Generating new business is the lifeblood of every law firm. Therefore, attracting and “reeling in” a substantial new client is noticed and rewarded by law firm managers. Given these powerful incentives of compensation and prestige, the last thing a “rainmaker” attorney wants to hear is that his firm cannot — for one reason or another — represent the prospective client she brought to the table.
Why would a law firm turn away a potentially profitable new business opportunity? Some of the most common “deal-killers” are ethical concerns. Especially if taking on the new client would present a conflict of interest with another client or legal matter already represented by the firm. This is where a Conflicts Manager comes in.
A Hypothetical Conflict-of-Interest Scenario
Some conflicts-of-interest are so painfully obvious that a firm’s “new business” team won’t even consider the representation. For example, at a staff meeting a new attorney suggests representing Client B, who is planning a hostile takeover of your long-term Client A’s chain of stores. In this scenario, the problematic nature of representing Client B is clear.
Unlike this hypothetical scenario, however, most potential conflict-of-interest situations are in a “gray zone” that doesn’t lend itself to simple black-or-white determinations. For these uncertain situations, a firm must conduct considerable research before making a judgment call. This important research is the work of a Conflicts Manager.
Conflicts Manager Job Description
A first-rate Conflicts Manager is a good detective — determined to prevent unpleasant (and costly) “surprises” from a hidden conflict-of-interest that simply didn’t occur to anyone else. A conflict can arise from a particular case, potential new client or with personnel. Here are some of the duties and responsibilities of a typical Conflicts Manager:
- Provides subject matter guidance in connection with general firm-wide new business clearance and ethical conflicts-of-interest projects
- Coordinates with attorneys, database managers and other legal professionals to achieve a seamless conflicts-management workflow
- Participates in the ongoing review of a firm’s conflicts-management efforts
- Discovers and implements “best practices” for identifying and clearing potential ethical conflicts in a firm’s new business efforts
- Stays abreast of new developments in conflict-of-interest laws, standards and requirements
- Manages conflicts-management databases, and keeps current with relevant technological developments
Conflicts Manager Requirements
Firms seeking Conflicts Manager candidates typically require a bachelor’s degree and 5-7 years of experience. (Direct experience with conflicts-clearance assignments is an advantage.) Familiarity with database research also is a door-opener, with conflicts-management software taking on an ever-increasing role. Technology skills, however, will only get a candidate so far. Conflicts Manager positions also reward excellence in the “human skills.” Among them, strong capabilities in: research, organization, communication, teamwork, customer-service and project management.
Conflicts Manager Compensation
What is a Conflicts Manager’s compensation level? That depends on his/her experience and education — as well as the size of an employer. However, the Average National Base Salary (according to our 2017 Salary Guide data) for a Conflicts Manager is $81,786.
Why are Conflicts-of-Interest so Worrisome?
Failure to recognize (and avoid) such conflicts-of-interest presents serious professional and ethical problems. Lawyers and firms are subject to fines and professional sanctions — and may even be barred from the practice of law.
Law firms take these matters very seriously and understand the importance of cultivating both talented conflicts management staff and reliable support systems. That spells opportunity for detail-minded candidates interested in developing expertise as a Conflicts Manager. Could this be a promising opportunity for you? Reach out to a recruiter today to see what opportunities are currently available.
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