Two Great ISBA Member Benefits Sponsored by
ISBA Mutual Lawyers Malpractice Insurance
view counter
A Value of $1,344, Included with Membership
Free CLE
view counter
Fastcase
view counter

Best Practice tips

Best Practice Tips: Law Firm Structure and Elevating Associates to Partnership

Posted on July 19, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

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

Q. I started my firm as a solo practitioner nine years ago in New Orleans. My practice focuses on maritime defense litigation. Over the years I have added associates and currently I have six associates working for me. I am overwhelmed with work – from the legal work that I am doing in addition to business development and firm administration. My thought is that I should consider restructuring the firm by making some of my associates partners so I can offload and share some of the administrative responsibilities. I would like your thoughts. What are other firms in my situation doing?

Best Practice Tips: Law Firm Goodwill and Valuation

Posted on July 11, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

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

Q. I am the owner of a six-attorney litigation firm in the San Francisco Bay area. I am 60 years old and starting to consider gradually transferring my interest to associates in the firm. I have heard other attorneys mention that I should get some goodwill out of my practice. I would appreciate your thoughts.

A. Many law firm owners prefer to leave a legacy and keep the firm "within the family." They transition the firm to non-equity partners or associates in the firm at a discounted value, and buy-in as an incentive to stay on with the firm. 

Best Practice Tips: Lawyer Performance and Setting Expectations

Posted on July 6, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

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

Q. I am the owner of a real estate practice in Rockford. I have two offices – one in Rockford and the other in Chicago. I started my practice 20 years ago and have had my associate for the past five years. He works in the Chicago office and I work in the Rockford office. Prior to this associate I had two other associates that did not work out. My present associate has 14 years’ experience and worked in three other law firms. I am not happy with his performance. The legal assistant that works with him has advised me that he often does not come into the office until 10 a.m. and often leaves in the middle of the day. Clients have complained that he does not return phone calls or emails. His production is low – his annual billable hours have never been above 1,200 hours. I am paying him a salary of $98,000. I have had numerous conversations with him about these issues to no avail. Frankly, I am sick of it – I don’t trust him and things need to change. What should be my next step?

Best Practice Tips: Elder Law Firm Expanding into Personal Injury and Other Areas

Posted on June 27, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

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

Q. I am a partner in a four-attorney law firm in a small town south of Waco, Texas. We have two partners and two associates. Our practice is limited to elder law, estate planning, and estate administration. The practice was formed 30 years ago by the two partners. The firm has built a strong brand, does a significant amount of business in several other counties, and is doing well financially. Our main problem is that we are overwhelmed with work and we need to hire an additional attorney. We have interviewed an attorney with some limited experience in small business corporate work and estate planning. However, most of his experience is in personal injury plaintiff, criminal, and family law. If he joins our firm, he wants to continue to develop these practice areas as well as bring his personal injury, criminal, and family law cases with him. Bringing him on board could solve our lawyer staffing issue as well as increase our business. Should we bring him on board?

Best Practice Tips: Associate Attorney Compensation and Motivation

Posted on June 20, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

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

Q. Our firm is based in Springfield, Ill. We have four partners and four associates. We are a general practice firm. All of our associates have been with the firm for more than 10 years, and they receive $100,000 base salaries plus discretionary bonuses. Our associates are excellent attorneys; however, none of them bring in any business and their production numbers are low. Annual billable hours are below 1,200 and working attorney fee collections are below $300,000. We have not given raises or bonuses for the last several years. We are losing money on some of our associates and not even covering our overhead, alone making any profit from our associates. We are at a loss at what to do. Please share any thoughts or ideas that you might have.

Best Practice Tips: Law Firm Strategic Planning – Culture as an Essential Ingredient

Posted on June 13, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

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

Q. Our firm is a 12-attorney firm – eight partners and four associates – in Phoenix. It was founded by the current partners 20 years ago. We are an eat-what-you-kill firm – partners receive their fees, overhead is allocated, and their compensation is their individual profit. While we have an administrator who handles the day-to-day management of our operations, we have done a poor job of long-term management and planning. One of our partners has suggested that we develop a strategic plan. However, I believe this would be difficult for us given that we never meet, have different ideas about our future, have never been able to agree on any major decisions, are unwilling to be accountable to each other, and have a general attitude of mistrust. I do not believe we even have a firm culture. In essence we are eight separate practices operating under the guise of a partnership. Your comments are most welcomed.

Best Practice Tips: Law Firm Succession Planning – Getting the Conversation Started

Posted on June 6, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

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

Q. Our firm is a 17-attorney business law firm in Chicago. Our clients consist of mid-size companies and a few Fortune 500 companies. There are eight partners and nine associates in the firm. Four of the eight partners are in their early 60s and the other four partners are in their 40s and 50s. The four senior partners are the founders of the firm. Consequently, we have not had to deal with succession of partners until now. While we realize that we need to be thinking about succession planning, we have not made much headway. The senior partners are reluctant to discuss their retirement plans and timelines. We would appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.

Best Practice Tips: Outsourcing Appellate Work

Posted on May 30, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

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

Q. We have a six-attorney insurance defense firm in Kansas City. For the last few years, our associate attorney costs have gotten out of control and in some cases, revenues generated by particular attorneys are not even close to where they should be considering their costs. We have one associate attorney who we pay a base salary who only does appellate brief work. He does not like litigation and does a poor job doing our “bread-and-butter” litigation work. We simply don’t have enough appeals to keep him busy. We are paying him a base salary of $100,000 a year. Last year his working attorney fees collected were $110,000. I welcome your thoughts.

Law Firm Financial Management: Using Credit Line to Purchase Equipment

Posted on May 23, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

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

Q. I am the financial partner with our 16-attorney firm in Indianapolis. The firm has had a rough couple of years. We had several partners leave the firm and they took several corporate clients with them. Unfortunately, this was consistent retainer and time bill work. While we still have some retainer and time bill corporate work, a much larger mix of our work is now contingency fee work. As a result, we have had some cash flow challenges and for the first three months of this year there was no money to pay partner draws. We have a credit line with the bank of $125,000 that we have not used. We only use our credit line for long-term equipment purchases. We would appreciate any suggestions that you have.

Law Firm Client Surveys: How to Collect and Report the Data

Posted on May 16, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

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

Q. We have a 16-attorney firm in Chicago. Our marketing committee has been discussing implementing a client survey program. We are not sure where to start or how best to collect and report the data. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Pages