Gideon Moore interviews with Expansión on his vision for the Firm and how to adapt to new challenges facing the sector
This article was orignially written by Sergio Saiz for Expansion.com
Gideon Moore took the reins at Linklaters, one of the 10 biggest law firms in the world by billing, two years ago. It was a smooth landing. The firm’s strategy for the next 12 months was already set and rolled out by his predecessor, Simon Davies, who led the firm for eight years. However, that plan was dated up to 2017, so Moore faced the challenge of setting out his own roadmap from then onward.
“I’d never drawn up the strategy for a worldwide law firm”, the managing partner acknowledged in an interview with EXPANSIÓN. Maybe for that reason, he takes a different approach to what is usual in this sector. To start with, he got over 300 partners and managers involved to work together on the strategic plan and, from there, he went down the organisation to listen to the ideas of everybody who wanted to take part. In total, 2,300 people participated. “That means that more than 40% of Linklaters’ staff contributed directly to setting our strategy”, Moore points out.
Of course, he also asked clients. The conclusion was that they wanted “teamwork; they don’t want us to be sending them loads of emails, what they want is lawyers who know their business”. And after listening to everybody, the changes began. Thanks to this consensus, Gideon Moore has been able to put into practice one of the most disruptive measures to the office’s partnership: “I decided to remove all systems measuring individual targets”.
In a sector known for the pressure on lawyers in terms of billable hours or margins in the rates applied, it is unusual for one of the biggest firms in the market to opt for a system of performance that is completely shared among partners. At certain Anglo-Saxon law firms, it is not considered a cruelty even to offer early retirement to partners once they reach a certain age (even if they are not yet 65 and have their own portfolio of clients). The most extreme case is the US legal market, where each partner gets paid based on the billing they bring in, a policy known as ‘eat what you kill’.
Gideon Moore explains that he took this decision because it was the best way of working as a team. In his view, it is not consistent “to ask people to contribute to the firm as a whole and, at the same time, to tell them every month how they are doing individually”.
This way, “there are no excuses; everybody has to contribute for the good of the law firm”. And Moore says that in the nine months that this practice has been in place, the results are more than positive. And this from a firm that registered record figures in the past year. Its profits per partner grew 8%, up to £1.6 million (€1.8 million), while turnover rose 9.2%, up to £1.4 billion (€1.6 billion).
The idea is to gradually apply this philosophy to the whole structure of the firm. For example, Gideon Moore emphasises that just a few years ago “associates’ bonuses largely depended on the time they spent on matters; and that is something that we’ve already changed”, among other reasons, “because in a way you end up rewarding inefficiency”. Now, it is more the final result that is measured: the quality of the work and whether it was done on time.
The fact is that the culture at large firms is changing, or at least should be. Linklaters’ managing partner considers that one of the biggest challenges facing law firms is to look at the steps that can be taken so that the atmosphere in the office “is good so as to attract the best professionals”.
The market is undergoing a profound transformation. “Now, I’m not only competing with other law firms, but also with Google and Amazon, even with the World Health Organisation (WHS)” asserts Gideon Moore. He is referring to law students weighing up alternative careers away from a law firm, and to the fact that law firms are increasingly taking on different kinds of professionals. Therefore, their employment policies need to be attractive enough to compete with the major companies in other sectors.
And technology plays a key role in this respect. For Moore, it is undeniable that “artificial intelligence is going to have a major impact on how we operate, how we advise our clients and even on the size of the office that we will need to occupy”.
“Not all lawyers want to end up as partners”
“At professional services firms, becoming a partner takes longer now than it did years ago”, acknowledges Gideon Moore, Linklaters’ firmwide managing partner. Even so, he considers that new generations have other priorities in their working lives and “not all lawyers want to end up a partner”. For those that do, Moore’s advice is not only to work hard, but to develop skills beyond mere knowledge of the law. “Years ago, it was enough to be technically good; these days, as well as ability, it’s also necessary to be strategic, capable of developing business opportunities for the firm; you have to know how to lead and form teams”.
“Spain has been able to overcome its difficulties”
“From the City of London, where Linklaters has its head offices, “the perception is that Spain has been through a very difficult time. Even so, the general feeling is that the country has been able to overcome its difficulties and come out well, maybe even better than had been thought”, says Gideon Moore, Linklaters’ worldwide chairman. Forecasts for the future are also good. In fact, Moore insists that the real evidence of how well a country is working “is not how it handles the good times, but how it reacts in the bad times”. Thanks to the political and economic maturity that Spain has shown, the ghost has been well and truly laid to rest of international investors not being interested in the country. In fact, Linklaters’ managing partner points out that “while there are good opportunities in Spain, I haven’t heard a single client say that they won’t look at the country as a destination for their future investments”.