Helloooooooo Happier Better Nation!!
There's an old saying that there are only three types of lawyers at a law firm: Grinders, Finders and Minders. To use shorthand a "Grinder" is a worker bee, a "Finder" is a rainmaker and a "Minder" is a service partner/associate. More detailed definitions in the "appendix" below. The wisdom in the saying is that your lawyer category will substantially determine your happiness, advancement and financial rewards at the firm.
Ultimately, I believe this saying is both useful AND outdated. The saying is useful because your happiness and success at the firm ARE largely determined by the lawyer category you occupy at certain phases of your career. Talk to a 7th year associate who's still a Worker Bee, uh...Grinder, and see how happy they are.
The Grinder/Finder/Minder saying is also outdated, however, because attorneys can no longer only operate within one category. Here are three key reasons why:
- Increased billable hour minimums for all attorneys (including partners) make it hard to only be a Finder (Rainmaker);
- Broader business development requirements for all attorneys, make it unsustainable to only be a Minder (Service Partner/Associate); and
- Heightened senior staffing expectations from clients, force partners and senior attorneys to do more of the work themselves (Yaaay, everybody's a Worker Bee!)
The result of these changes in law firm work requirements is that all lawyers (associates AND partners!) now fall into 4 hybrid categories:
Again, check out the "appendix" below if you want full definitions of each individual category.
Why should you care about what category you or your lawyers are in?
- Understanding your lawyer category at the firm -- and whether that category aligns with your career stage and personal goals -- can help you set your goals for assignments, working relationships and non-billable work activity.
- Finder/Minders have the best time worked/money made/happiness felt balance at the firm. If your trajectory at the firm doesn't include a heavy dose of Finder/Minder in the future, you're in for some challenges. Here's a matrix showing why:
Lawyers who spend the majority of their time as Finder/Minders are the happiest:
- They are paid the most for the least overall time in the office;
- They get to work on the more sophisticated and more challenging projects, but don't have to do all of the grunt work; and
- They still get to interact with clients who value their insight and counsel.
If you're looking for the best work/life/compensation balance at the firm AND you'd like to advance at the firm, I suggest you work towards becoming a Finder/Minder.
Want to know more, including how to be an INTRA-preneur and get into the lawyer category that aligns with your career stage and goals?
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Love you guys Happier Better Nation! Now get back to work!
Appendix: More Detailed Definitions of Finders, Minders and Grinders:
I've defined each of the Grinder/Finder/Minder categories based on:
- How the person spends the majority of their time at the firm;
- Their supervisory responsibilities if any; and
- Their main value to the firm.
Here are my more detailed definitions of Finders, Minders and Grinders:
- Finders: Finders spend most of their time finding new clients and new billable work. They sometimes supervise the associates who actually execute the work they bring in, and they spend a significant amount of their time on client management and potential client interactions. A Finder's main value to the firm is the new business they bring in. The old law firm paradigm often called these folks "Rainmakers."
- Minders: Minders spend most of their time managing complex projects that others have brought in, and they perform some of the day-to-day work. Minders also supervise the lawyers who perform some of the work, and help manage the client relationship. Minders have two main values to the firm--their ability to manage a complex project with multiple staff to completion, and their ability to assist with client management. The old law firm paradigm often called these folks "Service Partners."
- Grinders: Grinders spend most of their time doing the client work that others have brought in. They rarely supervise anyone, and usually have very little direct client interaction. A Grinder's main value to the firm is the amount of hours they bill that can be charged to the client. The old law firm paradigm often called these folks "Associates." :-)
Which type of lawyer are you?
Do you agree with my new categorization of law firm lawyers?
Do you agree that Finder/Minders are the happiest and have the best balance?
Please let me know in the comments!