Managing Partners Forum

We have enjoyed working with John Remsen and his talented team. The Managing Partner Forum provides excellent content that truly assists in operating a successful business in today’s challenging environment.

Heather L. Rosing, Esq.
Klinedinst PC - San Diego, California

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MPF Surveys

From time to time, The Managing Partner Forum conducts surveys of managing partners on issues important to leading a successful law firm. We hope you find them helpful.


  • Billable Hour Expectations
    by Managing Partner Forum and TheRemsenGroup

    In this MPF Featured Resource we share bench-marking data we collected at this time last year about Billable Hour Expectations at smaller and midsize law firms. Two hundred and thirteen (213) law firms – ranging in size form 10-200 lawyers participated – and we broke the data down by Equity Partners, Non-Equity Partners, and Associates. Here is what we found.
    Equity Partners
    Firms have a wide range of billable hour expectations for their owners, with an average of about 1,600 hours per year.
    Non-Equity Partners
    The range is tighter for non-equity partners, with an average of 1,750 hours per year. About 70% of midsize firms have multi-tiered partnership structures.
    Firms have an even tighter and higher range for their associate attorneys at about 1,800 hours per year.

  • Audience Polling Results from
    The MPF 2022 Ledership Conference

    by Managing Partner Forum and TheRemsenGroup

    At The MPF 2022 Leadership Conference held last month, we used live audience polling to ask 100 managing partners and law firm leaders in attendance a series of questions to assess how smaller and midsize law firms are evolving and adapting to the changing legal profession. “Associate Retention” and “Firm Culture” have rocketed to the top concerns for leaders of smaller and midsize law firms. Nearly 80% of firm leaders indicated that these are the top two challenges facing their firms for the next three years. Here are a few other findings:

    • Eighteen percent (18%) reported that “Partner Attrition” is a major concern.
    • Fifty-two percent (52%) reported that “Associate Retention” is a major concern.
    • Thirty percent (30%) reported that "Staff Attrition" is a major concern.
    The answer? Tune into your people. Ask them what they want in their jobs and careers, and work to build a culture that attracts and retains tomorrow’s talent. It is simply not feasible for most small and midsize firms to match “BigLaw” when it comes to compensation, so we suggest a different way to compete. The answer, my friends, is Firm culture.

  • Audience Polling Results from
    The MPF 2019 Leadership Conference 

    by Managing Partner Forum and TheRemsenGroup

    The MPF 2019 Law Firm Leadership Survey  

    by Managing Partner Forum and TheRemsenGroup

    We conducted The MPF 2019 Law Firm Leadership Survey in April, with managing partners and firm leaders from 167 law firms participating. It’s the most comprehensive survey about how smaller and midsize US law firms are adapting to the changing marketplace for legal services. This year, we asked about investment in technology and how firms use KPIs to measure and improve firm performance. Here are a few findings:

    • 54% of firms have a written firm-wide strategic plan. Another 34% are considering one. 
    • 80% of firms with plans attribute improved firm performance to the plan. 
    • Top strategic priorities are Marketing/Business Development, Succession Planning and Improving Lawyer Productivity.
    • 45% of firms have moved toward more structured governance models in the last five years.
    • 71% of firms have adopted a multi-tiered partnership structure.
    • 77% of firms don't measure client satisfaction in a systematic way. 
    • 71% of firms don't measure employee satisfaction.  
    The survey consisted of 40 questions and provides an abundance of timely bench-marking data. 

  • Audience Polling Results from
    The MPF 2018 Leadership Conference

    by TheRemsenGroup

    Each year, we ask participants at The MPF Leadership Conference a series of questions about how their firms are evolving and adapting to the changing legal profession. We ask a question, the managing partners vote, the answers appear, and we discuss what it means. Think “Ask the Audience” on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” It’s a great way to start the day and provides participants timely information to share back home. Here are a few findings:

    • Forty-five percent (45%) of firm leaders are dissatisfied with their firm’s current culture.
    • Sixty-four percent (64%) report “mixed success” with lateral hiring.
    • Ten percent (10%) say they use psychological testing as part of their hiring process.
    • “Succession planning” tops the list of biggest challenges, leap-frogging “Marketing” for the first time.
    How would you answer the polling questions for your firm?

