Most lawyers understand the division of labour in the legal industry. Partners undertake the task of business development, and Associates are responsible for doing the majority of the work that the Partners bring in. It’s common for firms to have lower billing requirements for partners to allow them to spend time and substantial amounts of money on developing the business. However, some firms delegate business development to Associates, who are required to perform this function on top of their billable hours & pro bono expectations. The question is – should Associates be tasked with this, and if so, should they receive extra?
Although it is fine for Associates to work on pitch letters and contribute to marketing efforts, it is unfair in many instances for Associates to be responsible for originating business. Sometimes, business development responsibilities are pushed onto Associates to cover up shortcomings in business planning. We’ve heard reports of Partners taking on work in a number of related matters, which then dried up following settlement, resulting in Associates having to originate work under threat of being axed. Instead of turning their attention inward and devoting time and resources to improving their own business, Associates bore the burden.
In Biglaw firms, it can be somewhat justified, as Associates are usually receiving generous salaries, and are expected to perform at the highest level to earn their keep. However, Associates in smaller firms are often told that this is part of their normal responsibilities. It is common to hear that originating bonuses may be factored into end of year discretionary bonuses. But as it is viewed as their regular responsibilities, this is often not the case. Associates in this situation should receive origination bonuses for clients that they bring into the firm, or, they should receive a reduction in their billable hours equal to the origination expectation. This provides incentives for Associates to develop professionally and equally as importantly, is fair.
At Route 1, we have a simple philosophy: we reward you for your success. That’s why if you land your role through us, we reward you with a 5% bonus on your first year Associate salary. If any of the above resonates with you and you’re in the market for a new role, get in touch with our Engagement team and start getting the rewards you deserve.