Following the deep economic recession of 2008, more and more corporate legal departments and general counsel have demanded concessions on hourly rates, volume discounts, and alternative fee arrangements. While the traditional law firm pyramid model is far from extinct and likely will never go away, questions exist whether it is flexible enough to meet these demands.

In the pyramid model, the base is broad and comprises a pool of associates that generally narrows as they advance toward partnership. Depending on the firm, this narrowing continues through senior associates and income partners to the much narrower top of equity partners. As you move up the pyramid, compensation and hourly rates increase. In a true pyramid model, an attorney either moves up or moves out if they do not make it to the next level.

While this model has been extremely successful for over a century, it excludes mid- to experienced-level attorneys that are highly qualified to provide legal services, but do not want the additional demands of the traditional law firm. For example, an attorney that is a parent with young children may want to work a 30-40 hour week, but cannot handle the demands of a heavy litigation load. Or, a partner-level attorney that prefers providing legal services over developing new business.

Another model — referred to as the “Diamond” — focuses a significant portion of the attorney work force on the middle. This includes senior associates and partner-level attorneys that are experienced and capable, but do not want to be on the traditional equity partnership track. Staff attorneys as well as para-professionals are additional staffing opportunities. By maintaining the overhead load low, a diamond law firm theoretically can provide legal services at lower costs to clients. Additional efficiency can be gained by a diamond shaped firm by focusing the firm’s business on one or a few practice areas, e.g. a “boutique” model.

In my next blog post, I will analyze the diamond law firm model more thoroughly and provide additional thoughts on how it can possibly be transformative to the legal market.

Read more blogs by author: Darin M. Klemchuk

About the Blog: Culture Counts is a blog devoted to the discussion of law firm culture and corporate core values. Frequent topics include positive work environment, conscious capitalism, entrepreneurial management, positive workplace culture, workplace productivity, and corporate core values

About the Firm: Klemchuk LLP is an Intellectual Property (IP), Technology, Internet, and Business law firm located in Dallas, TX. The firm offers comprehensive legal services including litigation and enforcement of all forms of IP as well as registration and licensing of patents, trademarks, trade dress, and copyrights. The firm also provides a wide range of technology, Internet, e-commerce, and business services including business planning, formation, and financing, mergers and acquisitions, business litigation, data privacy, and domain name dispute resolution. Additional information about the IP law firm and its IP attorneys may be found at www.klemchuk.com.