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Patrick McKenna becomes the first quasi-NED of a US law firm

Appointment was 'stimulated' by an article he wrote on the benefits of NEDs

19 October 2015

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

US law firms are falling behind their UK and Australian competitors by failing to have non-executive directors (NEDs).

Patrick McKenna, the newly-appointed advisor to the board at national US law firm Jackson Lewis, is the first person to take on a quasi-NED role in a US law firm.

He believes that the US should allow NEDs in the same way as the UK, Australia and other jurisdictions.

"It is ironic for the ABA to, in one breathe, say that we should be innovative in the profession but then make it so restrictive that firms are not encouraged to bring in outside voices, and to then say, in another breath, that we value diversity, but then not allow for diversity of thought," he told Managing Partner.

"I'm optimistically hopeful that this might incite some other North American firms to follow suit and at least pursue a quasi-NED arrangement."

Many new managing partners are "blindsided by all kinds of issues that they had no idea they would be facing," McKenna told Managing Partner in an interview earlier this year.

One way to manage these issues is to appoint an NED to the firm's board. This person can provide an independent business perspective and help to push commercial decisions forward.

A study of the UK's top-100 law firms found that those with one or more NEDs on their board achieved average revenue growth of 12 per cent between 2010 and 2014.

"I think any real effort to secure an outside business perspective will produce meaningful and measurable benefits," McKenna said of his latest appointment.

"If a firm is not prepared to go as far as appointing an external NED, then at a far more basic level, I have been a big believer in managing partners having external advisory boards comprised of experienced business people."

The decision to appoint McKenna as an advisor was unanimously supported by the members of the firm's internal advisory committee before it was blessed by the firm's elected board.

Commented McKenna: "I believe this was all stimulated by a piece I wrote back in May of this year entitled 'Why Law Firms Need Non-Executive Directors'".

In his new role, he will meet regularly with Jackson Lewis' board of directors to "provide confidential counsel and advice".

McKenna has more than 30 years' international experience in consulting law firms.




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