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Best practices and other information about Workplace Innovation and Smart Working

Bruggink & Van der Velden Lawyers Tax advisers

2015 - Bruggink & Van der Velden Lawyers Tax advisers (BvdV) is a firm  in Utrecht. It employs 27 people 23 lawyers and four supporting staff. This description is based on an interview with staff and one of the founders.

Inspiration and drivers
The inspiration for BvdV was the management philosophy of Ricardo Semler.
One reason to organize the firm in another way was that the traditional business model of law firms came under pressure. The founders were and are convinced that confidence, authority, democracy and transparency will lead to full engagement of staff and better results.

Workplace  innovation practices
The company is innovative in its strategy, structure, in the employment relation and in the operations.

Strategy
The lawyers work as independent contractors; they themselves keep in touch with their customers/debtors. There is little supporting staff. Upon joining as a shareholder no goodwill is paid by the lawyer and nothing will be paid to the lawyer on departure.

Structure
Initially the founders, Bruggink and Van der Velden were the only shareholders. Meanwhile several colleagues became a shareholder. The decision making on strategic and non-strategic issues is done by the entire staff. The aim is to reach consensus.

The employment relation
The recruitment of new staff is done by the lawyers themselves. Every employee who works for customers, determines his or her own hourly rate. The total office costs are divided by an average hourly rate, which provides the Break Even Point (BEP). The lawyer can keep half of the hours (turnover) above the BEP which he or she makes.
The shareholders participate fully. The salary of support staff is determined in consultation.

Operations
The professionals are working as independent entrepreneurs. Trainee lawyers get a patron (comp. mentor) and work on a file under the responsibility of that patron.
Everyone works up to four days and they set a maximum to the turnover of someone above the BEP. This prevents people from too much and too long working. The fifth day is to spend to their own choice for family life, sporting, following courses etc.

Approach
When they started this office,  Bruggink and Van der Velden choose to work from the Semler management philosophy. All other staff are grown with the firm  and have made it work like it does now and look  like it is now.
 
Results
The cost of the office are relatively low. The BEP is achieved in about 3.2 billable hours per day. According to Van der Velden all employees earn a good salary. According to the interviewees, at BvdV the lawyers are more enterprising than at other offices.

Tips
“You have to bring your problems into  the group” and “trust on the collective intelligence”. And you have to "rely on your own strength, do not build on outside help”.

References
The full case description by Fietje Vaas is attached.
Moreover the following articles are attached:

  • Talent moet de ruimte krijgen’ (‘Talent has to be offered oportunities’). In: Het Financiële Dagblad, Consensus, 18-04-2015, p3

  • Peter Nilwik: ‘Een democratie werkt beter, fijner én goedkoper. BvdV schudt de traditionele advocatenpraktijk op’ (‘A democracy works better, nicer and cheaper. BvdV provocates the traditional Lawyers firm.’).  In: MO, Kwaliteit in Bedrijf, januari 2015, p 10 – 13.

  • Nathalie Gloudemans-Voogd, ‘Çontrole is een illusie’ (Control is an illusion’). In:Praktijk 53 – 54, mei 2015

  • A PowerPoint presentation by  BvdV Advocaten Belastingadviseurs: ‘Semco –stijl’ (‘Semco-stile’).

And some articles can be downloaded: