Melissa Jones is managing partner at Stoel Rives, a firm known for its expertise in renewable energy and natural resources. (Photo by Wes Davis)

The Way We Work: Stoel Rives Managing Partner Melissa Jones

A glimpse into the daily life of the law firm managing partner

Back Article Sep 26, 2023 By Jeff Wilser

This story is part of our September 2023 print issue. To subscribe, click here.

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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