  • ALA-MPF 2017 Leadership & Governance Survey
    by Managing Partner Forum and Association of Legal Administrators

  • Audience Polling Results from
    The MPF 2017 Leadership Conference

    by Managing Partner Forum

    During our opening session, we deploy audience polling technology to query participating managing partners on a variety of topics. It’s a great way to start the Conference, and provides participants with timely bench-marking data they can take back to their firms and share with colleagues. Here are a handful of some of the more interesting findings:

    • Thirty-eight percent (38%) say their firms require individual lawyer marketing plans.
    • Thirty-two percent (32%) of firm leaders report they provide marketing and business development training.
    • Seven percent (7%) report they are doing an “excellent” job identifying and grooming future firm leaders.
    • Forty-eight percent (48%) have adopted a more formal governance model in the last five years.
    • The top three issues impacting the legal profession over the next ten years? Pricing for legal services, technology and disruption from non-law firms.
    As with The MPF Leadership & Governance Survey, this is important bench-marking information to share and discuss with your colleagues.

  • The MPF 2017 Leadership & Governance Survey
    by Managing Partner Forum, Jaffe and TheRemsenGroup

    We presented highlights of the survey during the Opening Session of The MPF Leadership Conference and we’re pleased to share the raw survey results of this year’s MPF Leadership & Governance Survey. The survey consisted of about 40 questions and 154 managing partners and firm leaders participated. They lead firms ranging in size from 10-200 lawyers. Here are some of the highlights:

    • Fifty-nine percent (59%) of managing partners do not have a written job description.
    • Among those with job descriptions, eighty-one percent (81%) are glad they have one.
    • Among those without job descriptions, eighty-five percent (85%) do not want one.
    • MPs say the most important contribution is “consensus building,” followed by achieving long-term “strategic objectives” and being a “change agent.”
    • Twenty-nine percent (29%) of firm leaders are grooming their successor.
    • Fifty-one percent (51%) of firms hold monthly partnership meetings with the firm administrator playing an active role in partnership meetings in fifty-four percent (54%) of firms.
    • Thirty-four percent (34%) of firms hold an annual Firm Retreat, with thirty-eight percent (38%) holding them every two or three years.
    • Twenty-four percent (24%) of firm leaders report their firms provide leadership training for their lawyers.
    • Forty-two percent (42%) of firm leaders say their firms have a more formal governance than five years ago.
    • The biggest challenges affecting firm profitability are: lawyer productivity, pressure on rates and competition from other law firms.
    These few findings are just the “tip of the iceberg” of what you’ll find in this year’s survey.

  • The MPF 2016 Law Firm Leadership & Governance Survey
    by Jaffe, National Law Review and Managing Partner Forum

    This survey drills down on leadership and governance models at smaller and mid-size US law firms. Conducted in April 2016, the survey consists of 40 questions and 147 managing partners and firm leaders participated.

  • Audience Polling Results from MPF 2016 Leadership Conference
    by Managing Partner Forum

    Each year at the MPF Leadership Conference, we deploy audience polling technology to pose 20-25 questions to participating firm leaders. The results are anonymous and instantaneous. These survey results include participation from 86 managing partners who attended The MPF Leadership Conference in May 2016.

  • MPF 2015 Survey of Smaller and Mid-Size Law Firms
    by Managing Partner Forum and Thomson Reuters

    Earlier this year, we partnered with Thomson Reuters to conduct the most comprehensive survey on the state of smaller and mid-size US law firms. One hundred sixty five (165) managing partners and firm leaders participated, representing firms with 10 to 250 lawyers. This data is simply the best benchmarking information available on a wide range of issues important to mid-size US law firms. Here are just a few "factoids" from the survey:

    • Fifty-six percent (56%) of firm leaders hold the title "Managing Partner." "Chief Executive Officer" is the second most popular job title at eight percent (8%), followed by "President" at seven percent (7%).
    • Fifty-five percent (55%) of firm leaders say they do not have job descriptions associated with their leadership roles.
    • Forty-one percent (41%) of participating firms belong to at least one law firm network, such as ALFA International, Meritas or TAGLaw.
    • Topping the list of firm-wide strategic objectives for 2015-2016: Stepping up Marketing/Business Development Program, Investing in Cohesive Firm Culture and Enhancing Current Practice Areas of the Firm.
    • Topics in which law firm leaders are most interested: Marketing/Business Development, Law Firm Profitability and Law Firm Innovation.
    There's lots more in this survey data and it's great information to share with your partners. We'll be providing our insights and recommendations on these and other subject areas in upcoming issues of MPF Weekly.

