How Law Firm Managers and Practicing Lawyers Are Different in Their Roles and Skills

Lawyers are one of the most iconic professionals in history. A law degree is an admirable achievement and a testament to hard work and dedication. That said, being a lawyer “is not all that it’s cracked up to be,” as they say. To practice, one must first spend three years in law school, then another three or four years in post-graduate education before finally taking their bar exam, which is an arduous process, to say the least (in some countries) with high failure rates. And if you think practicing lawyers have their plates full, think about law firm managers who play in a completely different field. 

How Law Firm Managers and Practicing Lawyers Are Different in Their Roles and Skills

Law firm managers are often lawyers who have taken a different path and decided to climb the corporate ladder. Law firm managers tend to be the liaisons between the partners, the associates, and the clients. Some law firms have abolished this position, while others continue to keep this position as a unique entity in their office structure.

Lawyers practicing on their own or for smaller law firms tend to act more like entrepreneurs, as many young lawyers try to start their firms with varying degrees of success.

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As a practicing attorney, you are the “go-to” person when clients have questions or need advice on a case. You also work with fellow lawyers researching, writing, filing claims, and attending court hearings. Some attorneys do not enjoy this and only go to court because they have to, while others take great pride in their ability to effectively argue before judges and juries.

In contrast, law firm managers often have little to no interaction with the courtroom. Instead, the focus is on the business side of the firm, getting involved in acquisitions, accounting, auditing, daily operations, logistics, human resources, and more. 

Lawyers usually have a more diverse job description than law firm managers, who oversee administrative and operational functions specific to the legal profession, such as managing paralegals and other support staff, caring for client billing, leading marketing campaigns, etc.

Law firm management/administration is a relatively new profession still evolving. As a result, the managers sometimes enjoy different privileges and advantages than those who practice law, with higher wages, benefits, and other perks.

Can You Manage Your Own Law Firm as a Young Practicing Attorney?

Many young lawyers wonder how to manage a small law firm when considering opening their practice instead of working for another firm. First, think about what type of law firm you want to develop. Law firms joined through a business alliance or merger can be considered “mixed ownership” firms, while those formed by solo practitioners are called “sole proprietorships.”

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Next, remember that one of the essential building blocks of any business is having an excellent business plan, modern management software, and a detailed operating manual. 

Managing a small law firm can be an intimidating experience, especially if you’ve been in a larger firm for years. Not only do you need to be on top of your workload, but you also need to delegate effectively. Luckily, software programs and other tools can help you streamline your work.

One of the most important things to do when managing a small law firm is to hire the right people for the right jobs. This way, you can spread the workload and lay the foundation for future growth. In addition, when starting, it’s important to evaluate which roles will impact your business the most. This way, you can avoid hiring people who don’t fit the right role or aren’t suited for the position.

Another way to hire quality lawyers is to build partnerships. You can even take a promising lawyer and turn them into a partner in your firm. This way, they can bring their strengths and experience to the table. If your team is well-rounded, the results you deliver will speak for themselves.

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Another important thing to do is understand your firm’s financial side. You should have a budget for your whole firm and each department. It is important to know how much you are spending every month and how much you’re making so that you can adjust your financial plan accordingly. This is crucial if you want your law firm to grow.

On the other hand, you can have a fantastic work ethic and be the best lawyer in your area, but you must communicate efficiently and clearly with your clientele to succeed. There are many different types of communication systems for lawyers. You should consider implementing the best tech tools to ensure streamlined communication between clients, colleagues, and other professionals involved in your business.

Bottom Line

Lawyers and law firm managers both play different roles in their respective firms. For example, while a lawyer is a practicing member of a law firm, they advise and advocate for clients, while a law firm manager coordinates between lawyers and manages the law office’s daily affairs. Another difference between the two roles is that many law firm managers rarely go to court, if ever. In other words, it is easier for a practitioner attorney to become a manager in their firm or the firm that employs them than the other way around. 

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