Human Resources and Law

Law firm saves 'younger' seat on management committee

February 12, 2014
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Law firm's management committee takes cues from younger partners
Douglas Donnell. Courtesy Mika Meyers Beckett & Jones

A law firm is keeping with tradition by electing one of its younger partners to its 2014 management committee.

At Mika Meyers Beckett & Jones, William Horn, chair, is serving year two of his two-year term, and Douglas Donnell and Benjamin Zainea are both newly elected. Donnell will serve a two-year term, and Zainea will serve a one-year term.

Zainea is one of the firm’s younger partners, and his appointment to the committee is part of what Donnell said is the firm’s unique approach to how it operates.

For at least two decades now, the firm has required that one of its three management committee seats be filled with one of its younger partners.

“There are several objectives and purposes that are served by that,” explained Donnell, who has served on the committee previously, twice in the younger partner seat.

Perspective

Donnell said that one reason has to do with the unique perspective a younger attorney can bring to the table.

“It was felt that we are all in this together, and it would be important to have a broad perspective of viewpoints reflected in the management committee, so that was one reason,” he said.

Donnell said that the decision has proven very successful and benefitted the firm numerous times over the past 20 years.

“There have been a number of occasions when the younger attorney has both expressed a viewpoint that may be less obvious to older attorneys, but is very obvious to the younger attorneys that we as a firm need to address,” Donnell said.

Running a business

The other is that it provides valuable training to the firm’s younger partners.

“It has been our firm's belief that it is useful and beneficial for younger attorneys to actually understand and see how their law firm is managed, not only from a financial side, but from a management side, from a practice-area standpoint,” Donnell said.

“It’s our sense that the young attorneys who go through a term or two on the management committee have a much better understanding of the business of law and actually it makes them better lawyers. They too will have run a business just as many of our clients run businesses, so it familiarizes young attorneys with operating a good-sized business.”

Client insight

Donnell noted that often younger attorneys are working closely with small clients or on smaller issues and can provide valuable insights into what those clients' needs are better than more senior attorneys who are likely working with larger clients or larger cases.

“A lot of times, if you are working with smaller clients or matters, you are sensitive to the kinds of pressures that those clients place on you . . .  and the firm as the provider of their legal services,” Donnell said. “They may feel pressures that I, for instance, might not, and that is really valuable for the firm as a whole, because those needs and those client pressures need to be addressed, and they play out in different aspects of our practice. If you are not mindful of those clients' needs, I think you can overlook a key element of the service that you are providing to those clients.”

In 2014, the committee will focus on big picture, longer-term objectives and day-to-day operations objectives, according to Donnell.

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