A friend of mine recently asked me what has been my biggest surprise since starting my legal recruiting efforts in January.

I thought about it for a very short time. Then I said:

My biggest surprise is how much more money I would have made at some well known regional or mid-sized firms.

Why? I guess there are two reasons.

  1. Lower overhead
  2. Fewer senior lawyers on cruise control making lots of money, but not really working very hard.

I was never motivated by money, (if I had been I would have never left my law firm), but looking back now making more money at the pinnacle of my career would have certainly made Nancy and me more secure at this point.

When I was coaching lawyers, I got to know a great deal about each law firm where I coached. I was extremely impressed with many firms that I doubt I would have considered during my rising career. I really didn’t know much about those firms and now I do.

 I think many firms have been panicked and are making mistakes during the recession. For example, many firms are:

  • Focused on decreasing costs rather than increasing revenue
  • Appearing to be either "needy" or "greedy" to clients who have no work to send them
  • Pretending like this recession has not changed how law firms will operate in the future

These are all mistakes and firms will pay the price for making them. Here is another one that I believe is a HUGE mistake:

  • Dictating that partners keep their billable hours up which results in partners hoarding work that should be delegated to younger lawyers.

Why is this such a Huge Mistake? There are a number of reasons. Here is my list:

  • Law firms make money by hours, rates and leverage. Partners doing work that should be delegated ruins the leverage component.
  • Partners are best suited for bringing in more business. If a partner spent 400 hours of non-billable time and was able to bring in $800,000 in additional revenue the firm would benefit.
  • Some partners may be doing work they are not best suited to do.
  • Clients will not be happy paying the partners rates for work lawyers with lower rates are best suited to do.
  • Associates become anxious, worried and ultimately resentful.
  • Morale goes in the tank.

Hopefully your partners are not hoarding work that should be done by associates.