Firm Culture

Partners Be Crazy

“It had evidently not occurred to her as yet that those who consent to share the bread of adversity may want the whole cake of prosperity for themselves.”
― Edith Wharton

I cannot think of anything more important in a law firm partnership than associating yourself with partners who share your values.

If you want to be rich and are willing to work day and night to achieve it, you will be unhappy with partners who put their physical and mental health and their personal relationships first.

If you are ethical to a fault, partners who like testing the limits of the Rules of Professional Conduct will drive you crazy.

If your reputation for client service is superb, you will be unamused by client complaints about partners who do not quickly return phone calls, answer emails, or deliver work product.

If, when it comes to compensation discussions, you want to be collaborative and fair to everyone, that one partner who is only in it to maximize their own income and is ready, willing, and able to decimate everyone else to achieve it, will ruin your day.

So how does one choose their partners? Carefully, one would hope. Scientifically, even. Certainly not just based on their billings and client credits. One would think.

Every firm does it differently, of course. But if you are looking for commonality, you have to look at what law firms often do not do.

They usually do not retain experts in human resources and psychology to evaluate their existing partners and their partner candidates to determine “fit” on an informed basis.

They usually do not hire experts to assess how partners will contribute to achieving strategic goals.

They usually do not provide existing partners with coaching about how to integrate new partners into the firm or provide new partners with coaching on how to integrate into an existing partnership.

Lawyers tend to believe that companies who address their legal issues without the assistance of experienced counsel are cruising for a bruising. But when it comes to partnership cohesion, which is arguably one of the most important indicators of success in the law business, they handle it all themselves.

I knew some partners at a law firm that had a great human resources person who had a nose for crazy. They insisted that she meet with all of their candidates and they listened to her advice. Most of the time. But if she warned them about a candidate who had great billings and a huge client base, they just ignored it. Sigh. 

May I suggest that if the law business is all about people and people all have their own quirks, it might make sense to spend some effort and money figuring them out and trying to assist them to address them before you put your future in their hands.

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