by lawshucks on February 11, 2010

BigLaw partners have typically been lumped into three categories "Finders, Minders, and Grinders."

This is the first in a multi-part series on those traditional notions and how they’re playing out in the current BigLaw environment.

After the jump, we start at the top of the foodchain: The Finder.

There is some overlap among the roles, but this really is a hierarchy. Big firm lawyers will all say they’re higher on the list, or emphasize that it’s important to be able to play all three positions, but at the end of the day – Finder is where it’s at.

Finders are the rainmakers and figureheads. While they do some client work, the vast majority of their time is spent cruising for new clients. There are some Finders who are just so excellent in their field that they draw in work on reputation alone, but those are as rare as the Yangtze River Dolphin.

That’s not to diminish the work Finders do – it’s hard out here for a pimp, when he tryin’ to get his money for the rent for the Cadillacs and the gas money spent. Everyone is hustling for the same diminishing pie.

Clients are farming out less work. First and foremost, that means there’s just less work going out to firms. But an ancillary effect is that clients are doing more work themselves, which means they also have less time to spend listening to pitches. Make no bones about it – bringing in new clients is hard. That’s why we try to note whenever firms get work from pitches, like Shearman did with Shiseido.

Finders live off origination credit. Unfortunately, that also means that they’re the best at the dirtiest game in town – screwing partners and associates out of origination credit. This doesn’t get talked about much, but Finders are obsessed with it. They know how tough it is to land a client, so any time there’s even a remote attenuation to work they brought in, you can bet Finder will be fighting for credit.

Even worse is what they do to associates. Since Finders are naturally personable and have the best tickets and expense budgets, they can weave a spell over unwitting associates who get swept up in the wooing process. They confuse Finder’s salesmanship with his being a "good guy." Then the associate’s friend calls because his startup is being acquired by Google and can Associate do the deal? Of course! But associates can’t open new client accounts – only partners can. Finder would be more than happy to help, of course. Associate might even get a nice little kicker to her bonus that year. "Trust me," Finder says, "when you make partner (and oh boy will this look good for you!), we’ll give origination credit to you."

Then one of two things happens: client blows up, in which case there’s no way Finder is giving up credit; or client ditches the firm because the bills are so high from all the extra cooks in the kitchen (or three things – Associate doesn’t make partner and it’s all irrelevant).

Finders also tend to have responsibility for a significant part of the administrative work for the firm (because how can any self-respecting rainmaker not be the head of his practice area/on the management committee?). As with client work, that tends to get pushed down, although Finders do tend to show up at events.

The true Finder can be recognized by the inverse correlation between his billable hours and compensation. It’s not his job to do the work, it’s his job to bring it in.

Made-up Latin-sounding classification: Balaenoptera Avocatus

Billable hours: No more than 800.

Compensation: Top 5% of firm.

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