When you’re the managing partner of a blue chip law firm it’s kind of like being a CEO, but in some ways it’s far more complex.
Just ask Melissa Jones, managing partner at Stoel Rives, a firm known for its expertise in renewable energy and natural resources. Like a CEO, Jones is ultimately in charge of the firm’s operations — 350 lawyers and 750 total employees spread across 10 offices. Unlike a CEO, a managing partner does not get to rule by fiat. The partners vote.
“A lot of what I’m doing is building consensus,” says Jones. “It’s not like a CEO’s job where you can just make decisions.” The way she builds consensus: relationship building. And that means phone call after call after call. (And then maybe another call.)
This is how she makes it all work.
5:30AM – Checks email first thing. Her husband, Greg Fisher, an attorney at California ISO, brings her a cup of coffee. She’s out the door in minutes.
6:00AM - Takes a class at Club Pilates in Roseville.
7:00AM – Gets ready, mostly skips breakfast.
7:45AM – Listens to podcasts and Sirius XM on her commute from Granite Bay to the firm’s office on Capitol Mall — mostly news and politics, but sometimes comedy podcasts like “SmartLess” and “Fly on the Wall.”
8:30AM – Blocks off the first hour to focus on urgent or important work, such as approving staffing changes for a client, signing off on new hires, or reviewing the firm’s external communications. “Otherwise calls and meetings could take up the whole day.”
10:00AM – Monthly one-on-one meetings with PGLs, or Practice Group Leaders — senior partners who oversee different swaths of the firm’s business such as litigation, energy development, technology and intellectual property.
11:00AM – Meets with the COO (who’s also pulling double duty as the acting CFO) to start the annual budget process. This involves a slew of variables to evaluate: billing rates, staffing changes, rising costs of health care, and on and on.
12:00PM – Occasionally she’ll enjoy a leisurely lunch with a friend or client, but usually she’s in a working lunch meeting or grabs takeout from a restaurant, such as Il Fornaio, and eats at her desk.
12:30PM – The afternoon is jammed with calls and meetings. She’s big on calls. “I do check-in calls to see how people are doing. I talk to every single one of our new hires.”
1:00PM – More calls.
1:30PM – More calls.
2:00PM – Yep, more calls. “It’s definitely a priority. For a role like mine at a professional services firm, you’ve really got to know your people and be in touch.” This habit started during COVID-19, when Jones made it a goal to reach out to every single one of the firm’s 170 partners. “I mostly did.”
3:00PM – Another focused hour of work, such as drafting a memo on partner compensation.
4:00PM – Catches up on the day’s curveballs. “Usually things have popped up that I wouldn’t have expected.” Such as solving staffing puzzles (like if more lawyers are needed on a case), whether to interview a “lateral partner” (potentially hiring a partner from another firm), or questions on firm strategy. “It’s pretty unpredictable.”
5:00PM – Touches base with the chair of the firm’s executive committee.
5:30PM – Ties up loose ends, tries to leave by 6 p.m.
6:30PM – “I don’t cook,” she says with a laugh. She’ll make the salad while Greg cooks something simple for her and their youngest daughter (a sophomore at St. Francis High School); their oldest just left for college, and they’re still dealing with that adjustment.
7:30PM – Helps her daughter with homework. Takes a walk with her two rescue dogs, Sadie and Joey, who’s named after Joe Strummer of The Clash.
8:00PM – “I’m usually checking email again,” she says with another laugh. Maybe a bit more work. CNN or MSNBC plays in the background.
9:00PM – Will sometimes watch “The Summer I Turned Pretty” with her daughter, or maybe she’ll “hate watch” the “Sex and the City” sequel series “And Just Like That.”
10:30PM – Heads to bed.
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