Have you delegated your firm’s management function? Has that created a “black hole” for violating the RPC?

Another rule change being considered by The State Bar of California is Rule 5.1 concerning the responsibilities of supervising lawyers.  The rule provides that partners and other lawyers with managerial authority in a law firm must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the firm has in effect measures giving reasonable assurances that all lawyers in the firm conform to the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Further, the rule provides that a “… lawyer shall be responsible for another lawyer’s violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct if: (1) the lawyer orders or, with knowledge of the specific conduct, ratifies the conduct involved; or (2) the lawyer is a partner or has comparable managerial authority in the law firm in which the other lawyer practices, or has direct supervisory authority over the other lawyer, and knows of the conduct at a time when its consequences can be avoided or mitigated but fails to take reasonable remedial action.”

Paragraph (b) is intended to apply to lawyers who have supervisory authority over the work of other lawyers in a firm. Paragraph (c) is intended to impose personal responsibility on a lawyer for the acts of another lawyer in the law firm….[2] Paragraph (a) requires lawyers with managerial authority within a law firm to make reasonable efforts to establish internal policies and procedures designed to … ensure that inexperienced lawyers are properly supervised.”

1.    Are you sure you really want to be a partner with such heavy responsibility? In “eat what you kill” law firms, most of the lawyers fail to pay attention to management issues. They tend to be focused only on rainmaking and their own billable hours. This leaves a lot of room for error by others … and personal responsibility for the “rainmaker.”

2.    How does you firm allocate new work? Who makes the assignments? What is the basis for the assignments, skill, availability, favoritism?

3.    How does your firm ensure that skills are maintained? How does your firm ensure that skills are improved? What kind of education efforts are conducted by you or your firm?

Your answers can determine whether you grow or whether you wither on the vine as competitors improve their position.


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