Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Being in charge of an office full of lawyers may be about as close to thanklessness as a job gets. “It’s not truly a thankless job, because everybody says, ‘Thank God you’re doing that,’” Jonathan Hayden, head of Heller Ehrman’s San Francisco office, said with a laugh. But if gratitude is measured in dollars, office managing partners are a bit taken for granted. In an informal Recorder survey of 23 local office managing partners, 70 percent said they work more than when they practiced law exclusively. But only 22 percent said they are earning more than before they took the post. “It’s like a huge pro bono commitment,” said Richard Hill, who heads Littler Mendelson’s 77-lawyer San Francisco office. Those who are in it for the power might be disappointed, too. In recent years, firms have shifted their power centers. More substantive decisions regarding billing rates, compensation and advancement now belong to the practice group. “In terms of having a significant say in the long-term destiny of the law firm, practice group management is more in that position,” said Thomas Kellerman, 52, who heads Morgan Lewis’ 55-lawyer Palo Alto office and co-chairs the firm’s emerging business and technology practice. Office managing partners reported that they spend the most non-practicing time on business development and marketing, followed closely by strategic planning for the office, recruiting and, trailing distantly, giving input on compensation and advancement. On average, office managing partners say they spend about 25 percent of their time managing and 75 percent practicing law. So if it’s not money and it’s not power, why does anyone take the job? “I hadn’t wanted to do it, particularly, and it took a little bit of time to persuade me,” said Ken Kuwayti, who heads Morrison & Foerster’s Palo Alto office. “You just feel a responsibility to the firm and the office, and that’s important to me.” For others, call it taking one for the team. “[Being at Littler] has been my career,” Hill noted. “So it seems fair to put in a few years. But it’s definitely not something I would do indefinitely.” For a few, though, it’s a new career track. Sonja Weissman, 42, has headed Reed Smith’s Oakland office for nearly five years and says she wouldn’t mind continuing in management. “Because it’s so big, there are lots of different management roles at Reed Smith,” she said. Whether it’s guilt, altruism or ambition, for some there may be a surprising upside. While only 15 percent of respondents admitted that the added responsibilities hurt their practices, almost half said the management position actually helps their practices. For one partner, that means extra cachet. “My practice volume has increased since I took the job as office managing partner,” said David Anderson, 45, of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. “In the Pillsbury system, being office managing partner is an indication of the confidence the firm has in a younger leader, and to clients and prospective clients this is someone who has the respect and full command of the resources of the firm.” WHERE’S THE MONEY? Getting on the management track does not mean you’re riding the gravy train. That, one consultant says, may come back to bite firms in the end. “It’s a constant debate,” said Wendy Tice-Wallner. “Law firms complain about not having leaders, and at the same time they hesitate in paying for leaders. As a result, you can suppress potential leaders.” Only 26 percent of those surveyed gave an unqualified “yes” when asked whether office management was a plus factor in compensation. Another 26 percent weren’t sure or said it was a negligible addition. Seventeen percent said it’s not a factor at all, and another 17 percent said that it depends on their performance as a manager (14 percent didn’t answer).
Graphic ImagesWe put together a few charts to illustrate key questions from our survey of local office managing partners: � Generally, how does the change in workload stack up against salary?� More specifically, how do those factors balance for individuals?� What does the office managing partner do all day, anyway?� Does managing the office help or hurt a practice?About the survey: Cal Law sent out informal e-mail surveys to 39 office managing partners in the Bay Area at Cal Law 25 and Am Law 100 firms � all large multi-office firms. Twenty-three returned the surveys, all from offices with more than 25 lawyers. Participating firms: Bingham McCutchen; DLA Piper; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Heller Ehrman; Howrey; Jones Day; Littler Mendelson; Morrison & Foerster; Morgan Lewis & Bockius; Nixon Peabody; Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman; O’Melveny & Myers; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; Reed Smith; Shearman & Sterling; Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal; Weil, Gotshal & Manges; WilmerHale; and Winston & Strawn.

“It’s a hornets’ nest with respect to compensation, so rather than deal with it, a lot of firms say, ‘Thank you very much � we hope you enjoy the prestige and power, but we’re going to pay you the same way we compensate other partners,’” Tice-Wallner, a former chairwoman of Littler Mendelson, said. Littler’s Hill noted that, when firms do significantly compensate office management, it can cause bad blood among lawyers in the office. “I put in a lot of time that’s not really compensated by the firm, but on the other hand, you have firms where it’s done to an unhealthy degree,” he said. “That can breed resentment among lawyers � we avoid that here.” STAYING THE COURSE While practice group and firm leaders tend to set the direction and push for growth, managing a single office is more about maintaining stability, says Larry Richard, a leadership-development consultant with Hildebrandt International in Philadelphia. “If every day I come into the office and I ask, ‘How is everything?’ and people say, ‘Nothing out of the ordinary,’ I heave a sigh of relief and say I’m doing my job [as office managing partner] well,” Richard said. “Whereas leadership is about change, ferment and uncertainty � it’s not about making the trains run on time.” Heller’s Hayden, 53, said he used to oversee associate assignments and reviews. He also used to have the final say over adjusting and reducing bills for clients. Now all that is left to practice group management. “What’s left of the job is being sort of the cultural leader both internally and externally,” Hayden said. Exactly how the office managing partner’s role plays out depends on whether that office is new, newly combined or well-established. Kellerman came to Morgan Lewis to build an entirely new office for the firm in Silicon Valley with the pieces of his old firm, Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, in 2003. That meant an emphasis on client pitches, recruiting, and generally raising the firm’s profile in the Valley.

Complain, Complain, ComplainWith the promise of anonymity, office managing partners listed the things they wish they could get from higher manage-ment.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.