A law firm may have two kinds of staff, fee earners and non-fee earners. Non-fee earners in a law firm include attorneys (also called solicitors) who provide professional support for other lawyers in the firm, or support staff people, such as clerks, research assistants and anyone else who assists in the running of the firm but does not charge a case fee for doing so. A fee earner is defined as a lawyer who takes on cases or instructions and charges a client a fee to do so. This is a common term in the United Kingdom, but not often used in the United States.
The fee-earner works directly with clients of the law firm in order to resolve the client’s legal problems. She has a range of duties that require her to be very proactive with the client’s work and handle all aspects of the case as rapidly as possible. It is expected that she will maintain an extremely high standard of care for the client as she carries out her duties. She is also expected to work effectively and to produce a resolution of the situation. In most cases, her duties include handling client information through the use of a computerized data system owned by the law firm she works for.
A large part of the fee-earner’s duties is to attend court on behalf of the client. The fee earner may be required to argue the case in front of a judge, file documents with the court, or otherwise act as the client’s direct legal representative. The fee earner uses his knowledge of civil and criminal procedure rules to move all claims in his charge through the court system. His duties include researching legal cases and locating material relevant to his current case.
Legal firms interested in hiring fee earners stress certain duties repeatedly. First, the fee earner must follow company guidelines and use very high standards when working with clients. She is expected to remain professional at all times, whether working with clients, the defendant’s solicitors or insurers, or other groups or individuals involved in the legal matter. As part of her duties, she may be asked to provide support to other fee earners in the firm, and she should be able to do so while still meeting deadlines and objectives.