A bonfire of the conﬂicts is a good enough reason for a large law partner to start up a litigation boutique, but it was the least of what Graham Huntley had in mind when he jumped ship from Hogan Lovells to found London-based Signature Litigation LLP. Together with CEO Kevin Munslow, a qualified accountant, he set about creating a new kind of firm, with structural, cultural and financial factors that would set it apart.
The key axiom, from which so much of Signature’s culture derives, is giving everyone – not just partners and not just fee earners — a real stake in the firm. To that end, they explored several options for a nontraditional structure. An alternative business structure (ABS) was even considered but ultimately they were able to achieve their aims within an LLP (and with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)’s blessing) by implementing a constitution, covering key matters like voting rights and the profit share, written by the members themselves.
That constitution empowers every member to elect the firm’s leader, “and I mean every member,” Huntley explains, “the people typing, cleaning, on the phones. Families don’t have grades of people.” Constitutional authority over financial matters rests with Munslow, leaving Huntley to focus on lawyering. “We have a firm where lawyers are lawyers, and we employ great people to deal with everything else,” Munslow says.
The management of what might be called “back-office” functions is handled by managed services provider Kindleworth, who takes care of HR, risk and compliance, IT and the other concerns that stop lawyers from being lawyers. Their people are available face to face, but they clear partner and associate workloads of time-consuming non-legal work. Munslow describes it as “a ﬂexible resource that can build relatively quickly and manage issues that law firms suffer from, with churn in that area,” as any legal recruiter knows all too well.
Read the full article in the latest edition of Forum magazine.