  • 2014 Managing Partner Social Media Survey – Part 2
    by Jaffe and Managing Partner Forum

    This summer, we partnered with Jaffe to conduct the most comprehensive survey about how smaller and mid-size law firms and their leaders are dealing with social media. Part 1 was released last month and it covered managing partners’ use of and attitudes about social media. Click here to take a look. Part 2 looks at what law firms are doing in terms of policy, training and other issues. One-hundred twenty-eight (128) firms participated, and you may be surprised at how few mid-size firms are on top of the situation. Here are a few highlights:

    • Thirty-eight percent (38%) of smaller and mid-size firms have a social media policy in place.
    • Forty-two percent (42%) provide social media training; Sixteen percent (16%) make it mandatory.
    • Fifty-nine percent (59%) have a firm LinkedIn page.
    • BigLaw is way ahead in this important and evolving area. Eighty-four percent (84%) have policies and eighty-one percent (81%) provide training.
    • Enhancing relationships with current clients and referral sources is perceived to be the primary benefit social media provides the firm.
    It’s dangerous to assume that your lawyers and staff will behave properly on the Internet. Is your firm on top of the situation? If not, it should be! For starters, click here to download Jaffe’s policy template.

  • 2014 Managing Partner Social Media Survey – Part 1
    by Jaffe and The Managing Partner Forum

    We’re pleased to send you part 1 (part 2 will be released later this month) of our first annual survey about how law firm leaders and their firms are dealing with social media. Part 1 presents our findings of managing partner attitudes and behaviors when it comes to social media, with a specific focus on LinkedIn. One-hundred nineteen (119) firm leaders participated and here are some of the highlights:

    • Thirty-nine percent (39%) say it’s “exciting” and they love it.
    • Thirty-six percent (36%) describe it as a “necessary evil.”
    • Younger firm leaders (<50 years old) are more enthusiastic than more senior firm leaders.
    • Eighty-six percent (86%) say they have a LinkedIn profile.
    • Thirty-seven percent (37%) access LinkedIn daily, while twenty-five percent (25%) go there weekly.
    • Eighty-nine percent (89%) on LinkedIn say they belong to at least one LinkedIn Group.
    Interesting reading, indeed, with more to follow. By the way, click here to join the MPF LinkedIn Group if you’re not already a member.

  • Goals, Measures, and Scorecards:
    Law Firms Fixated on Today's Billable Hours and Collections

    by John Sterling and John Remsen, Jr.

    In June 2014, we published the results and commentary for the Leadership Matters survey about goals, measures and scorecards. The classic “balanced scorecard” measures an individual's contributions to an organization in four critically important areas: financial contributions, client satisfaction, people development, and internal process and procedures. What do law firms measure? Fifty-six firm leaders participated in our survey and here are a few of the highlights:

    • Ninety-six percent (96%) say their firms do an “excellent” or “solid” job measuring financial contributions (i.e. billable hours, collections and origination)
    On the other hand…
    • Sixty-six  percent (66%) have “limited” or “no” measurements in the area of people development,
    • Sixty-three percent (63%) have “limited” or “no” measurements of internal process and procedures, and
    • Ninety-one percent (91%) have “limited” or “no” measurements of client satisfaction.
    What gets measured gets done. What gets measured improves. With all the attention on today’s billable hours and collections, it’s no wonder that investments in the firm’s future are so often overlooked or neglected.

  • A Slow-Motion Riot:
    The Use of Alternative Fee Arrangements Creeps Forward…Ever So Slowly

    by John Sterling and John Remsen, Jr.

    In April 2014, we surveyed managing partners on the topic of alternative fee arrangements. Fifty-two firm leaders participated and here are a few of the highlights:

    • 50% report less than 10% of firm revenue is derived through alternative fee arrangements
    • 56% say the use of alternative fees will continue to increase
    • Fixed fees are by far the #1 type of alternative fee arrangement

  • Strategic Planning Improves Firm Performance
    by John Sterling and John Remsen, Jr.

    In March 2014, we surveyed managing partners on the topic of strategic planning and implementation. One hundred-twenty firm leaders participated and told us that more firms are doing it (60%) and they’re having good results (80%).

    Of those firms with plans…

    •  93% gathered input from the firm’s partners
    •  52% gathered input from associates and staff
    •  29% gathered input from clients and referral sources
    •  51% engaged outside consultants
    Of those without plans…
    •  36% say they don’t have the time to create one
    •  36% say they can’t convince their partners of the need
    •  15% say they don’t need one
    In today’s dog-eat-dog marketplace, law firms need strategic plans. Leadership and accountability are critical to successful implementation. 

