Horizon Expansion 101.1: Law Firms and Subsidiaries

Back in the day—actually not so long ago—the number of places you could go and ways you could use your legal education was quite limited. You could enter private practice either as a sole practitioner or law firm associate. You could join a corporate in-house counsel office. Or, you could go to work for a government agency’s legal office. Period. There were not many options beyond these alternatives.

The legal universe has changed. Like the expansion beyond the Big Bang, this particular cosmos has gone wild, expanding in all directions. Today, the possibilities and opportunities are all over the economy. Lawyers can be found everywhere. There are even jobs and careers for attorneys who don’t want to do “mainstream law” in mainstream legal environments like the ones itemized above.

In this and soon-to-follow LegalCareerView.com blogs, we’ll examine the major legal employment sectors and typical types of “JD-Advantage” positions you can expect to find in each.

Law Firms

Large law firms now have greatly enlarged their array of law-related support positions. They tend to favor hires for these types of jobs who understand what law practice is all about. Top candidates for these jobs often bring something in addition to their JD to the table.

Law Firm Marketing is increasingly important as competition for corporate clients has become fierce.  Many large law firms now also employ marketing staff specific to each of their practice groups. An offshoot job title gaining traction is “Client Relations Coordinator.”

Law Firm Administration has made significant inroads into the law firm community. Many administrators have either both a JD and MBA or a JD and significant management experience. Job titles vary. A popular recent one making inroads is “Chief of Staff.”

Professional Development is an important feature of every major law firm and an important attorney recruiting enticement. Many of the people who work in these departments have a law degree. The “Legal Career Coach” job title is increasingly popular.

Law Firm Trainer. This position is responsible for both in-house attorney and staff training and for engaging outside trainers as well as identifying appropriate CLE programs.

Legal Knowledge Management is growing as fast as any law firm JD-Advantage discipline. Law firm knowledge managers usually come armed with some computer skills beyond the average attorney’s.

Recruiting. Approximately 50 percent of chief law firm recruiters have a JD.

Pro Bono Coordinators are found in most major law firms.

Complex Case Support Coordinators. These positions are in demand in firms that litigate cases that span more than one practice area or contain more intricacies than normal.

Legal Project Manager. This position assumes overall direction of major firm matters, including both litigation and transactions.

Legal Risk Manager. Expanding firm liability exposures are the impetus for this position.

Diversity Directors monitor law firm diversity hiring and promotion. Their ascendancy is largely the product of demand by firms’ corporate clients.

Law Firm Alumni Relations Directors. This job title derives from the realization that firm alumni can be valuable rainmaking contacts once they move on.

Discovery Officers coordinate the complexities of the discovery and e-discovery.

Privacy Officers maintain a vigil over privacy/cybersecurity matters that are an increasing concern for all law firms.

Law Firm Subsidiaries

Law firms no longer just practice law. Many firms have established subsidiaries (a.k.a. “ancillary businesses”) for two reasons:

  1. To take advantage of the loosening of restrictions on (1) revenue-sharing between attorneys and non-lawyers and (2) attorney-client privilege concerns.
  2. To more effectively counter and compete with the growing number of CPA and other organizations offering what amount to legal services.

The professionals who work directly for these subsidiaries often have a JD.

Medium-size law firms are always creating subsidiaries. This is not surprising because they are increasingly subject to the same pressures as large law firms.  Firms of this size are usually more amenable to considering entry-level attorneys who have the requisite business skills or background to perform these functions.

The Most Popular Subsidiary Topical Areas

The list that follows is a selection:

  • Corporate Compliance
  • Visa Services
  • Public Policy Advice
  • Environmental Risk Assessment
  • Sports Management
  • Economic Development Advisory Services
  • Litigation Support
  • Reputation Management
  • Crisis Management
  • Insurance Recovery
  • Government Relations/Lobbying
  • Employee Relations
  • M&A and Divestiture Consulting
  • Private Wealth Management
  • Intellectual Capital Management
  • Asset Management
  • Fiduciary Real Estate Advising
  • Real Estate Consulting
  • Investment Banking
  • Title Agencies
  • Corporate Restructuring/Turnaround Management
  • Literary Agencies
  • Capital Access Consulting
  • Start-Up Consulting
  • Board of Directors Advising
  • Corporate Training
  • Tax Accounting
  • Talent Agencies
  • Forensic Investigations
  • Infrastructure Project Management
  • Appellate Consulting
  • Disaster Preparedness & Recovery

What This Means

The immense and growing diversity of law firm opportunities is exciting. It means that you can go to work for a major law firm without having to meet the very high academic performance bar demanded of recent law grads or having to work 80-hour weeks and have to meet a billable hour mandate. You can still earn a handsome living while securing a reasonable work-life balance.

Next:  Horizon Expansion 101.2: For-Profit Corporations