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MBA Manages 250-Lawyer Practice Group

Posted Sep 11, 2007 3:49 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Until recently, Carolyn Summers would have been an odd duck at a major law firm. But her Ivy League MBA degree puts her at the forefront of a growing law firm trend—hiring business experts to manage a law practice, rather than putting a law firm partner in charge of administration.

Summers, 41, now oversees the 250-attorney national corporate and securities practice group of DLA Piper, working from the 3,400-lawyer firm's Mount Washington office in Baltimore, reports the Baltimore Sun.

"DLA Piper was looking for professional management help, because as the firm continues to grow, the firm wants decisions driven by business rationale and understanding," says Summers, who formerly worked as an assistant vice president of finance and accounting for a benefits technology company. "At the end of the day, my job is to improve the bottom line. I work on both the revenue side and the expense side."

Four of her colleagues in charge of large practice groups at the law firm also have MBA degrees and business expertise, she says. And this makes sense because a big part of what they do is business management that frees up lawyers to practice and make decisions without getting bogged down in day-to-day administrative details.

"It makes complete sense, especially for a larger firm," she says. "For a small firm, where the overall management is less complex, I could understand where I'd be unjustifiable overhead."

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