Regional firm goes for John Lewis-style shared ownership

Topics: Law firm & practice management

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  • Robert Camp

South-west firm Stephens Scown LLP is to operate under a John Lewis-style shared-ownership model, which will see receptionists receiving the same bonus as fee-earners, it revealed today. 

According to Stephens Scown, it is the largest firm to have implemented such a scheme. 

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Under the scheme, profits over a minimum threshold will go into a pool, half of which will be shared out equally among all participating staff members while the other half will be retained by the firm.

Stephens Scown said that the scheme is likely to increase the average bonus for staff from around £1,300 last year to more than £2,000 this year. The model will begin at the start of May, but will apply for bonuses for the current financial year ending April 2016.

The firm set up the scheme by creating a new company, Stephens Scown Limited, which operates as a member of the partnership and is entitled to share profits equal to the bonus pot. 

Stephens Scown said it had agreed the ownership model with the Solicitors Regulation Authority and tax authorities, and said this could open the way for other partnerships and professional services firms to follow suit.

It pointed out that other firms, such as Mishcon de Reya had already signalled an interest in this type of model.

Managing partner Robert Camp (pictured) said: ‘No matter what role someone has, we are all part of the same team and I wanted part of everyone’s remuneration to come from an equal sharing of profits. 

‘Everyone in the firm is totally behind this – the partners included. When I started consulting on the model three years ago, the really strong feedback was that the bonus should be shared equally with no differentiations according to grade or seniority.’

He added: ‘I believe it will have a tremendously positive impact on the firm. Back-office support staff in particular will feel much more involved as we will all be working towards the same goal.’

Stephens Scown has more than 300 staff, including 50 partners, and a turnover of £17m. It has offices in Exeter, Truro and St Austell. 

Readers' comments (14)

  • I am going to make all my support staff "partners" so that they can share in the losses

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  • clever way of saving on annual wage increase requests by the secretaries et al !

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  • Good idea, if there's a carrot, there also needs to be a stick - i.e minimum standards, and performance to an agreed standard.

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  • I always paid my fee earners in this way. But it was on bills PAID, not bills DELIVERED. Anyone can deliver a bill.

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  • Imaginative ABS. There is quite a bit of academic stuff on "other ways of doing capitalism" following the banking crisis. Best wishes to this (and indeed all) regional law firm.

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  • hmm..as a senior solicitor in a firm with this scheme it is indeed a clever way of saving on wage increases and does not reward anyone stupid enough to take on extra supervising, management duties or a heavy case load. Yes there does need to be minimum standard or resentment builds

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  • Good idea. Sharing is caring. Vested interest = performance. As long as staff know what to do and what is expected of them. There's no I in team is a great concept.

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  • Good for them! If nothing else, it is worth a go.

    The John Lewis model was formed because Spedan Lewis ran a partnership model (and had committed staff) and his father (John) did not. His father complained about lack of commitment from staff, to which Spedan pointed out that he could not expect any given they were not paid much and did not share in the financial success of the [ie John Lewis'] shop.

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  • Will they provide John Lewis type refreshments for clients. I am partial to the chocolate muffins with my coffee?

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  • Ah yes, the 'Prodigal Son' model. It's been a round somewhat longer than the 'John Lewis' model but, nowadays, the name is viewed as having certain detrimental aspects, particularly in the commercial sector!

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