    This survey was also the feature article in June 2014 issue of ALA's Legal Management magazine.

  • Leadership Determines
    Practice Group Effectiveness

    by John Sterling and John Remsen, Jr.

    We’re pleased to feature the results of our second MPF Leadership Matters online survey. Last month, we asked firm leaders to share the responsibilities and roles of practice groups in their firms. Eighty-one managing partners, mostly from smaller and mid-size firms, participated. Among the highlights:

    • 51% of firm leaders say their practice groups are effective
    • Firms with the most effective practice groups expect more from the group leaders
    • 27% of firms have job descriptions for practice group leaders
    • 32% provide some type of training for their group leaders
    Importantly, we’ve included our recommendations at the end of the commentary.

  • Law Firm Compensation Systems and Partner Satisfaction  
    by John Sterling and John Remsen, Jr.

    In January 2014, we asked firm leaders to generally describe their firm’s compensation systems (i.e. formula vs. subjective, open vs. closed) and tell us how satisfied their partners are on balance with their firm’s system. 138 managing partners, mostly from mid-size firms, participated. Among the highlights:

    • The most common type of system? Subjective, informed by objective data.
    • The system with highest partner satisfaction? Purely objective, formula-based.
    • 75% of compensation systems are described as “fully open.” Less than 10% are “fully closed.”
    • Partners from the smallest firms are the least satisfied with their firm’s compensation system.
    Importantly, we’ve included our recommendations to firm leaders at the end of the commentary.

  • Overwhelming Majority of Mid-Size Firms
    Have Moved to Multi-Tiered Partnership Structures

    by John Remsen, Jr.

    At The MPF 2013 Leadership Conference, we asked 75 managing partners of mid-size law firms a series of questions about leadership and the business of law. We utilized audience participation technology to elicit instant, anonymous responses. 

    Among the questions, we asked about two-tiered partnership structures, something we’re seeing more and more in our work with smaller and mid-size firms. But, we were not fully aware of the magnitude of this fundamental change in law firm ownership. 

    More than 3/4 of managing partners – 77% to be exact – reported that their firms operate under a multi-tiered partnership structure, while another 16% are considering it. Just 7% said they intend to remain in a single-tiered structure. There are many reasons why it makes good business sense for most law firms.

  • Smaller and Mid-Size Law Firms Need
    Clearly Defined Criteria for Partnership  

    by John Remsen, Jr.

    At The MPF 2013 Leadership Conference, we deployed audience polling technology to ask 75 managing partners if their firms had clearly defined criteria for partnership set forth in writing. A whopping 43% said no. At MPF, we believe that ownership in a law firm should be dear and reserved for those lawyers who think and act like owners, not long-time employees. That means they bring clients, leadership, mentoring, and a “firm-first” mindset and attitude to the firm. We further believe that the criteria for partnership – both equity and non-equity, if yours is a two-tiered firm – should be clear, unambiguous and in writing. They should be specific, measurable and understood by all the lawyers at your firm...even your first-year associates.

  • Succeeding at Law Firm Leadership: 
    Seven Strategies to Implement Now

    by John Remsen, Jr.

    We all know that leading lawyers is hardly ever easy. They are highly skeptical. They don't like change. They hate risk. They love autonomy. And they have a high sense of urgency. In this month's MPF Perspective, we provide seven steps to help you become a more effective firm leader. Step #1? Develop a job description for you and others in leadership roles in the firm.

  • Your Firm Administrator: It's the Best Investment Your Firm Can Make
    by John Remsen, Jr.

    Over the years, we've worked with hundreds of law firms and, at this stage of the game, it's pretty easy to tell whether or not the firm has a great firm administrator the minute I walk in the door. With a great administrator, the place looks good. The people are highly qualified and well-trained. The firm's systems and procedures run smoothly. And, almost always, the firm enjoys exceptional profitability. Does your firm have one?

  • Managing Partners and LinkedIn: Are We There Yet?
    by John Remsen, Jr.

    A recent survey by LexisNexis says that 62% of US lawyers now use social media for professional networking purposes, and the number continues to grow every day. Furthermore, LinkedIn has emerged as the place for professionals to meet and mingle. There are more than 1.5 million lawyers there. But have law firm managing partners joined the party?      

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