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A friend from another firm recently told me a story that made me think about the way law firms are structured, the resources available, and whether or not attorneys actually take advantage of those resources. The story goes something like this:

A Practice Group Leader and a few other partners sat down with key people in the administrative departments (conflicts, records, library, marketing, business development, KM, document services, human resources, IT, litigation support, etc.) and started listing off the names of attorneys at the firm. The names were followed by questions like:

  • What is your opinion of this person?
  • How much do they use your services?
  • How often do they attend training provided by your team on relevant topics to their practice?
  • When they use your services, what kind of feedback do you get?

The idea behind these questions is actually pretty simple. The firm provides millions of dollars in people and products to support the attorneys’ functions at the firm… so, are they actually using it? Offhandedly, my friend said that for the attorneys where many of the admin people answered “Who?” or “Never seen or heard from them,” were suddenly missing from the ranks after a few months. Not to say that this was the sole consideration on the attorney’s value to the firm, but I imagine it was a factor.

Of course, there are many ways to evaluate talent within the lawyer ranks at a firm. Quality of work, relationships with clients, book of business, hours billed, are a few methods, so adding in the additional metric of “uses firm support departments” seems to me like a good idea. Polling the administrative staff may also raise some red flags in the way services are defined or distributed as well. If the same department answers “never heard of them” every time, then maybe the problem isn’t with the attorneys.