Reporters and journalists generally hate off-the-record sources. Writers, on the other hand–and I always identify myself as a writer, and not a journalist or reporter, out of utmost respect for the “real thing”–love off-the-record quotes. Because, especially when talking about a touchy subject, giving an interviewee the promise of non-attribution generally leads to, well, better quotes. A better story.
There is an embarrassing number of anonymous partners and managing partners in Partner Compensation: The Real Score (May 2012, Lexpert). These brave folks were willing to speak on record: James Casey, managing partner of Alberta regional law firm Field LLP; Glenn Solomon, the managing partner of JSS Barristers; Norman Bacal, the co-managing partner of Heenan Blaikie LLP; Christopher Sweeney, president of ZSA Legal Recruitment; and Adam Pekarsky, founding partner of the recruitment and consulting firm Pekarsky Stein. Plus, indirect cameo by Michael Anderson, at the time consultant with Edge international.
Best quotes from the story proper:
Most partners are in what [the senior partner] calls “the big, fat fungible middle.” These are the people that the system starts to apply to–”and that’s where the problem of how to reward them appropriately really is.” At this level, he says, “it’s mostly about how much money you bring in, buffered by how much people like you.” Oh, yes. Even if you’re the one major Canadian law firm still clinging to an allegedly objective formula, your personality has an impact on your compensation. “At the top level, it doesn’t matter if people like you. But in the big fat middle, if they don’t like you, you’re fucked,” says the partner. “The weight given to your billings and the perception of your productivity is affected by how much they like you.”
Because―let’s be frank―partner compensation is used to screw people. “Assholes will be punished,” says one managing partner. So will underperformers. In some firms, it’s easier to slash someone’s compensation than to have a conversation with them about why they’re underperforming. “Law firms are terrible at this,” says one national managing partner. “We don’t like to have the unpleasant talk. We’d rather people just left.”
But there were so many good quotes that didn’t make it into the story. Want to have a peek at them? Of course you do: Partner compensation: the really salacious stuff.