Is pooling staff between partners a bad idea?

Many practices don't pool staff ie partners don't share staff. Is this good for workflow?

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Is pooling ALL staff sensible? On the one hand it makes managing workflow and job assignments much harder, but on the other hand, it (should) make more of a team spirit if everyone is working with each other. Or does it also depend on the size of the practice? Would be interested to hear opinions.

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By Hugo Fair
15th Nov 2022 12:21

Doubt there's a "one size fits all" type of answer ... it'll depend on the size and business of the partnership (and possibly it's culture).

But at the risk of stating the obvious, my starting point would be the business needs of the partnership - for instance:
* would it appear to be a single business to an outsider, or as as a series of inter-related but distinct businesses?
* are there obvious overlaps (in skills and availability) of employees across different 'areas'?
* how would conflicting instructions (if only regarding urgency of tasks) for one employee be resolved?

As I said, all pretty obvious (and not dissimilar to teams or even depts in large corporates) ... or were you asking something entirely different?

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paddle steamer
By DJKL
15th Nov 2022 13:37

I would really think size of firm is key.

When I first started as a trainee in the 80s we had three partners, one manager, one assistant manager, two seniors, two final year trainees and two current year trainees (no idea what happened to the middle year trainees if there had been any) , plus we had one individual who did tax with her assistant , three secretaries and an office administrator.

We also sometimes had staff from Edinburgh working with us and the staff did sometimes get moved about office to office for larger audits. Aberdeen borrowed staff for Wood Group audit though sadly I did not get to go, I suspect they borrowed from the larger English offices- working away from home, with lots of overtime, subsidised food etc was great for a pauper trainee.

During my years there whilst I tended to work mainly for one senior rather than the other this was not exclusive, I also worked directly to the assistant manager and once direct to a partner, the partner heading really depended whose audit/accounts client we were acting for, the manager ran the staffing of all jobs and allocated as he considered necessary.

I can imagine that a much bigger office like the two London offices or Hull was likely far more team structured but cannot say with total confidence they were as I never asked anyone from there how they operated.

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Routemaster image
By tom123
15th Nov 2022 14:00

All I know is that having more than one boss is a nightmare..

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Replying to tom123:
paddle steamer
By DJKL
15th Nov 2022 14:20

Competing demands?

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Replying to DJKL:
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By Hugo Fair
15th Nov 2022 14:35

That's almost fun (you learn to play one off against the other whilst remaining the innocent) - but contradictory demands is a whole different circle of hell (damned whatever you do)!

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Replying to tom123:
Lone Wolf
By Lone_Wolf
15th Nov 2022 15:40

Tell me about it. I could write screeds and screeds about the nightmare that it is, but a few of them need stuff urgently, so I best be off...

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Replying to tom123:
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By adam.arca
18th Nov 2022 12:49

tom123 wrote:

All I know is that having more than one boss is a nightmare..

Try being in practice and having a hundred of them!

Or at least that's what it feels like sometimes.

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
15th Nov 2022 14:30

Client continuity is likely to be the key issue, and Tom's point.

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By Michael Davies
18th Nov 2022 10:08

Wow first I have ever even heard of this.I worked for a large firm,and basically a couple of audit managers allocated staff for audits and generally a tax manager allocated new clients between the tax department.The tax partner generally allocated the most suitable member of the tax department to special projects.That said when such staff flexibility wasn’t required,some historic staff/partner relationships were maintained.
You have to be flexible;keep everyone busy and working at full capacity.

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By adam.arca
18th Nov 2022 12:52

I've worked for firms on both sides of this equation (pooling and firmly allocating). Can't say I noticed a lot of difference: I think it's down to firms' own culture and efficiency to make this work, or not as the case may be. But if I were running a larger practice with lots of staff, I think I would pool.

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