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Best Practice tips

Best Practice Tips: Law Firm Client Level vs. Matter Level Client Origination Credit

Posted on February 6, 2019 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Q. I am the owner of an eight-attorney insurance defense law firm in the greater Chicago area. All of the other attorneys in the firm are associates. They are currently paid a salary plus a bonus for billable hours that exceed certain thresholds. I am in the process of establishing a non-equity partner tier and for this tier I want to set up a different compensation system with the focus on collected revenues rather than billable hours. I will continue to pay non-equity partners a salary with a bonus for collected working attorney fees. I will also pay responsible attorney fees for other timekeepers' work over the target threshold. I have given some thought to client origination of business, but since we have a small universe of insurance company clients, I'm not sure how this would play out. I would appreciate your thoughts.

Best Practice Tips: Law Firm Structure and Growth

Posted on January 30, 2019 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Q. I am the administrator with a firm in Buffalo, New York. We have 14 attorneys – seven partners and seven associates. We are an eat-what-you-kill law firm. All the partners have to weigh in and agree on any and all management decisions. Our management team consists of “all partners.” While I have been hired as the administrator for management the firm, I have very little authority to do anything. The partners all have the freedom to do as they please, and there is very little accountability to each other. Recently we have been discussing the pros and cons of why we might want to change our governance and overall structure. I would be interested in your thoughts.

Best Practice Tips: Law Practice Exit Strategy—Internal or External

Posted on January 23, 2019 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Q. I am the owner of a criminal defense practice in Bloomington, Illinois. I have been practicing for 40 years and I have just turned 65. I have one associate who has been with me for two years and two staff members. I would like to retire by the end of this year, and I would like to receive some value from my practice. Would I be better off selling my practice to my associate or another firm?

Best Practice Tips: Improving Productivity and Profitability in an Insurance Defense Law Firm

Posted on January 16, 2019 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Q. I am the owner of a six-attorney insurance defense firm. I started the practice 12 years ago with a paralegal and have grown the firm to where it is today – six attorneys, two paralegals, and two other staff members. While I have done well and am taking home around $350,000 a year, I am not sure if we are attaining the numbers that we should be. I have a 1,500-billable hour expectation with a per-hour bonus payable for each billable hour exceeding 1,500. I do not have any attorneys who have reached this expectation. Our billing rates average around $150 per hour. I am wanting to put in place a partnership track and am not sure where to start. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Best Practice Tips: Law Firm Management—Held Hostage by Office Manager or Bookkeeper

Posted on January 9, 2019 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Q. I am a partner is a small family law firm in Tucson, Arizona. There are two partners in the firm and two associates. We have an office manager/bookkeeper, a receptionist, and two legal assistants. The office manager was hired one year ago. The other partner is retiring next year, and I am purchasing the practice from him. I became a partner last year. I am new to the management side of the practice and have been relying on the office manager who also serves as our bookkeeper. I am at my wit’s ends with our office manager and I believe that she is not suited for the position. She has no organizational skills, she misses deadlines, vendor bills are not paid on time, and client bills are not sent out accurately and timely. I have counseled her on numerous occasions to no avail. I believe we need to replace her, but I am reluctant since no one else here knows what she does or how she does it. A new billing and accounting system was implemented last year and she was the only one trained to use the system. What do we do if we terminate her or she quits? We are hostages. I would appreciate any ideas or thoughts that you may have.

Best Practice Tips: Law Firm Non-Equity Partner Subjective Compensation Factors

Posted on January 3, 2019 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Q. Our firm is a 17-attorney commercial litigation firm in Atlanta, Georgia. I am a member of our firm’s management committee that decides raises and bonuses for non-equity partners and associates. Currently our non-equity partners are paid a salary and a discretionary bonus. We would like to stay with this approach; however, we have had complaints that our system is totally arbitrary. We would like to be able to provide more transparency— a general list of the items that we consider when making our decisions on salary and bonuses. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Best Practice Tips: Strategic Planning Retreat—Need for Specific Action Plans

Posted on December 19, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Q. Our firm is an eight-attorney firm in Cincinnati, Ohio. We have been together for 14 years. There are four partners and four associates in the firm. Over the years we have traditionally had a year-end attorney planning retreat with limited success. This year we have decided that we want to dedicate the entire time to developing a strategic plan for the firm. What can we do to ensure that our strategic plan leads to actual implementation?

Best Practice Tips: Law Firm Marketing—Using an Outside Public Relations Firm

Posted on December 13, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Q. I am a partner in a three-partner, five-attorney estate planning firm in Seattle. While we have a very active marketing program, we would like to do more. We try to do two presentations at seminars or workshops every month. We have a first-class website and a proactive SEO program, as well as an aggressive social media campaign. The firm is listed in all of the key directories. Our attorneys are active in the legal and local communities, have served in leadership positions for bar association committees, and have written extensively. While many of our clients come to the firm through referrals and past clients, we are noticing that we are receiving much more business from the internet. Recently, we have been discussing whether we should consider using a public relations firm. We would be grateful for any thoughts you may have.

Best Practice Tips: Hiring an Associate Attorney as a Solo’s Exit Strategy

Posted on December 6, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Q.  I am a solo practitioner in central Illinois. I have been in practice for more than 30 years and I just turned 60. I have two staff members and no other attorneys in the firm other than myself. I plan on working another five years and then I would like to gradually exit from my practice and then retire. I want to have a home for my clients and employees, and I would prefer to be able to sell my interest to an associate attorney working for the firm. I think we have the work to justify hiring an associate and this is the route I would like to go. I have never had an associate, so I am not sure what I should look for. Your thoughts would be most appreciated.

Best Practice Tips: Providing Meaningful Feedback to Associate Attorneys

Posted on November 28, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Q. I am the owner of an elder law firm in Jackson, Mississippi. There are three associate attorneys who have been with me less than five years. All three were hired directly out of law school. While I try to mentor and train each of the associates as needed in “real time,” I also conduct annual performance reviews with each associate and provide them with a written performance evaluation. I am getting frustrated as it seems that the feedback that I provide does not stick and they continue to make the same errors. I welcome any thoughts that you may have.

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