The Trend Toward Having Co-Managing Partners


Here is a provocative scenario: You are in your early fifties, a successful practitioner and in the midst of your best revenue-generating years, when your partners ask you to take on being the firm’s next managing partner. Your initial term is four-years, with an option to renew for additional terms; but you are going to have to give up a substantial portion of your practice to manage and lead your firm. What do you do?

In November 2010, I surveyed and heard from 92 law firms on this and other issues related to firm leadership. My research was a repeat of a survey I conducted six years earlier. The most striking difference was the time spent dedicated to full-time management of the firm. In 2004, 24 percent reported managing their firms on a full-time basis. By late 2010, only 9 percent claimed that their management/leadership roles were full-time. All indications are that this decrease in full-time effort is one consequence of our protracted recessionary conditions. Today, even firm leaders are increasingly sensitive to their partners seeing them make a billable contribution.

My research also shows that leaders who relinquish their practices to assume management responsibility may be in a tough spot when their leadership role comes to its conclusion. Only 23 percent of firms have some form of ‘parachute provision’ or other compensation formulas to help lawyers ease-out of their management roles and back into full-time practice.

What this seems to be stimulating is a growing trend of more firms gravitating towards having co-managing partners. Having co-managing partners who continue to practice law, even while having firm leadership responsibilities, would allow each individual to keep his/her hand in the practice and maintain client relationships against that day when they may return to practicing full time. Perhaps of equal importance in some firms, it provides a measure of credibility that may be needed in dealing with partners.

Now we face a different challenge!

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Patrick McKenna, McKenna Associates Inc. | Attorney Advertising

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