MBRM says UK way is OK

Well, that didn’t take long. A week after the announcement of the new guard at Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw (MBRM), there’s already a revolution in its partnership culture.

As we report today, MBRM is changing the way its partners are being rewarded. The old system relied entirely on financial metrics, with its partners obsessing every December about their individual yearly performance.

The firm’s big new idea is to adopt a UK model, which is to have a set number of profit units being allotted to different bands. That way partners will focus on the value per point. That point value will move according to the profitability of the firm as a whole, so it is in every partner’s interest to try to boost overall firm performance. Remuneration is being explicitly linked to global objectives, which will also determine individual movement between the different bands.

The move represents a victory for the small band of internationalists – London partners Paul Maher and Sean Connolly, Frankfurt partner Reinhart Lange and Houston partner Mike Niebruegge, who are on the firm’s management committee. It is also highly symbolic of how much more influential the UK end has become within the firm. This has partly been fuelled by London’s profit resurgence, which delivered £30m to the bottom line last year.

The power struggle within MBRM – and boy, there certainly was one – has ended in Maher’s favour. Maher, the youngest of the new management trio by a decade (no, that’s not ageist – he’s got longer to go than Ken Geller and Jim Holzhauer, who are both around four years off retirement), is now in charge of international strategy.

Maher will be living in New York one week out of two. There’s a job to do there. MBRM is a decent enough size in New York and for a while it was one of the few out-of-towners to do well, but that position has since been eclipsed by Kirkland and Latham. Whether the Americans will take direction from an uppity Brit is another question.

Maher’s to-do list ought to look a little like this: 1) Grow New York – 200 lawyers is not enough in Wall Street; 2) Sort out a plan for China fast – it’s way behind the pace; 3) Build an Eastern European business the Germans can get their teeth into; 4) Drop Rowe & Maw from the firm’s name – MBRM is ugly and unmemorable.

Oh, and 5) Kick some butt.