Future Law

SMART: A New Compensation Model for Lawyers

SMART lawyer compensation modelLast April at our futures conference, each of the speaker talks addressed innovations within the legal profession. When discussing what was key to advancing the state of the profession, many ideas came to mind, including a new compensation model for attorneys. Different ideas on compensation abound, several of which were raised at the conference. However revolutionary ideas on billing that shake the founding assumptions of the legal profession are often few and far between. Enter SMART.

SMART aka “Solutions to Measure, Advance, and Reward Talent”, was the winning entry from the Stanford Law School’s inaugural Women In Law Hackathon. SMART is a compensation model that was created for law firms with the hopes of advancing and retaining more women in the profession. It uses a reporting and evaluation system that takes gender out of the equation, leveling the playing field, ensuring women receive adequate recognition for their work.

Rather than solely accounting for just the billable hour, the compensation model considers eight SMART pillars when determining the suitable amount of pay and advancement of a firm’s attorneys.

These pillars account for a lawyer’s number of billable and pro bono hours; the amount of business he/she develops; the efforts put into advancing diversity at the firm; his/her quality of work;  the lawyer’s client satisfaction rating; the commitment to professional development; his/her level of leadership and initiative; and the lawyer’s external visibility.

The creators of this compensation model are Rachel Boochever, a current student at Stanford Law School; Eva Davis, Partner and Co-Chair of Global Private Equity at Winston Strawn, and Chris Groll, Partner and Chair of the Mergers & Acquisitions Group at Holland & Hart.

Aside from the benefits of retaining and potentially increasing diversity in law firms, SMART also looks to reward the actions and behaviors of lawyers that most closely align with a firm’s core values. By informing lawyers how they should be spending their time and efforts, a firm using this model can truly live out its mission day-to-day.

Do you think this compensation model could take flight in the U.S. law firm setting? Would your firm put it to practice? Let us know what you think.


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