In a California law office, there are typically many employees in addition to the lawyers. If you want to be a more informed client, it may help to know who these employees are. It may also help if you know what it is exactly they do in the California law office.
Being an informed client is one good way of making the most out of your lawyer’s representation. Although your lawyer can certainly work without needing much help from you, his effectiveness may increase if you are directly involved with what is going on at the California law office. And one step of becoming involved is familiarizing yourself with a California law office’s hierarchy.
Below are some of the individuals you will find typically employed in a California law office:
The owners of a California law office are commonly referred to as partners. Most of the time, those lawyers that made it to partner, whether senior or junior, are veterans in legal counseling or litigation or have “earned their keep” in the firm, so to say. That is why it is considered a prestigious advantage to become a partner in a California law office or firm.
Because partners in a California law office are experienced lawyers, their services are guaranteed to be the best that the firm can offer. Consequently, the fees they charge are among the highest.
A grade below the partners is the associates. Associates in a California law office are lawyers who are employed by a firm but are not owners. They do not enjoy the same privileges as a partner in charging high fees, but they can be very good lawyers although typically less experienced. Depending on the California law office, it may take ten years for an associate to be considered for partnership.
Sometimes, a California law office may hire an independent lawyer outside the firm to do part-time work. Sometimes, there are specialized cases where no one in the firm has an experience in handling. To make up for that, they may hire someone from the outside to give them some background on how this particular case is handled. The California law office will usually pay a contract lawyer on an hourly basis and then bill out his or her time at a higher rate in order to cover overhead costs and hopefully make a profit off the lawyer’s work.
Of Counsel Lawyers
Many California law offices develop an affiliation with one or more lawyers under an “of counsel” arrangement. By “of counsel”, it is meant that the California law office is employing the lawyer to act as the firm’s counsel. A law firm is a business and a business may need some legal advice from someone who is in a better position to offer it objectively because he is not involved in the business itself.
Someone has to do the paperwork. It has been a tradition for as long as there have been lawyers to have law students clerk for California law offices while they are going to law school. They will do legal research and otherwise assist lawyers in preparing cases and working on other law-related mattes. Hiring a law clerk is one way for a California law office to recruit new lawyers.