Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Expert on Attorney Compensation Shares Key Insights

A passion for education, combined with expertise in legal accounting, has made Brenda Barnes a go-to person for helping law firms get their finances in order.

Now she is sharing some of her secrets in her new book, Respect: An Insight to Attorney Compensation Plans.

“Over the years, I had found that the one thing that drove most decisions in a law firm was compensation,” says Barnes. “I have seen ill planned systems bust up firms, major partners leave firms and the lack of transparency of the system leave associate attorneys anxious and in the dark.”

Respect: An Insight to Attorney Compensation Plans, written with Lawyers Mutual & Consulting Services founder and CEO Camille Stell, provides a blueprint for creating a workable pay structure for your law practice.

“Our book addresses all the various aspects of putting together a modernized compensation plan,” says Barnes. “We also address the significant amount of bias in compensation systems and how to interrupt the bias in the systems at play.”

In a recent e-interview, Barnes discussed how compensation planning is key to a law firm’s success. Below are excerpts from our discussion.

Why choose Lawyers Mutual for your financial protection? One reason is experience. Lawyers Mutual has been in business since 1977 and insures more than 8000 lawyers in North Carolina. We’ve been providing continuous protection from professional liability to NC lawyers longer than any other insurance company. Another reason is stability. The company’s financial strength is absolute. Since 1999, Lawyers Mutual has paid dividends fourteen times, with more than $8 million dollars returned to policyholders since 2011. Want even more reasons? Visit our website, give us a call, or ask a colleague why Lawyers Mutual is the smart choice for liability coverage.


What is your background? I grew up in Texas in a small community outside of Houston. Both of my parents were teachers, so I learned early on to have a passion for education. I attended University of Texas at Austin and received my BBA in Accounting. I also have an MBA from Texas State University. Shortly after graduating from UT, I was hired by an 85-attorney firm in Austin to “bring their financials inhouse.” I accepted the challenge and never looked back. I moved into law firm administration and have spent 35 years or more managing small to mid-size law firms.  

What fueled your interest in attorney compensation? In 2008, on the heels of the recession, I created B2 Legal Management LLC which provided back-office support to small law firms on an outsourced basis. I sold B2 in the fall of 2021 so I could focus on creating a learning platform for topics I consider imperative to master in the business of law. The first project is our book RESPECT: An Insight to Attorney Compensation Plans. I co-authored the book with another experienced consultant, Camille Stell.

What do you hope attorneys will take away from your book? One thing is that culture drives compensation plans. More importantly, your compensation plan can deliver the culture that you are hoping to build.

Is there a template for compensation plans? There may be some common threads in all compensation systems, but each firm needs to build their unique plan which starts with knowing their core values.

What’s next for you? I will be focused on a book on succession planning. Then I hope to write a series of financial management books.

Order RESPECT: An Insight to Attorney Compensation Plans.


Everyone makes mistakes. When it happens to you, Lawyers Mutual has your back. For nearly half a century, Lawyers Mutual has been the smart choice for professional liability coverage for North Carolina attorneys. We cover the state from Murphy to Manteo. We insure large firms, solo practitioners and everyone in between. We help new lawyers enter the profession with confidence, and we help keep seasoned veterans safe and successful. The numbers speak for themselves. Lawyers Mutual has been in business since 1977, making us the only insurance carrier to provide continuous protection over that period. Today we insure more than 8000 lawyers in North Carolina. Most of them will stick with us until they retire. Why? Because they know we are here for them today and will be here tomorrow, bringing protection and peace of mind in turbulent times. Visit our website, give us a call, or ask a colleague why Lawyers Mutual is the smart choice for liability coverage.


About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

Read More by Jay >

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