In the grand tradition of bad prison movie “wisdom”, I’m walking confidently into the yard and picking a fight with the biggest meanest gang I see, in this case, Toby, Jordan, and Susan.

With all due respect, you are all missing the point.  The problem is not what you call non-partners, or how you recruit them, or train them, or whether they exist at all.  The problem is the partnership itself.

I attended a conference last year in which a panel was discussing how they would design a firm if they were starting from scratch today.  Over an hour into the conversation someone asked, “What about a Limited Liability Partnership of owners?”  Two of the three panelists were partners in their firms, but when everyone was done laughing, they all agreed that partnership is a terrible business model and no one would build a firm that way today if given the choice.

Look at the new Alternative Business Structures in the UK and Australia, that allow firms to pursue outside investors and allow non-attorneys to be owners.  Admittedly, I haven’t been following too closely, but I haven’t heard of any investors clamoring to stick their money in traditional LLP law firms. If you look at new firms, and non-firms providing legal services, that are nipping at the heels of BigLaw, how many of them have a partnership structure? Why would they? How much time does Axiom spend trying to figure out what to call their non-partner-track attorneys?

Maybe the reason we are struggling to define non-partners, is because Partnership itself is limiting way beyond just liability.

OK. I’m ready to take my beating now…

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Photo of Ryan McClead Ryan McClead

Ryan is Principal and CEO at Sente Advisors, a legal technology consultancy helping law firms with innovation strategy, project planning and implementation, prototyping, and technology evaluation.  He has been an evangelist, advocate, consultant, and creative thinker in Legal Technology for nearly 2…

Ryan is Principal and CEO at Sente Advisors, a legal technology consultancy helping law firms with innovation strategy, project planning and implementation, prototyping, and technology evaluation.  He has been an evangelist, advocate, consultant, and creative thinker in Legal Technology for nearly 2 decades. In 2015, he was named a FastCase 50 recipient, and in 2018, he was elected a Fellow in the College of Law Practice Management. In past lives, Ryan was a Legal Tech Strategist, a BigLaw Innovation Architect, a Knowledge Manager, a Systems Analyst, a Help Desk answerer, a Presentation Technologist, a High Fashion Merchandiser, and a Theater Composer.