Our firm has been discussing how to handle one of our partners. We are are 12 attorney firm in Houston. One of our partners who is one of our highest fee producers and best business getter's simply won't follow firm policy or play by the rules. He won't turn in time-sheets in a timely manner, he is argumentative with others in the office, and not a team player. He is "me first" while the rest of the partners in the firm are mostly "firm first". We are trying to build a team based practice and this one partner is holding up our progress. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions on how we should handle this?
Dealing with "maverick partners" is always a challenge. Of course they seem to always be the heavy hitters and this makes it that much more difficult as often there are major clients and large sums of money at stake - at least in the short term. This can also be major issues and large sums of money at stake in the long term if you don't deal with the maverick partner as well. In addition you won't be able to achieve the vision and goals the firm is trying to achieve.
- For starters - if you have not already - create a well understood set of firm core values or code of conduct that governs behavior in the firm. For example, in most firms people are expected to work hard, be honest, and treat each other with respect.
- Partners as well as all other attorneys and staff should behave in a collaborative, cooperative, and team-orientated manner.
- Partners as well as all other attorneys and staff should comply with all firm policies and procedures.
- Enforce firm policies for all - no exceptions.
- Consider coaching, counseling or other forms of outside assistance if they could prove helpful.
- Lay down the law - confront and deal with the problem partner sooner than later - even if it means he or her leaving the firm.
Many firms have had to deal with the problem of a maverick "huge business generator" who just wouldn’t cooperate with firm policies and caused conflict and tension in the firm. It is an unplesant task - but in the end - worth the investment. In the end he or she either conforms or leaves the firm. We have been advised by our clients that even though they may have struggled in the short term as the result of the loss of a major fee producer - in the long run the firm was better off and should have done it earlier.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC