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Number of LDPs exceeds 100 despite recession

20 October 2009

The SRA has revealed that the number of Legal Disciplinary Partnerships (LDPs) now in existence stands at 109.

LDPs, which came into being on 31 March 2009, were seen as getting off to a slow start and the recession widely blamed for damping down demand.

Alison Crawley, consultant at the SRA, said there were currently 52 “other lawyer” partners in LDPs. According to ILEX, 47 of these are legal executives, and it understood that the remaining five are made up of licensed conveyancers and trademark attorneys.

Crawley said there were 75 non-lawyer partners operating in law firms, with some firms having more than one.

“Firms are using LDPs for promotion and retention of existing staff they want to keep,” she said. “Most have been working in finance and practice management roles.

“It may be a question of ‘because of’ the recession, rather than in spite of it. Firms may be thinking that it is all the more important for them to have strong finance and practice management, and to strengthen their team in these key areas.

“It might even increase their chances of getting indemnity insurance.”

Crawley said she believed the total of LDPs could rise to 150 by the end of the year, but she would be surprised if it reached 200. “I would expect a gradual increase,” she added.

Gus Ghataura, ILEX law reform officer, said that 43 of the 109 LDPs had legal executive partners, with some having more than one.

Ghataura said that a further 38 legal executives had obtained certificates of good standing to become partners from ILEX.

“Many have been working at partnership level already and it seems a natural progression for them to become partners,” he said.

“Legal executives usually have specialist skills, and firms can benefit by bringing them into a partnership.”

Nick Hanning, partner at Poole general practice RWPS, is recognised by ILEX as being the first legal executive to become a partner, though two others were close behind him.

Gillian Hammond became a partner of Cullen Legal in Sunderland, and Tracy DaCosta a partner at Verbatim Property Lawyers in north London (see Solicitors Journal, 7 April 2009).

Hanning said the most satisfying thing about being a partner were the feelings of ownership and responsibility.

“You feel closer to the firm,” he said. Hanning said he founded what became RWPS in 2000, with friends David Williams and Paul Reynolds.

Hanning said that before he became a partner he was nominally known as a consultant, even though he was responsible for managing the practice.

“It made things awkward and life more difficult, but most of the clients who were interested knew I was senior,” he said.

Hanning, who specialises in work-related bullying cases, said he had been a legal executive for 20 years and had never seen the need to requalify as a solicitor.

“It would have required me to do exams I’m not interested in,” he said.

“The idea should be that a business is run by the best people. Lawyers, legal executives and solicitors, are not necessarily the best managers of people.

“Accountants and other professionals may have business skills that practices need. We need to consider these questions in a far more competitive age. The days of the closed shop are well and truly gone.”

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