An Alternative Business Model: Food for Thought
I recently attended the Canadian Lawyer – Women in Law Summit 2021 which aired virtually and on the heels of the recent national media attention around the disparity of income between men and women in the practice of law. At Life in Law we have blogged and linked to some of these media reports ending our posts with queries like – “What next?” and “How do we change this inequality?”
As I listened to featured summit speakers, Robert Miller and Joelle Walker, CEO and principal of Miller Titerle respectively, I was reminded of a discussion I had a few years ago with a very senior male lawyer who, at the time, was on the verge of retirement. He practiced during a time when local firms were becoming national firms and national firms were becoming international firms and he posited that it would not be long before law firms are run as companies with an ownership interest available for lawyers and staff alike. He thought this approach would bring a better sense of community to a firm, less ego and more cooperative behavior. Well that theory has come to life at Miller Titerle. For the many that did not attend the conference here is a link to an article written about their business model.
This business model is centered around ownership out of the gate. The moment you join Miller Titerle, you are offered an ownership position in the firm with a view to working collectively as a team for the betterment of the whole. This approach, they say, allows the firm to take into consideration the values and contributions that each individual brings to the table rather than relying solely on historical models built around rainmaking.
Both Miller and Walker say this model has allowed women, in particular, to flourish. They can build on and be rewarded for their contributions on a broader base. Further, the ownership structure allows all members, although it seems to particularly benefit women who find they are juggling a legal career with family, to feel like they are part of the bigger plan. They are not isolated or trying to find a way around the traditional penalties attached to, for example, maternity leave.
I really like this concept and their innovative way of thinking. I like that the owners feel not only valued but valuable from the start. How can you not be motivated to help something flourish when you own it, when it is yours?
They do not advocate that this is the answer, but it certainly does provide an answer to the continuing question of how to address the persistent issues of disparity and inequality within law firms. I think we will see more of this ingenious thinking going forward. Good job Miller Titerle!