The toxic law firm

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  • Nice one

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  • Very accurate. I've been in lockstep and also eat what you kill- both are problematic but I don't want to work in eat what you kill- honest it may be, but it's brutal as well and not in the interests of the client, when the partners don't act as a team - they simply organise themselves in ways which tend to suit themselves and their own remuneration structures. I think where you end up depends on what you value most. If it's money, then eat what you kill is fine. There is no magic solution. In smaller firms, I think there is third way. But I would say that wouldn't I?

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  • Very well put.
    There is one concept missing from law firms nowadays, "loyalty". Both loyalty of individuals to a firm and loyalty of the firm to its individuals. You might even add to the list of missing qualities "integrity" and "collegiality", the latter having gone missing when the good times ceased to roll.
    This only seems to be getting worse.
    Also many firms now seem to be looking for "consultants" on an "eat what you kill" basis, with remuneration based solely on a split of fees billed and,er, paid (commission basically) that would make a second hand car salesman blanche.
    In what sense are these places "firms". They don't even seem to be chambers, rather instead a collection of sole practitioners gathered together at the last chance salloon to defray the cost of PI cover. God alone knows how they would be able to service a large deal with no, or very few, staff and "teamwork" hardly encouraged by the business model.
    Once upon a time in a foreign land far far away called the past, people joined law firms for life. Not many get the gold watch these days; more likely the size 12 in the rear.

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  • Excellent article Mark.

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  • Thanks all!
    I'd like to echo Nicky's comment as to deciding what it is you want out of life, although I would add the following.
    I think 'eat what you kill' is fine, and much easier to achieve in a small firm than to maintain in a large, complex firm. I think part of the issue is that many lawyers think they can just 'scale up' from things that may work in a department or smaller firm to a sprawling, complex entity.
    I think we are starting to see law firms pay the price for their high-stakes gambling. The problem with sacrificing loyalty and integrity in pursuit of profit is that once you have, you can't just buy them back in.
    Expect more high profile failures...(and more blogs from me on the subject)

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  • I should clarify my previous comment; I didn't mean to suggest loyalty and integrity are impossible in an 'eat what you kill' environment. I do think that the challenges of maintaining any kind of collegiality are much greater in a larger, disparate organisation where you cannot possibly know everyone; if there are no ties of dependency, as Anonymous says, you basically have a community of sole practitioners, with all the potential structural problems that that can engender.

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  • Oops, looks like my last comment was posted anonymously but that was me again :)

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  • I find it hard to sympathise with partners.
    In my last firm (a big Northern firm) at the first sign of recession the cuts were made to almost everyone except the partners. There was a stage where one team had ten partners to two assistants.

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  • You're right, that's exactly the kind of short-term thinking that kicked in during the recession in many firms. It's difficult for turkeys to vote for Christmas, one might say, and definitely strengthens the hand of those who argue that firms should be managed like corporates.

    I find that a wide variety of under-performers are able to hide behind the often arcane and complex compensation structures in law firms, so it's often not even as simple as running a rule through the partnership list and saying 'everyone under this line gets cut' (as some large firms did, almost exactly that, during the worst of the downturn)

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