Should Lawyers Stop Managing Themselves And Leave It Up To A Professional?

Blame Finger Point

There’s the old saying that doctors make bad businessmen. But really, there is not a lot of evidence that lawyers are much better equipped.

Though plenty of lawyers do have a business background, most learn how to run their own mini-businesses (developing trial or deal budgets, ensuring the billing and collection of client fees) within the bigger business that is the firm.

And firm business is usually handled by a small collection of big-shot partners — this small group is charged with looking at the numbers and deciding bonuses and associate salaries and renewing the millions of dollars office lease.

We have never known a partner serving one of these committees that did not complain about how much it was taking away from his or her actual practice of law — you know, their real business. We think this is one of the reasons the switch from lockstep to merit-based pay will be such a slow one — partners do not want to spend more time than they already do on associate pay.

The lady and gentlemen at 3 Geeks and a Law Blog (prompted by a host on Hildebradt Blog) asked this week whether lawyers should hire project managers to determine a budget for how much it will cost (and therefore needs to be charged) to represent a particular matter. 

3 Geeks noted that most lawyers begin determining matter budgets via gut feeling, backed up by experience. (Watching litigators come up with case budgets is almost savant like – lots of scrawling of depo projections and document review time and how many associates will it take to write the response to the summary judgment brief filed six months from now.)

Would they give that up to either a non-practicing lawyer-turned-full-time project manager or a business person who’s been around enough to know how cases work?

It’s probably another thing — like merit-based pay — that sounds good but won’t happen anytime soon.

Perhaps in a few years people will be able to hire students out of Duke’s new Law and Entrepreneurship LLM program.

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