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Best Practice: Contemplating merging with another law firm

Posted on November 16, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Asked and Answered

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

Q. We are a 15 attorney estate planning firm just outside of New York City. Ten years ago we had 37 lawyers in the firm. We have had several defections due to internal management problems pertaining to structure and compensation. We have operated more as a group of solo practitioners than as a true law firm. Recently we have considered the option of merging with a larger firm. What are your thought regarding the pros and cons of doing this?

A. Research indicates that 1/3 to 1/2 of all mergers fail to meet expectations due to cultural misalignment and personnel problems. Don't try to use a merger or acquisition as a life raft, for the wrong reasons and as your sole strategy. Successful mergers are based upon a sound integrated business strategy that creates synergy and a combined firm that produces greater client value than either firm can produced alone. Right reasons for merging might include:

  1. Improve the firm's competitive position. Increase specialization - obtain additional expertise.
  2. Expand into other geographic regions.
  3. Add new practice areas.
  4. Increase or decrease client base.
  5. Improve and/or solidify client relationships.

I would start by thinking about your reasons for wanting to merge and your objectives. Ask yourself the following questions?

Book review: Breach of Trust

Posted on November 14, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Breach of Trust by David D. Ellis. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York 2011; 417 pagesBy Michael S. Jordan, Retired Judge – Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois

David Ellis, the author of Breach of Trust, is a lawyer on the staff of the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, Michael Madigan. He was the chief impeachment prosecutor on behalf of the Illinois House pursuing the impeachment of Governor Rod Blagojevich at the Illinois State Senate where the governor was convicted and removed from office. Ellis’ real life experience and the knowledge he acquired proved invaluable and fantastic as research and background to write this realistic, timely, and riveting novel.

Breach of Trust is a fast paced political thriller with murder, violence, and continual suspense as fictional hero, Jason Kolarich, a former prosecutor and acclaimed defense attorney, goes underground to settle a score. In the process Ellis has Kolarich pursue this saga with several of Ellis’ characters from his other works of fiction. Ellis cleverly unveils the levels of deceit, corruption, and intrigue in the politics of Illinois government.

DuPage County announces Veteran's Track

Posted on November 11, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Chief Judge Stephen J. Culliton, Chief Judge Elect John T. Elsner and MICAP Programs Judge Jane H. Mitton and State's Attorney Robert B. Berlin announced recently that a Veteran's Track is being initiated as a cooperative effort between the 18th Judicial Circuit of Illinois Drug Court and Mental Illiness Court Alternative Programs (MICAP) and the Veteran's Administration.

The mission of the Veteran's Track is to reduce the number of incidence crimes committed by verteran with substance abuse, traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder and/or mental health issues as a results of their military service. This will be achieved by the operation of a highly structured judicial intervention process for these veterans that brings together Veteran Administraiton treatment services and intesnsive judicial monitoring through Drug Court or MICAP.

Participants will consist of those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces and who have received an honorable or general discharge from the military. For further information, please contact Jim Wojtas, Drug Court/MICAP Program Manager at (630) 407-8846 or james.wojtas@dupageco.org. The start date is Jan. 1, 2012.

Contribution for college expenses: don't let your divorce clients miss the boat

Posted on November 9, 2011 by Mark S. Mathewson

You see it all the time. Mom and Dad don't decide by the close of their divorce -- i.e., by the time the decree is issued -- who will pay how much for Junior's college education. They reserve that one for later.

Later finally arrives, as it is wont to do. And Mom comes to court waving Junior's tuition bill, which she has already paid, seeking an order for what she thinks is a reasonable contribution from Dad.

Unfortunately, she's too late, according to the Illinois Supreme Court's September 2011 decision in In re the Marriage of Petersen. Read Cecilia Hynes Griffin's and Scott P. Kramer's analysis of the case in the latest ISBA Family Law newsletter.

Nearly 2,200 new attorneys admitted in Illinois

Posted on November 9, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Nearly 2,200 new attorneys were admitted to practice in Illinois on Thursday, November 10 with Justices of the Illinois Supreme Court presiding and administering the attorney’s oath at five separate locations.

All of the candidates have passed the Illinois state bar examination and an ethics examination, and have been certified by the Committee on Character and Fitness.

The largest group, 1,600, were admitted in the First Judicial District during ceremonies starting at the McCormick Place West Skyline Ballroom. Illinois Supreme Court Justice Charles E. Freeman presided over the ceremony, with Justices Anne M. Burke and Mary Jane Theis participating.

Justice Freeman introduced Cook County Associate Judge Frank B. Castiglione, who made the motion to admit the class.

The Hon. Joseph N. Casciato, retired associate judge, seconded the motion to admit the class.

Illinois State Bar Association President John G. Locallo was one of two bar association presidents to address the class.

The 2,155 men and women were certified as candidates and  were sworn in as Illinois attorneys Thursday at ceremonies in the five Supreme Court judicial districts.

The new attorneys will bring the total number of licensed attorneys in Illinois to approximately 90,200.

Click here to view pictures from the 1st District Admission Ceremony

Best Practice: Diversifying a Personal Injury Plaintiff Law Firm

Posted on November 9, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Asked and Answered

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

Q. Our firm is a personal injury plaintiff law firm located in Austin, Texas. We have 4 attorneys in the firm and all are partners who have been practicing for over 25 years. One hundred percent of our practice is PI plaintiff. We have been extremely successful over the years and handled some very large cases, have had some big wins, and handled several class action cases. Our current challenge is cash flow. The cases we are involved with seem to be bigger and more complex with fewer smaller cases that can be resolved quickly and contribute to cash flow. We are getting in deeper to our line of credit. Of late we have been discussing pros and cons of diversifying the practice and adding a non-PI practice area to our practice. What are your thoughts? Have you seen PI plaintiff firms do this successfully?

A. More and more of our PI plaintiff law firm clients have been raising this question during the past year. While a lot can be said about specialization - a firm can also sometimes be too specialized. I have seen many hybrid firms over the past 20+ years that have successfully combined a plaintiff personal injury practice with a transactional practice.

As one firm told me "we transactional folks bill the hours and pay the bills while we turn the PI folks loose to go after the big hits." Firms that operate the firm as a "firm-first" firm tend to be more successful with such a practice mix than do firms that are "lone ranger" firms operating as a collection of individual practitioners.

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