Rules of Engagement: How Senior Law Firm Administrators Can Protect Their Jobs

Published May/June 2006, Legal Management

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First, a hypothetical situation: A managing partner informs a legal administrator or executive director that the law firm will no longer employ him or her.

Then, a question: Could you have done anything to prevent this?

According to the rules of professional conduct, lawyers cannot agree to take on a new client without a signed engagement letter. Such a letter establishes the responsibilities of each party to make the engagement a success. Senior law firm administrators – such as executive directors and chief operating officers who are responsible for accounting, human resources and similar functions – can learn from this example when accepting positions with their law firm employers.

In addition to requesting a job description for your new position, you should require that a senior lawyer in the firm – such as the chief executive office or the managing partner – give you a written statement of the lawyer's/employer's responsibilities to the administrator. Clear articulation of these responsibilities will foster the communication and accountability necessary to ensure the administrator's success.

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