“At the end of the year, we look at people’s score. If they have more than 10 points they have done a good job. It’s amazing, some people will get 30, 40, 50 points.
“It’s a little crude indicator of people who have adopted this generosity of spirit to the extent that someone is willing to give them some recognition back.”
There are no rules, Mr Rigotti says.
“It could be someone who is a mentor, it could be someone who has introduced you to a client, it could be someone who covered for you when you are slammed on two or three simultaneous matters … It’s just someone you feel has helped you in being successful.”
On May 1, Mr Rigotti will clock up five years as the firm’s CEO and a main concern has been meeting the changing priorities and make-up of the profession.
One of the best parts about leading a business with 27 offices in 24 countries is getting to understand its diverse workforce, he says.
Australians are very open to change and bring “a bit of cut-through”.
“There is a bit of can do, a bit of practical get up and go, which you don’t always get in all cultures,” he says.
“In some Asian cultures it’s a little more reserved. Some of the European cultures can be a little conservative.
“Each have their own positives. The Chinese are fantastic at relationships.”
More than anywhere else
The Chinese also have more women lawyers in senior positions than anywhere else. While about 28 per cent of partners in Australia are women – both at Freehills and across the board according to The Australian Financial Review Law Partnership Survey – in China the majority of lawyers and partners are women.
“Gender diversity hasn’t been as big an issue there as it’s been in other places,” Mr Rigotti says.
In some parts of Europe, such as Spain and Germany, women only comprise about 10 per cent of lawyers, he says.
“That presents particular challenges for us and I know the local team work hard on it. Whereas if you go ‘next door’ to Paris, we have a very vibrant female partnership … and it seems a bit easy.”
Mr Rigotti says that “as a business issue, we haven’t cracked gender diversity”.
“Why? Because it’s difficult. You try having to squeeze out bias or learn how to do things differently.
“The way we select and promote people, for many years it a was a very male-dominated profession and those days are gone but there is still a hangover from some of the culture that flows out of those processes.”
Part of that culture was a survival-of-the-fittest mentality.
“With my generation, either you signed on to it or you didn’t. And if you did sign on, you were expected to work pretty hard to serve clients …
“Yep, it was a version of the Hunger Games if you made it through.”
Now, there is a “different level of expectation”.
“One way of looking at the dynamics is a triangle with client needs, business needs and people needs. One tip of the triangle is client need, there is another tip of the triangle that is business need and there is a third part and that is ‘what do our people want’.
“On the people side of the triangle, there are some who are happy with the way things are but others want to do different things.
“If we want to make all of the talent happy we have to expand our offering to people [in terms of careers] and how we do things.”
Mr Rigotti says “not everyone is going to go through to the next level of the firm in the same way they might have done 10, 20, 25 years ago”.
“From what I can see, no one has quite cracked that yet,” he says.
“Everyone has acknowledged the problems and the opportunity – that you can get a better share of talent and more engaged and productive people if you are more flexible in the way you develop people’s careers – but I think we are still working out how to do it.”