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BigLawMoney and Meaning in the Modern Law Firm$
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Mitt Regan and Lisa H. Rohrer

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226741949

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226742274.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 18 May 2022

The Symbolic Economy of Compensation

The Symbolic Economy of Compensation

(p.146) 7 The Symbolic Economy of Compensation

Mitt Regan

Lisa H. Rohrer

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 7 describes how law firm compensation systems have not only financial but symbolic importance. Partners see compensation decisions as allocations of respect, in that they signify how the firm values the contributions that they make. In particular, such decisions indicate the weight that a firm gives to traditional professional standards of excellence compared to the business skills that have become increasingly important in the modern law firm. The fact that most firms distribute information about compensation to all partners in the firm means that partners are able to compare their compensation with those whom they regard as comparable to themselves. To the extent that there is a divergence between the partners compensation and those of the comparison group, a partner may feel devalued. In addition, beyond the formal compensation that a firm provides, bargaining with other partners in the firm about billing credit also can be a process in which a partner may feel devalued by peers. These dynamics create a challenge for law firm in attempting to elicit loyalty and commitment from their partners. Interviews indicate that a firm and the major partners within it must credibly convey that they value both traditional professional skills and business skills.

Keywords:   compensation, symbolism of compensation, rainmakers, service partners, billing credit

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