Addleshaws

Addleshaw Goddard‘s move to place its new equity partners on the same number of points, regardless of whether they live in Chelsea or Churwell (it’s near Leeds, in case you wondered), has startled a few rivals.

As one national managing partner put it: “Does that really mean that, pound for pound, penny for penny, a partner joining the equity is paid the same? How can that be fair?”

Fair or not, it’s happened. And Mark Jones, Addleshaws’ dynamo of a managing partner, has taken a giant stride towards creating that elusive concept in a multi-office firm: unity.

On the face of it, it’s a great message. All new partners get the same money. How much more equitable can you get?

Except that London weighting exists for a reason. The capital is not only the most expensive place in the UK to live, it has the highest cost of living of almost any city on the planet. (Again, for anoraks, London comes third after Tokyo and Osaka. Just so you know.)

‘One-firm’ is the mantra of many a national or regional managing partner. Especially one that’s grown via merger. Addleshaws has endured its fair share of pain after the Addleshaw Booth & Co-Theodore Goddard merger. The deal, which was effectively a takeover, left some London partners feeling vulnerable. It has also become a target for headhunters and, according to one, its London home had a few “wobbling” partners.

Thanks largely to the clear and well-communicated vision of Jones, Addleshaws has since become one of the City’s success stories; but there’s nothing like sending a simple message to everybody that it really is now one firm, with no distinctions. The equity rejig is a tangible confirmation of Addleshaws’ stabilisation.

The flip side of Addleshaws’ brave new world is, of course, that it’s being done in good times. Average profit per equity partner is up above £400,000, a significantly better return than many of its rivals’. The issue for Jones is what happens when times aren’t quite so good? The clarity of vision that helped create the level playing field and convinced the odd wobbling partner or two to stay might start to look less appealing. Especially when London partners start moving house, paying restaurant bills and buying rounds that in Leeds would cost a fraction of the price. Until then, everybody’s happy at Addleshaws, and everybody’s equal. Except some people are always more equal than others.