Law Firm Primer For Articling Students and New Associates – Part Two: The Practice Group Leader

Photo by Edmond Dantès at Pexels

By Murray Gottheil | October 26, 2023

In Part One, I set out some questions that articling students and young lawyers should ask about the managing partner. This time let’s talk about your practice group leader (PGL).

Here is a list of questions to help you determine the truth:

  1. Is your PGL really a leader or is their title a misnomer?  A useful exercise would be to ask whether your PGL has the attributes of a leader as described by Shonna Waters, PhD: “A leader is someone who: (i) inspires passion and motivation in followers; (ii) with a vision and the path to realizing it; and (iii) ensures their team has support and tools to achieve their goals.”
  2. Alternatively, is your PGL just the lawyer in the department who: (i) has been there the longest; (ii) brings in the most clients; or (iii) generates the most billings?
  3. How does your PGL assign work to you: (i) based exclusively on whatever will help your PGL get their own work done and support their client origination credits?; (ii) with a view to building your confidence and exposing you to more difficult work as your skills improve?; or (iii) as part of a plan to expose you to clients who will eventually see you as their primary contact?
  4. Does your PGL enjoy, and make the time for, teaching and mentoring?
  5. Does your department function as part of the entire firm, adhering to firm values, processes, and procedures, or does your PGL take pride in being an island and boast about how their department does things better than other practice groups?
  6. Will you be working for your PGL or with your PGL?
  7. Is your PGL a narcissist?
  8. Is your PGL honest, ethical, and capable?
  9. Does your PGL have credibility with the managing partner and the other partners, and will working under that PGL reflect well or poorly on you as far as management is concerned?
  10. What are your PGL’s attitudes to things like work/life balance, work from home, parental leaves, and billable hour targets? Are those attitudes consistent with official firm policies?
  11. Is your PGL building the firm’s practice or their own practice?
  12. Does your PGL look forward to the day that you know as much as they do, have your own client base, and become a partner in the firm, or do they just want to squeeze as many billable hours out of you as possible while you are with the firm and then throw you overboard when you have had enough?

If your PGL does not impress you much, working in that department or that firm may not be for you.

If they do, the firm may still not be for you. There are many more interesting folks to meet at your firm before you can really tell whether you will love working there.

Next time: the Chief Operating Officer.

Murray is a happily retired lawyer who lives in the country, drives a pick-up truck, writes, teaches and mentors. You can reach him at [email protected] or see what he is up to at


Law Firm Primer For Articling Students and New Associates – Part One: The Managing Partner

Bad and Worse Advice for Law Firm Associates

Talking to Partners about Problems

Reporting to the Lawyer From Hell

Some Stuff Matters. Some Not So Much

Social Media Auto Publish Powered By :