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Bennett Oakley moves to employee ownership – should more firms follow?

Sussex law firm Bennett Oakley is the latest firm to become owned by its employees, with 100% of the business owned by an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT).

Benefits of Employee Ownership

Employee ownership is a tangible way to demonstrate firm’s commitment to corporate social responsibility - it shows that you believe in your people. Like many other responsible activities, it also leads to great rewards across the firm.

This Harvard Business Review article points out that firms with at least 30% of shares owned by employees grow faster, are less likely to lose jobs, and less likely to go out of business.

Stephen Scowns explain that:

Every company that has become employee owned (even with a 10% shareholding) has encountered what is known as the “Whoosh Effect”; an unexpected surge in productivity as the company becomes owned by its employees.
Becoming an employee owner, it appears, has an empowering effect on employee engagement and their willingness to provide discretionary effort for the benefit of the business. There are few growth strategies that can provide a similar return for no significant outlay.

So what about the legal sector?

Hodge Jones & Allen became the first law firm to be entirely owned by its employees in December 2018, transferring 100% of its shares to an EOT.

A number of firms have followed suit then, but not very many, considering the sheer number of law firms in the UK.

Simon Elliott, Bennett Oakley’s Managing Director said:

“Law firms tend to be very hierarchical with profits being shared among partners and everyone else having very little input into the operations or strategy of the business.
Moving to employee ownership means that our people will take an equal share of our profits and will have a direct say in the business through our Employee Ownership Trust.”

That sounds like a very attractive proposition for potential recruits, and we know that law firms rise or fall based on the talent they are able to attract.

We hope that Bennett Oakley’s move will inspire more local firms to consider Employee Ownership.

Employee Ownership is a tangible way to demonstrate your Corporate Social Responsibility - it shows that you believe in your people' private goodness



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