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A management decision: “Particular lawyers at a firm may not work on our matters”

A slew of posts here have commented on the practice alleged to be reasonably common of law departments of banning junior associates from charging time to their matters (See my posts of Nov. 19, 2007; and May 11, 2007 with 14 references.). GC Mid-Atlantic, Sept. 2007 at 13, cites a survey by Altman Weil (with responses from 38 of the largest 200 law departments) that found “20 percent of respondents prohibit first- and second-year associates from working on all their matters, while more than half make the decision on a case-by-case basis.” Even though the methodology leaves doubts because of the 19 percent response rate and thus only 7 departments impose the absolute ban, let’s assume it to be directionally correct.

If a law department is comfortable precluding entire classes of associates, why wouldn’t that department remove from its matters any higher-level lawyers at the firm if the department feels that their contribution is not worth their billing rate? This voting-off-the-island happens, at times, but why not carry the logic of evaluation and dismissal to its logical conclusion: handpick who can work on your matters? Law firms will blanch.

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One response to “A management decision: “Particular lawyers at a firm may not work on our matters””

  1. Ron Bell says:

    Law firms will indeed blanch!
    Of course, one reason GCs may be willing to tolerate higher fees for senior partners and not for junior associates is the perception that the senior partners offer more bang for the buck in less time. The steady increase in junior associate salaries and billing rates over the past 10 years has not been offset by a corresponding willingness to write off their time or to manage their work more carefully. I suspect that this disparity between perceived cost and value is one reason one does not often see clients demanding that junior paralegals be banned from their projects.