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Nick Jarrett-Kerr LL.B is a specialist adviser to law firms world-wide on issues of strategy, governance and leadership development as well as all important business issues facing law firms as they compete in difficult market conditions. In the last eleven years, Nick has established himself as one of the leading UK and international advisers to law firms. He was a founder member of the (England & Wales) Law Society’s Law Management Section and served as its Chairman for two years.
He is a regular writer and speaker on management and leadership topics with an emphasis on strategic and business planning, as well as issues of governance and structure, partner compensation and strategy execution. Prior to becoming a consultant, Nick (who is a solicitor by training) was for eight years the Chief Executive Partner of Bevan Ashford, a leading regional firm in Great Britain, during a period of enormous growth starting in the depths of the 1989-1992 recession.
In the last few years, he has consulted to firms in more than twenty countries on four different continents on issues relating to strategy, governance, mergers, equity/ownership structures, partner performance, succession issues, profit sharing and other business-critical matters.
Nick is the author of Law Firm Strategy – After the Legal Services Act published in November 2009 (Law Society Publishing) and of the recent best-selling Special Report Tackling Partner Underperformance in Law Firms published in October 2011 (Ark Group). Nick has a regular monthly column in the Managing Partner Magazine in which he writes on matters in the front of the minds of managing partners. Much of Nick’s written work is available on his website and blog at www.jarrett-kerr.com. Nick is Visiting Professor at Nottingham Trent University where he leads the strategy modules for the Nottingham Law School MBA strategy modules. Nick lives near Bristol; he loves cooking, skiing and sailing though not all at the same time.
Summary of Capabilities and Experience
Nick has regularly advised law firms internationally of all sizes on their strategic planning, and in addition has conducted both full and abbreviated strategic and operational reviews. This work has sometimes been conducted as part of – or leading up to – a Strategy Day or Partners Conference. Nick has proved that an intensive review or audit of a law firm’s existing strategic plan always adds huge value. His intervention has, for example, led to modifications to bring the plan up to date or has provided the impetus necessary to drive implementation. Such planning involves updating the facts and assumptions on which the plan was created, evaluating implementation and accomplishments to-date and bringing a new focus to the efforts.
Nick regularly conducts strategy reviews with Boards and Management Committees. Typically the shorter or lighter versions of this will involve a financial and practice group review followed by two separate full days with the Board of Management Committee. This can then result in the preparation of a strategic framework for further consultation and agreement in the firm.
Mergers and Acquisition
As Nick wrote in his chapter on mergers for the book Law Firm Strategy – After the Legal Services Act, “It has frequently been observed that merger is not a strategy in itself but needs to be considered as a tool to implement or assist strategy. Equally, growth for growth’s sake is not a strategy”. His philosophy is that when a firm is seeking to merge, acquire or be acquired it is important to ensure that the partners obtain the highest possible long term benefit from the deal. Most merger and acquisition discussions fail. He has advised firms on some or all of five distinct elements of merger planning – agreeing the firm’s Strategic Focus; initial research of the market and identification of potential targets; creating a shortlist, approaching potential targets and arranging an initial exploratory meeting; merger negotiations and implementation; merger integration to maximize the potential from the concluded M&A project. He has recently advised an Asian firm and a Middle East firm on their respective proposed acquisitions of smaller practices, as well as a number of UK firms on merger searches and merger planning.
Governance and Management
Many law firms increasingly find that the structure of their firm was built to cope with historical challenges and is no longer fit for the firm’s current strategy or its size. Nick has done much work in this area. First, Nick has recently been involved in assisting more than one firm in Asia that is essentially controlled by a small group or partners. His work includes structuring the firm’s equity that will allow the gradual empowerment and eventual transfer of control to the firm’s next generation of partners, along with the implementation of all the required changes in governance, performance measurement and compensation that are related to this issue. Second, he has acted for one of the 100 largest US firms in changing the firm’s equity and remuneration system from purely financial factors (including originations) to a system that encourages and rewards the right behavior across a spectrum of performance and to illustrate non-finance related behaviors in a tangible way so that they are understood and accepted by the partnership. Third, he has been advising UK law firms on their equity and governance structures. A typical assignment has been to advise on the adjustment of partnership tiers and lockstep to keep the equity tight at the same time as meeting the career needs of the current and future generation of equity partners. Recently, Nick advised a partnership of radiologists in Canada on changes to their governance structure so as to be able to reach quicker decisions and to be more market facing.
