The reasoning behind the firm’s decision to demote or fire 45 equity partners at the firm is really pretty simple. Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw’s memo to associates and counsel, which is contained in a post by Ashby Jones on The Wall Street Journal Online, doesn’t tell the whole story in my view; nor do the more than four dozen comments to the post.

The real reason for the firm’s action is that the partners in question were not carrying their weight (according to management’s definition of that term). Either they were not bringing in the work (i.e., developing business for themselves and others in the firm) and/or they were not billing enough to justify their draw plus the profits the firm decided it wants (as we know was the case here).

It isn’t rocket science. If a partner is not bringing in work through his/her own lawyer marketing efforts to support themselves and others, they likely are not able to bill enough (at their increasingly higher billable rate as they get older) from work passed on from other partners, since the latter are assigning the business they generate to less costly, more junior lawyers.

The biggest injustice (if one were to make a moral judgment) for which the firm is most likely guilty is both its failure to train these partners earlier in their careers about marketing, and for not insisting that they actually carry out effective business development techniques that benefit the firm.

Thanks to Larry Bodine for the referral to Journal’s story.