How to Exclude Associates and Other Partners

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By George Khoury, Esq. on October 26, 2018 6:57 AM

When it comes right down to it, sometimes you don't want every attorney at the firm on your cases. But, at small firms, it may be difficult to exclude the other attorneys, especially when an interesting or lucrative case comes through the door.

However, below, you can read a few tips on how to do so without causing any hurt feelings or reputational slights.

Strategic Exclusion

Sometimes you want to exclude certain people not because you don't want their help, but rather because you don't want to spread an employee too thin (at least that's the nice way to say it). A recent report in the Harvard Business Review explains this rather succinctly in relation to the business world.

It's not uncommon that the most collaborative attorneys that seem to have their hands in every case are the ones that are the most at risk of burning out. And frankly, you don't need every lawyer in the office for every case. And while this may be easy enough to explain to an associate, partners may not take it as amicably. In the end, it's all about using the resources at your disposal to create the most benefit.

Excluding Partners

When a partner wants in on a case, it might be a little bit trickier to exclude them, and you may need to think of a beyond-reasonable explanation as to why you'd prefer they didn't step in to assist (or worse, take over if you're not a partner yourself). If it's a fellow partner, you can explain how a client (or court) might not think two senior attorneys should be billing the case, and that their time is more valuable to the firm elsewhere.

If you're not a partner, try to elicit the help of another partner that agrees with you, and might be able to get the hungry partner to back down. Though be mindful of office politics and think very carefully about your actions towards superiors.

"Thoughtful Exclusion"

As the HBR authors explained, when it comes to excluding your coworkers, being thoughtful is critical. It is explained that when people expect to be included and are not, they may have an emotional response that can harm their productivity. To prevent that, the report explains that setting clear expectations that not everyone will be included on every project is a major key.

The other key takeaway involves how you explain to the people that get excluded that their exclusion isn't a slight, but rather your way of respecting their time, current workload and particular expertise.

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