By Jörg Bittner Unna - Own work, CC BY 3.0,

Yes, 2020. 

But even if your law firm is not prepared to move to two-year business planning, the suggestions in this article will help you to improve successful results next year.

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Many law firms use "black box" systems for partner compensation because they want to avoid internal disputes among partners.

A recently-filed case against Jones Day points out how these systems often can make things worse.

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What is the most important thing that a law firm or group of lawyers can do to respond better to fast change in their market?

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The erratic attempts at policy coming from the Trump government in the United States have made commercial and financial prospects more unpredictable than perhaps in any period since the 1930s. Many investors and business people, as well as traditionally friendly governments, now wonder -- often with good reason -- whether the United States can be trusted to honor its international commitments at any level of enterprise or international engagement.

These forces and risks ultimately affect almost every law firm with any significant international or regional practice. This is a real challenge for the legal profession, because clients traditionally have looked to lawyers and law firms for analysis and problem solving in uncertain times. Yet the business futures of many of those firms are perhaps even less certain than those of their clients.

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As one managing partner of a U.S. law firm recently commented, "Today we have to be experts in subjects that they never taught in law school -- not even five years ago. Being an excellent lawyer is no longer good enough."

Advising clients about compliance with international economic sanctions is one such challenging "new law" area.

By hunterdt - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

This is not just something that we can blame on "the Millennials." 

For the past 20 years, partners from law firms of all sizes, in almost every part of the world, frequently have told me that they can't understand why so many of their best associates and non-equity partners decline the offer of equity partnership.

"We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can't then we don't deserve to serve you" -- Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook Inc. 21 March 2018

We agree.

By Koshy Koshy (Flickr: Male Tiger Ranthambhore) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Even the most effective partner compensation systems sometimes have difficulty basing a partner's remuneration on the profitability of his or her practice.

This is because they try to take too simplistic an approach to a complex and highly individual concept.

CC BY-SA 1.0,

In a previous posting in this blog, we pointed out how an "eat what you kill" system of partner compensation can introduce toxic elements into a law firm, which frequently counteract any motivating effect on lawyer performance.

This short article outlines the features of an alternative to "eat what you kill" compensation in law firms. It works well in any size law firm, but is especially suited to small and midsize firms.

By China's Tiger at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 2.5,

An "eat what you kill" system of partner compensation does have some good points for some law firms.

For most law firms, however, "eat what you kill" can kill the partnership.