A law firm runs like a machine, with each person contributing to its overall performance and goals. This month, we will take a look at the some of the parts that make up a practice, by exploring the responsibilities of the various levels of attorneys. This post starts at the top of the the ladder, with managing partners.
Sometimes referred to as a senior or equity partner, these individuals hold the highest positions within a firm. As such, they are charged with numerous responsibilities, from handling client matters and overseeing daily operations, to securing new business for the firm. Keep in mind that every law practice is different, but these descriptions provide a general peek into attorney classifications and their related responsibilities.
As owners of the firm, managing partners generally work with the most profitable clients. These are the clients that demand the highest level of skill and experience, so they are not opposed to paying the premium rates that managing partners usually demand. In handling these high value matters, partners often delegate tasks and assignments to associate attorneys and law clerks. They may assign complex research to a clerk or direct an associate to draft a brief.
While the constant availability of supporting staff is an attractive perk, it also adds to the responsibilities of the managing partner. Even the most seasoned associate attorney requires some level of supervision at one time or another. This often entails reviewing work before it is presented to a client or accompanying a new attorney to court. Managing partners are often compensated through some type of profit sharing, so it is in their best interests to keep clients happy and paying their invoices.
Leadership and Direction
As leaders in their respective firms, managing partners set the direction and tone of the practice. They represent the firm internally and externally. Within the walls, staff members look to these individuals as examples of how to conduct themselves in practice matters. The firm’s overall culture starts with the managing partner and permeates through the rest of the staff. If the managing partners present themselves in a manner that is laid back and casual, the rest of the practice will follow suit.
Outside of the walls, current and potential clients see managing partners as the face of the practice and they often use their interactions with these individuals to make decisions about working with the firm. Managing partners are rainmakers, constantly working to attract new clients. After all, as equity partners, their earnings may depend on it.
There is a growing trend in the legal community where firms bring in executive administrators to handle the day-to-day operations. This type of arrangement frees the managing partner from the responsibility of handling smaller details of running the practice. However, in a mid-sized or small practice, the management of daily operations often falls to the managing partner, which can greatly add to an already lengthy to-do list.
Many attorneys aspire to reach the partnership level within their firms. Just be prepared for the heavy responsibility that will come along with this illustrious title.
About Erika Winston:
Erika Winston is a Virginia based writer with a passion for all things legal. As a former domestic relations attorney, she understands the challenge of determining the best fee structure for your practice. Erika is a regular contributor to TimeSolv and a variety of other publications.