PEP down the pan

January 22, 2013

Firms squander millions discussing partner pay. How else do we fritter away cash?

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A recent report by BDO (the auditors presumably, not the darts regulatory body) reveals that firms splurge millions of pounds per annum discussing partner pay.

According to BDO, the potential revenue lost on issues regarding partner remuneration and performance ranges from £3m to £16m each year, with a £200m turnover firm expecting to lose out on around £17m.

In a time of austerity, forced mergers and some firms even having to downgrade the quality of sherry available for the top brass, this is not good news. And it leads us to ask: how else do we allow precious lucre to trickle out of the back door? And what steps can we take to stop it?

Taking phone calls

Apparently, one of the biggest challenges to a firm’s productivity is lawyers being disturbed by incoming calls. Nothing retards progress on a client project like another client phoning to talk about something quite unrelated.

If possible, find a way to channel your calls or establish certain times of the day in which to return calls, leaving you other times to crack on with the key job in hand. Or rearrange your schedule to allow you more time during early mornings, evenings or weekends to work on intellectually challenging jobs – anytime, in fact, when you’re less likely to be bothered by those pesky fee-payers.


You’ve probably heard about ‘time management’, but dismissed it as something that less clever people have to do to keep their days on track. Well, no. Everyone can learn a little from time management techniques, even you. Particularly when it comes to those techniques that help us to prioritise.

One trick you might consider: at the end of play, write a list of the tasks you’re hoping to achieve the following day. Then (and this is the tricky bit) prioritise them in terms of importance and urgency.

Put the hardest or nastiest task first and get it out of the way, allowing you to feel better about your day afterwards.


You’ve got a busy day ahead of you. There’s a whole load of law you need to cut and paste from one deal to another, and some critical ‘client relationship management’ exercise you need to partake in as soon as the pubs open.

But wait! You can’t concentrate because you’re still mulling over the insult that odiferous slob from Litigation put at the end of his email.

Conflict in the office gets under your skin and prohibits quality of thought. So if you do or say anything that arouses someone’s ire, try to smooth the situation by apologising immediately. It’s not a sign of weakness, but a sign of confidence.

Either that or, if you’re their senior, have the argumentative b*&^%$& removed from the premises by security.


According to a survey, 23.4% of American workers rank ‘socializing with co-workers’ as their primary time-wasting activity. (As such it was only beaten by the internet, ranked by 44.7% of workers.)

Unnecessary socialising includes sending flirtatious emails to that bloke in Real Estate you met at the Christmas Party, discussing the Great British Bake-Off with fellow associates at the water-cooler, and being nice to the partner who’s making a lateral hire in the hope he might put in a good word for you at his new firm.

The solution is straightforward: Do Not Socialise, unless with a client, according to an approved CRM protocol, which is billable.

Untidy desks

No, we’re not going to say that you should tidy your desk in order to encourage clarity of thought. We’re going to tell you to foul it up instead.

According to that bellwether of psychological insight, Mail Online, a messy desk aids productivity because ‘visual and mental clutter forces human beings to focus and think more clearly’.

So don’t be afraid to tear up your directories and scatter them over your desk, or to litter your carpet with crusts from the pizza from last week’s all-nighter – it’s all gravy when it comes to paying off the mortgage on your partner’s holiday home.  AB

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