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Best Practice tips

Best Practice Tips: Firm Administrator vs. Director of Administration or Chief Operating Officer

Posted on August 8, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

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

Q. Our firm is a 14-attorney firm in south Florida. I am the senior member of a three-member executive committee. Our firm is in the second generation of partners. The founders retired five years ago. Upon their retirements, we changed our governance from a managing partner to an executive committee model supplemented with an office administrator – some refer to the position as the office manager. Our executive committee model has worked relatively well. The administrator who we hired five years ago is still in place, but we are not satisfied with his performance. We believe that this is in part due to the fact that our expectations have changed. When we hired him, we thought that we needed an office administrator primarily to manage the office staff, billing, and the bookkeeping. So we hired an administrator who had an associate degree in accounting and had worked as an office manager in an eight-attorney firm for two years. He has done a good job managing the staff, billing, and the bookkeeping. However, we have now discovered that we want more – we want executive-level leadership. We want someone who is respected by all the attorneys and can:

Best Practice Tips: Law Firm Merger or Of Counsel Arrangement with Larger Firms

Posted on August 1, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

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

Q. I am a solo practitioner in upstate New York and I hope to retire in three years and move to Florida. I have been talking with a larger firm with 20 attorneys in Albany that has an interest in me either merging my practice with their firm or joining as Of Counsel. My plan would be to work three more years, gradually phase back, and transition clients and referral sources.

I have had several meetings with the partners in the firm and they are now asking me for detailed due diligence information – tax returns, financial statements, etc. I have no problem providing these documents, but I was wondering if I should be asking them for information. What do you think?

Best Practice Tips: Getting Partners to Discuss their Future Plans

Posted on July 25, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

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

Q. I am the firm administrator for a 25-attorney firm in Baltimore, Md. We have 14 partners, nine of whom are in their 60s. We have no succession or transition plans in place for senior partners. Every time I bring up the topic there is resistance to even discuss it. I would appreciate any help that you can provide.

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.

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