Traditionally top-tier firms have maintained profit by undertaking sophisticated matters so important to clients that price was a secondary concern. This work has never lent itself to management from afar: by definition the work itself resists standardization, and attorneys able to execute such work prize the autonomy such work requires. In pursuit of this complex work, firms have opened offices in distant cities at the request of clients, as part of a strategic plan to pursue size as a competitive advantage, in an effort to tap lucrative markets such as New York, and/or in response to competition in home markets.
This expansion in search of complex work has given rise to the need for distributed management. In order to maintain and increase profitability, law firms must now determine how best to allocate management responsibilities in a matrix made up of both geographic divisions, i.e., offices, and functional divisions, i.e., practice groups. The challenge is to design management roles that will attract talented attorneys and then to harmonize these roles, each with the other.