The Law Firm Pyramid – Finder, Binder, Minder, GrinderThe Grey Matter Team
There has been enough and more discussion about the effective hiring and retention of lawyers at law firms. While management often wonders why they have to tackle the problem of exits, professionals at firms often find themselves frustrated, feeling undervalued and overworked. The larger question being – Is anyone probing further to understand why?
While there could be various reasons amounting to lack of fulfilment and dissatisfaction among lawyers, not all the reasons can be solved by the management. According to the personality-job fit theory, an employee’s personality determines their adaptability, thereby impacting the firm’s performance. So what impact does this have on lawyers and firms? Role mismatch within law firms is a prevalent issue. But we must ask ourselves, is it a role mismatch or an expectation mismatch?
Let us examine the four work personalities: finders, binders, minders, and grinders. Although lawyers must develop skills in all four areas, understanding one’s core strength is crucial. Let us first understand the meaning of each of these roles.
- Finders are rainmakers. They bring in new clients and business to the firm.
- Binders are networkers. They connect, build and nurture relationships.
- Minders are managers. They excel at administrative tasks, hold the organisation together by efficiently managing the firm and its team.
- Grinders are beginners, being minded by the Minders. They are expected to do the bulk of the drudgery work.
Everyone has some aspect of all four qualities, each bringing with it both- advantages and limitations. In the long run, these roles significantly impact the progress of a lawyer’s career and the firm’s performance.
In the Indian law firm context, you will find specific expectations usually aligned with particular designations. Here are the more commonly seen ones:
- Managing Partner as Finder & Minder
- Partner as a Minder
- Principal Associate, Managing Associate as a Binder
- Associate, Senior Associate as a Grinder
Now consider this – what happens if a Partner is excellent at managing the firm (minder) but not great with bringing in new business (finder)? Or what happens if a Managing Associate is passionate about the work deliverables (grinder) but weak on building relationships (binder)? The attributes don’t align with the expectations, which may lead to delayed career progression resulting in attrition.
What can law firms do?
The opportunity for the firm is to take advantage of all of the individual attributes and distribute responsibilities to maximise productivity and optimise individual ability. This could be done by analysing personalities, asking them to define their strengths, their drivers, and what they think they excel at, followed by mapping any gap or disconnect between expectations on both sides. Basis this, management could consider modifying the responsibilities to create more synergy and job satisfaction.
It is important to note that a lawyer cannot be a minder, binder, or finder before excelling as a grinder. Therefore, the first step is to understand the exact role you have been hired to play at a firm. The second step is to identify one’s natural inclination, lead from that strength, and develop at least fundamental skills in the areas that come less naturally. Your ability to hone your skills will determine your career trajectory and success at the firm.