An article in LexPert, Vol. 9, Nov./Dec. 2007 at 61, claims that a “vast array of new positions is emerging.” In London there are “senior partners, junior partners, salaried partners [the US counterpart of non-equity partners], directors, counsel, professional support consultants, professional support lawyers, managing associates, junior associates and the list goes on.” A similar move is afoot on this side of the Atlantic (See my posts of June 27, 2007 on timekeepers other than partners; June 24, 2007 on project managers in law firms and references cited; and Oct. 21, 2005 on litigation support consultants in firms.).
Why does the proliferation of titles matter to law departments? On the good side, it may well be that firms are leveraging more effectively, having people of appropriate cost and background doing the right level of work. The proliferation of titles also tells law department managers more about the roles and relative value added of those who bill them than if they were lumped into broader bands of titles.
On the bad side, the many titles – and equally diverse billing rates – may make it harder to assess the appropriateness of bills submitted by firms. All those positions may also lure law firms into billing clients for services that should be covered by the billing rates of lawyers or absorbed by the firm.