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Is This a Law Firm Management Trend That Is Likely To Catch-On?

For many years, several leading business advisors have suggested that law firms need to broaden their management horizons by employing law firm CEOs who are not themselves lawyers.

Many lawyers either dislike or show a lack of ability to managing law firms and yet there are frequently management professionals readily available to take charge and run the practice.

However in what American Lawyer report as a rarity for a Big Law firm, Lasthrop GPM has handed over management of a key practice area to a non-lawyer, Kate Tompkins who will head their intellectual property practice group.

“Kate’s expansive knowledge of our firm’s IP clients, partners, and processes makes her ideally situated to lead our intellectual property practice group,” Lathrop’s managing partner, Cameron Garrison, said in a statement. “She understands that, at Lathrop GPM, we consider our IP practice a boutique within a full-service law firm. Kate brings a client-first focus to the many and varied skills necessary to run an IP group.”

Tompkins started in business development before taking over IP operations before her business-related responsibilities were increased given the success she was having. Tompkins had previously held business development or related roles at Nixon Peabody, Latham & Watkins and Ropes & Gray.

Law Firm Management Trajectory

Garrison provided a number business-related accomplishments Tompkins had achieved as part of the trajectory that lead to the current role, which included setting up scalable systems, processes and technology for billing.

“I am proud of this group and all that we have accomplished and will achieve as we further expand our practice in the life sciences, mechanical, chemical, and electrical engineering arts,” Tompkins said in a statement. “Our team of IP professionals throughout the country supports an ever-evolving platform for our clients. We are well-positioned to continue our exciting growth trajectory.”

That role led to this latest appointment as the IP practice head.

Garrison, the firm’s managing partner, said the unconventional move was supported by the partners in the practice, who had come to know Tompkins as someone who got the job done. 

“As a firm, our culture focuses on innovation and consistently improves upon the value and service that we add to our clients,” he said in an email. “Accordingly, when we realized how well Kate managed the firm’s IP practice group, the logical evolution was to have her lead the group, and all of the IP partners supported this decision.”

Garrison said that Tompkins will have the same authority as any other practice head at the firm, including “expense and revenue budgeting and recruiting across all levels of the IP practice group, including attorneys.”

The concept of having a business professional officially head a practice group has been rare in execution.  

However, the move to have non-lawyers act in a law firm management role is one that is likely to catch on with firms seeking increased professionalism and management experience to propel their businesses forward.

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