Reforming Partner Compensation at Mattos Filho

The Case Development Initiative (CDI) at Harvard Law School recently debuted a new case study on the HLS Case Studies website. CDI is a program that develops role plays and case studies based on strategic and organizational issues faced by those in the law and other professional settings. These cases focus on real life situations and are suitable for law school classrooms as well as professional development programs. The following blogpost is from one of the authors of the latest case study. 

NEW PRODUCT: Reforming Partner Compensation at Mattos Filho

By Dr. Lisa Rohrer, Executive Director of the Case Development Initiative and Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School

We are excited to announce the addition of a new case study to the Case Development Initiative collection: Reforming Partner Compensation at Mattos Filho, which was co-authored by CDI’s Lisa Rohrer and James W. Jones of Georgetown Law Center. The case study explores the efforts of Brazilian law firm Mattos Filho to move its partner compensation system away from an Eat-What-You-Kill formula to one that is more subjective in nature in order to break down silos and encourage teamwork and collaboration.

The Mattos case study is a fascinating story that provides many learning opportunities for both students and practitioners. First, partner compensation is a difficult issue for many firms, and the systems examined in the case (formula and subjective) represent two fundamentally different approaches to partner compensation. It is thus an ideal teaching tool because it enables readers and instructors to explore the pros and cons to each compensation approach in-context.

A second aspect of the Mattos case that caught our eye was the approach used by Roberto Quiroga Mosquera, the firm’s then managing partner, to convince his partnership to make a big and potentially risky change. Under the old compensation system, the most senior and productive partners were the biggest beneficiaries. Quiroga needed to convince this group to give up some of their immediate rewards for the long-term good of the firm. Quiroga’s skillful tactics makes this an excellent case study of effective change management.

We also wanted to write about Mattos Filho because the case setting itself is quite interesting. Brazil has a large and fast-growing legal market, and Mattos is one of the country’s top law firms. (In fact, Chambers and Partners recently ranked them as the Best Law Firm in Latin America.) The case provides a great opportunity to explore how a law firm that was already among the best in its market proactively addressed a difficult issue to further enhance its future competitive position. While it is often easier to implement change from a position of strength, many firms wait until there is a crisis before they attempt a major change because when performance is strong, it is difficult to convince partners to take a chance on the unknown. We believe the Mattos case is a particularly instructive and inspiring case study because the firm proactively implemented a reform during good times.

The case study has been piloted in several executive education programs both here at HLS and at Georgetown Law. We found that law firm leaders appreciate both the substance of the change and the tactics used to enact it. In 2014, we were especially excited to welcome Roberto Quiroga to address one of our HLS executive education sessions, during which he shared reflections on the events chronicled in the case study. Now that it has been released to the general public, we look forward to hearing from instructors and practitioners about their own learning experience with Mattos Filho case.

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