CC’s Cornell warns lockstep must become more flexible

Clifford Chance managing partner Peter Cornell will issue a stern warning to partners at this week’s annual meeting that failure to amend the firm’s strict lockstep would be tantamount to closing offices.

The Lawyer can reveal that remuneration and the lockstep review are not formal agenda items at the Paris conference on 4-5 March, although Cornell will impress on partners the necessity of lockstep change in his plenary address.

It is understood Cornell will warn partners that continuing the firm’s strict lockstep may render it impossible to maintain and grow offices in less profitable jurisdictions. Cornell’s position is well know; some years ago he submitted a paper to the partnership advocating ‘weighting’ the lockstep, a system used by management consultancy McKinsey & Company.

The agenda for the annual partners’ meeting includes a financial analysis by chief operating officer David Childs addressing projected results for this financial year and next and a plenary session headed by Cornell. This will include discussions on the international regions, client feedback initiatives, the new partner appraisal system, the firm’s troubled US operation and an update on the work of the strategy committee. Partners can then attend topic-based ‘break-out’ sessions.

The remuneration review group, led by real estate head Cliff McAuley, last Thursday (24 February) issued a paper to partners, opening the way for informal consultation on the matter. Already it is clear that flexing the firm’s lockstep will not be by reference to individual performance, but instead linked to jurisdiction.

It is hoped that a proposal will be put to a partner vote by the summer.