Does the traditional role of “partner” need to be reviewed? Rachel Brushfield thinks so.


Rachel Brushfield

This is guest post by Rachel Brushfield of Energise Legal.

The responsibilities that a partner has are “overkill”. How can any one person be expected to excel at fee earning, manage and motivate direct reports, plan ahead, do new business, court new clients, get more business from previous clients, get business from cross selling within the firm across practice groups as well as in their spare time recruit new staff, negotiate mergers/demergers, keep up to date with changes in the law, tweet and comply with CPD requirements is enough to create a nervous breakdown fast.

No wonder levels of anxiety, stress, frustration, addictions and divorce are high in the legal profession.

It is simply crazy and anything that isn’t fee earning will be put on the backburner or gazumped out of the diary. Giving partners guidelines on how many hours they should spend to balance short term and long term fee generating tasks would help. A more radical change would work even better.

Isn’t it better to play to strengths and have lawyers focusing on what they are best at and enjoy? What is stopping a people developer being assigned who is good at managing and motivating people and taking on the role of bringing on junior lawyers? As long as the junior lawyer gets time each week to have supervision re technical aspects of the law from their practice group head, they would receive the training and supervision they need and want and get more attention and nurturing.

As an analogy, a fee earner managing people and doing business development is a bit like a high flier with children to care for working full time plus overtime and not having any childcare support. Something is going to give, and it won’t be the fee earning. Many times associates get their performance appraisal delayed. Repeatedly 121 conversations are taken out of the diary with paid client work always the priority. This has an impact on fee earning.

Clients would get a better service, partners would reap the benefits and be freed up to focus on what they love and benefit from – fee earning. The equity cake would need to be divided in a different way so the people developers and engagers get rewarded too. Now that would be a turn up for the books.

With pressure on fees, more junior lawyers doing more work and needing more supervision, partner time spent on supervision vs. fee earning does not make sense. It is time to review the traditional roles.

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Passionate about making business development a profession not just a job. Built and sold a £40m group in less than 9 years. Doing it all again and loving it!

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3 comments on “Does the traditional role of “partner” need to be reviewed? Rachel Brushfield thinks so.
  1. As a sole practitioner, I am all things to all people. In time I would want to develop my firm so I can focus more on business development and not fee earning. The traditional approach of former firms I worked for is why I wanted to set up my own firm.

  2. Running your own firm has lots of rewards, and what hard work you put in you benefit from directly, which is great! The law firm model is very short term focused, and efforts on business development can take time to bear fruit, but create value and sustainable success in the longer term.

    I have had a virtual PA for the last 12 years and it has kept me sane managing the many different roles of a business owner and able to focus on the bits I love and need to concentrate on e.g. trends, CPD and insights etc to help my clients more.

    PS One of my roles is head of paperclips and drawing pins 🙂

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Mike Ames

Passionate about making business development a profession not just a job. Built and sold a £40m group in less than 9 years. Doing it all again and loving it!

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