DLA aims to get more out of partners with new focus on performance and integration

Juan Picon

DLA Piper is bidding to improve partner performance at the firm, with a series of initiatives aimed at helping new and lateral partners, as well as those heading towards the end of their careers.

The projects, which are set to be piloted in the UK and will only affect the firm’s non-US International partnership, are being led by DLA International senior partner Juan Picon and chief executive Simon Levine.

The pair have reviewed the performance of lateral partners brought in within the last three to four years, and are now working on a programme intended to improve the process of bringing in new talent and speeding up their integration into DLA.

According to Picon, DLA has not always “managed to get the full potential” out of lateral hires.

The firm now hopes to standardise hiring processes across the firm to be “more consistent” about the selection process in terms of quality, analysis and external due diligence, according to Picon.

He added: ”We will be making sure that there is a plan in place to integrate partners. They are going to be monitored closely and some milestones will be set – not just financial, but integration within the team, the sector and the group.”

In addition to new partners facing more scrutiny, the ‘sponsor’ of the new partner – typically the country managing partner, office head or practice head – will also be held to account for their performance during their annual review.

“When we have the partner performance reviews, there will be an indication of whether a partner was meant to do a proper integration of a lateral partner and, if he or she has not done it, there will be reflection on that and why it hasn’t happened,” said Picon.

At the other end of the spectrum, DLA is looking at how it can better work with senior partners nearing retirement. This could mean helping partners move on, or redeploying them in another capacity at the firm.

“We have a population of partners in their late 40s and early 50s, so in the mid to long term there will a lot of partners coming to the end of their career and the firm wants to provide them with a variety of options,” Picon said.

The career development programme is being developed by the firm’s leadership, alongside head of HR Carol Ashton. DLA has also spoken to recruitment and consulting companies for advice in developing its plans.

According to Picon, the aim is to “improve the partners’ understanding of their options inside the firm and outside the firm”, and “to help them become more informed about non-executive and consultancy roles and how we can use more senior talent who are easing up on fee earning to give back to the firm in different ways, such as mentoring, working with younger partners or creating more opportunities with clients and sectors”.

The programme for older partners could be piloted in the UK by the middle of this year and would subsequently be rolled out internationally. The lateral partner programme is pencilled in to launch in the second half of this year.

The moves come after the firm introduced a new policy last year that meant equity partners faced having their pay delayed or reduced if they failed to record at least seven and a half hours’ work each day.

The target is not restricted to billable hours and can include managerial work or training in addition to client work, with the emphasis being on accurate time recording rather than billing targets.

partners coming to the end of their career and the firm wants to provide them with a variety of options