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Reimaging Lawyer Compensation Models: Lessons from the Law Firm COO & CFO Forum

Thomson Reuters

At the recent 21st Annual Law Firm COO & CFO Forum hosted by the Thomson Reuters Institute, a key panel, The New Romantics: Reimagining Purpose & Compensation in Modern Legal Services, discussed the question of compensation in depth, touching on issues of compensation structure, non-compensation benefits, lateral integration, and investment in staff.


It is also important for firms to develop and communicate their non-compensation advantages to potential new hires or laterals, the panel offered, because surveys show those factors can be strong lures and retention mechanisms for top talent. Panelist Shonette Gaston, Chief Operating Officer at Blank Rome, for example, explained that how law firms handle important non-compensation issues like diversity, career advancement, work flexibility, and other advantages has come to matter more than strictly how much money a firm’s lawyers make.

Gaston said she had just returned from a three-day diversity summit the firm hosted for lawyers, staff, and clients that included talk around the firm’s key diversity initiatives, such as going to underrepresented schools and building a program to offer students a chance at becoming a summer associate at the firm. “We have affinity groups, we have training, and we try to make connections when we can,” Gaston added, stressing that this type of integration was critical for new associates and lateral hires, especially those working in hybrid work situations. “We make sure that we’re meeting and spending time with them, and opening the doors for the programs that we have at the firm for them.”

Integration and investment questions

Gaston and other panelists pointed out that hybrid work environment is very different, especially in terms of how new lawyers are integrated. “We still try to make sure that they’re always included in committees, we ask them to participate by Zoom or Teams, and we do ask that they come to their office,” she said. “In fact, we assign everybody to an office, and then each lateral has mentors that are assigned to them through that office.”

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"Reimaging Lawyer Compensation Models: Lessons from the Law Firm COO & CFO Forum," by Gregg Wirth was published in Thomson Reuters on December 8, 2022.