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Daniel Smith
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what is the hierarchy in a law firm?

Resolved Question:

what is the hierarchy in a law firm?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: UK Law
Expert:  Daniel Smith replied 5 years ago.
Hi there. Thanks for your question, I will help you with this.

In what sense please? You mean like Partners, Associates, Assistant Solicitors etc?

Customer: replied 5 years ago.

yes, I need to know the types of partners ( if any) exist in a law firm and on what basis does the person hold the title?

Expert:  Daniel Smith replied 5 years ago.
Depends on the type of law firm, but the traditional model, which is unincorporated and is as follows:

Partners - they own the law firm (they trade as individuals and do not have the benefit of limited liability like a company - they're liable for all debts of the partnership).

Then, underneath them, the practice differs, but you could have (Senior) Associates, whom are people on the rung of the ladder down from owning the firm. Then underneath them you generally have (Senior) Assistants - they're usually newer members to the firm or those solicitors that haven't progressed to getting closer to owning the firm.

Does this answer your question?

Customer: replied 5 years ago.


thank you for allowing me to ask for details.


Could you please add more details in case the law firm is a limited liability company? especially in relation to partners? does a partner have to be a shareholder or he can hold the title of a partner without being a shareholder?

Expert:  Daniel Smith replied 5 years ago.
Ah okay ....

In an LLP, you have Members (the shareholders) and they are the owners of the business. You do not have directors like a limited company separate from the members.

A lot of the existing company law applies to LLPs.

You can get lots of information on LLPs, and their formation requirements etc. from this link:

Does this help?

Customer: replied 5 years ago.

I assume an LLP is a limited liability company, isn't it?

Why do we see a managing director in law firms such as Allen @Overy? does the manaing director have to be a partner? what is his role and liability?

Expert:  Daniel Smith replied 5 years ago.
No, an LLP is a Limited Liability Partnership. It is different to the limited liability company (LTD).

Those titles are not recognised at law, even in the law of companies. In companies, for example, you either have directors or shareholders, and the position of managing director for example has no legal significance. But, it has become custom to use these titles to give the outside world an impression of that person actual role, so you would expect managing partner to be the overall manager on a day to day basis, reporting back to the board of directors (in a company) or to the members (in an LLP).

So, these titles give you an idea of the role of the people concerned, but they have no key legal significance.

Hope this clarifies?

Expert:  Daniel Smith replied 5 years ago.
And no, a "Managing Director" doesn't have to be a partner, or frankly, even a director for that matter! Again, this is because the title "Managing Director" has no legal significance.

You also see, in some legal firms, the title "Chief Executive" - again, this is meaningless as a matter of law.

So, in short, you don't have to be a solicitor to be a "Managing Director" - although people in this post often are!

Hope this helps. Please do press accept if this answers your question.


Customer: replied 5 years ago.


if a person uses the tite of a managing partner while he is not really a partner. does he or she become responsible for the debts of the firm? will he or she be blamed for cheating public?


Expert:  Daniel Smith replied 5 years ago.
If they use the title "Managing Partner" then this indicates that they are a partner. It's little different to "Managing Director", particularly in the context of a law firm issue. Sorry, I know this is probably confusing to you. But, even if they wrongly used the title "Partner" it wouldn't likely make that person liable for the firm's debts - that's because they're either a partner or not - what they call themselves doesn't change that. What, however, it might do, if wrongly used, is lead the public to believe they are a partner and as such, they could bind the form contractually on new contracts etc. (but, this is different from automatically becoming liable for all of the firm's debts). Dan
Expert:  Daniel Smith replied 5 years ago.
I'm going off line shortly, so if you need anything more tonight from me, then you'll have to do it fairly soon.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I feel better now. One last thing please. what is the difference between the LLP and the LTD you mentioned above?
Expert:  Daniel Smith replied 5 years ago.
In short, not a huge amount!

A limited company is a really old and established form of legal entity in its own right in England and Wales. It can contract etc, in its own right. This is the same of LLPs.

A company has directors, who deal with day-to-day management issues, and the shareholders are the investors/owners of the company. With LLP, you only have members, as it's based on a partnership principle. The LLP model is pretty new under English Law. They were introduced mainly to allow professionals, like solicitors, to take advantage of limited liability, as the law prevented them from trading through companies.

I've found a site with lots of info on of the differences etc. for you:

I hope this helps you and you can explore further now.


Daniel Smith and other UK Law Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Daniel Smith replied 5 years ago.
Thanks for accepting! Have a good evening!