By CLÁUDIA VAZ PÓVOA
FINALLY, some good news for law firms as, on December 10 2004, a new law was published bringing a whole range of changes that were implemented from January 10.
Subjects like marketing, partners’ limited liability, career plans for associates and the role of the trainees in law firms were discussed and regulated by the government and published in the decree law no. 229/2004.
One of the most important changes is the new obligation for law firms to file a career plan with the Ordem dos Advogados (Lawyers Order) within a period of 180 days from the date of publication. Law firms are left with the liability of producing a paper making associates aware of a main ‘package’ of duties and rights.
We have always been aware of the importance of organising an internal structure that would deal with personnel problems and queries. This is why we created an Education and Training Committee last September, whose main aim is to organise the trainees’ and associates’ careers.
The Committee is headed by a partner, a senior associate and a trainee, so that all parties are duly represented. By understanding people’s wishes, the Committee is making an effort to provide everyone with the most adequate specialisation in view of the future progression of the firm. Although the Committee is still a recent experience, it has already shown positive results, as many new ideas are being brought to partners and new projects are being presented to youngsters.
The specialisation courses may be attended both in Portugal and in the UK, where the firm has an office, depending on the firm’s needs and the person’s areas of interest.
With regards to assessments, the Committee is very interested in receiving those from each head of department in order to bring results to partners. Everyone who is subject to an assessment is given the opportunity to comment on the results, which will then be forwarded to the Committee and reported to partners.
According to each person’s performance and areas of interest and the firm’s needs, the Committee draws a plan for everyone in the firm. The plan takes into consideration several factors, such as:
• The person’s favourite areas of law
• Available specialisation courses either in Portugal or in the UK
• The person’s performance in a specific area – role of assessments
• The firm’s needs in that specialisation/qualification
A decision of a career plan is then made and presented to the lawyer/trainee who is allowed to comment on the proposal and make a counter proposal.
The career plan should cover areas like:
• Remuneration – basic salary and percentage on the monthly invoiced hours/paid hours
• Monthly targets
• Progression – steps required to make progress within the firm’s hierarchy and what exactly can be expected
• Specialisation courses required and financed by the firm
• Working time rules, holidays, place of work and others
• Benefits to be provided by the firm, such as medical insurance, insurance for accidents at the work place and contributions to the Ordem dos Advogados
This is a positive step for the law firm as it is a way of discussing the internal organisation issues that were never dealt with in the past.
We hope our experience will at least give some guidance to other law firms willing to cope with the new challenges of law.
• Neville de Rougemont & Associados, Av. Praia da Vitória, nº5 1º, 1000-245 Lisboa. Tel 213 191 290, Fax 213 527 619.