Nick has adopted an approach which seeks to find for each firm a structure and constitution which facilitates strategic and operational decisions, manages risk, and provides business units that match the strategy as well as linking decision-making with the point of implementation. Equally, Nick’s approach takes care to provide a means of assessing responsibilities and accountabilities throughout the organisation and to ensure each business unit has clear and unambiguous business objectives, in line with the strategy.
Partner Profit Sharing and Remuneration
About one-third of Nick’s working life has recently been spent in helping firms internationally in the challenge of ensuring the optimal method of profit sharing and partner remuneration. He has assisted several firms to create a balanced scorecard approach to partner development and assessment. He has also facilitated the drafting of partner criteria for accession, promotion and development, and has helped identify Key Areas of Performance for firms to concentrate on the critical areas where partners are expected to perform – and to assess and value such efforts. He has designed lockstep, intolerant lockstep, and discretionary rewards systems and hybrids of them. He has also helped firms to draw up Partner Development Programmes to help partners to develop and grow.
Even where a carefully crafted strategic plan is in place, its implementation is frequently poorly done. Nick often sees strategic planning exercises ending up with a list of initiatives and action points which land firmly in the laps of the managing partner or top management team. Partners then exhale a huge collective sigh of relief that they have ended up with nothing to do, no changes to make and no initiatives to pursue. The Managing Partner in turn ends up with an impossibly large list of initiatives. Even firms with deep investment pockets or appetites find that money cannot always buy success and that most winning strategic initiatives require, throughout the organisation, substantial internal change, huge personal pain and large investments of time and effort. Nick helps firms to take a serious and methodical approach to strategic planning and implementation. One way has been to help firms formalize their approaches including the role of the Top Management Team in implementing strategy. Another approach is to help firms resolve their strategic intent into a prioritized list of strategic initiatives accompanied by detailed action plans and performance indicators. In some cases, Nick has assisted the Top Management Team to help plan and implement projects on a monthly retainer basis
Law Firm Economics, Funding and Profitability
The pursuit of profit lies at the heat of every partnership endeavour and the strategy of every firm needs to be tested against the imperative to improve the firm’s overall economic position. It is no surprise, therefore, that law firm finances is one of Nick’s core capabilities – virtually every strategic or structural assignment undertaken by Nick over the last few years has contained elements of financial analysis and economic advice. Nick has undertaken many partner and associate workshops on subjects such as working capital management, pricing and the levers of profitability. He has advised boards and managing partners on profitability optimization and long term funding and investment plans. Deep and shallow dive economic analysis is also undertake.
Nick’s Working Philosophy
Nick has one driving objective – to help law firms in tackling their urgent and important strategic and business issues
Who Nick works for
Managing Partners, Chief Executives, Boards, Management Committees, Practice group Heads and Top Management Teams at
- Law firms worldwide
- Legal services providers of all types ( for example, Patent Attorneys, Barristers’ Chambers, Legal Hybrids)
- Alternative business Structures in the legal services market
- Law firm alliances and network
Nick’s Guiding Philosophy
Nick’s guiding philosophy is to provide clients with superb value and where he can to give more than the clients expect and more than anyone else would provide under the same circumstances. He lives that philosophy by extending to you his “satisfaction guarantee” that allows clients always to assess whether the fees match the results being achieved, and by Nick’s commitment to provide ongoing support even after the formal assignment has concluded
Retainers and Pricing
As mentioned in our terms of business, our services are usually designed around fixed prices or guideline estimates, rather than hourly or daily rates, so that clients can access our accumulated knowledge to help achieve their firm’s goals.
Retainers: regular retainer arrangements can be provided by way of strategic counsel or coaching and mentoring advice for Managing Partners, Boards, Management Committees and Department Heads.
Fixed Price Engagements: Nick is committed, wherever possible, to carry out engagements on a fixed fee basis.
Hourly or Daily Rates: In appropriate cases Nick will work (with client agreement) on an hourly or daily rate basis. For guidance, Nick’s rates are roughly equivalent to a senior partner in a regional law firm.
Reduced Rates: Nick is often able to offer reduced rates to small firms, sole practitioners and not-for-profit organisations.
All sensitive information that we receive prior to or during the course of an engagement, along with information that we develop for clients based on that information, will be treated confidentially. Unless first approved by the client, we will not disclose any of this sensitive information to any third party, and we will use all of this sensitive information only for purposes related to our work done for or proposed to be done for the client, for internal quality control purposes and for the internal development of our professional capabilities