Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog

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Question:  I am a sole owner of four-attorney, boutique litigation law firm in Chicago. I am 52 years old and looking for a long-term succession strategy for my firm. I have been approached by a large Chicago national firm involving merging my practice with their firm. We have had several meetings and they have provided me with an initial proposal. I have spent many years building my law firm, and, by merging with a large law firm it seems that I am not really receiving any value for goodwill. What are your thoughts? Response:  It is normal to exchange equity…
Question:  I am a partner in a small law firm in Northern Virginia. We are a four attorney firm with two equity partners and two associates. We are interested in acquiring a solo practitioner’s practice that is 60 years old and ready to retire. What are the issues that we should be concerned with before we spend a great deal of time on this matter? Response:  I understand your concern and reason for asking for my thoughts. You must immediately determine the nature of the clientele that you would be acquiring and whether the seller is interested in remaining with…
Question:  I am a member of a three member management committee in a sixteen lawyer boutique litigation firm in downtown Chicago. The firm has been in business for over forty years. We have sixteen lawyers in the firm of which ten are equity partners and six are associates. The original founders are retired and we are in second generation. Until five years ago all partners were involved in all aspects of firm management. At that time we made the decision to put in place a three-member management committee that was charged to handle certain aspects of firm management with the…
Question:   Our firm is a four attorney estate planning and probate specialty practice in Fresno, California. We are in our 15th year of practice. In addition to word of mouth referrals from past clients as well as referrals from attorneys and other professionals, seminars has been a major source of new business for the firm. In fact, for the last several years seminars has been our number one source of new client business. As a result of COVID-19 we are no longer conducting seminars and we have concerns that this is going to have a major negative impact on our…
Question:  Our firm is a four lawyer estate planning firm in Bakersfield, California. As you know our state has been under stay at home orders for some time. We have everyone except our receptionist and one attorney working remotely from their homes. We are doing much better than I expected. In fact we are getting new clients at close to our usual numbers per month and our fee collections have actually exceeded our normal monthly fee collections. How are other firms doing? Response:  It depends on practice area and firm size. Many of the very large firms are facing dramatic…
Question:  I am the managing partner of a fourteen attorney business law transaction and litigation firm in St. Louis, Missouri. Our area is in lock-down as a result of COVID-19 and everyone in our firm except for our receptionist has been working remotely. We had planned on putting in place a strategic plan this year and completed a couple of initial meetings. As we move forward how do we plan in this environment or should we even try? Response:  These are definitely uncertain times and the legal profession will be facing an uncertain future. I believe that COVID-19 will leave…
Question:  I am the owner of a general practice firm in the Southwest Suburbs of Chicago with four associates and four staff members. I am 66 and was planning on beginning to work on my retirement plan this year and approach two of my senior associates regarding acquiring my practice. I was hoping to retire and exit the practice two years from now. Now with the Covid-19 situation I am not sure what I should do. Is this a good time to even think about approaching my associates? While business is slow we are doing fairly well working remotely. I…
Question: I am the sole owner of an estate planning firm in downtown Chicago with four other attorneys and six staff members. Since we are considered by the state of Illinois to be a  necessary business service most of us are still working at the office. I know that many firms are working remotely. How is that working out and what are the specifics of how to make that work – new client intake meetings, work on client matters, coordination with attorney and staff team, and client document signings? Response:  It is working out very well for many firms and…
Question:  I am the owner of a six-lawyer business transactional law firm in south Florida. I have been practicing law for 12 and I started my present practice nine years ago. I am 42 years old.  The five attorneys that work for me are all associates, of which two are very experienced seasoned lawyers and three have less than five years experience. Since I am still a young attorney, I am not concerned about retirement or long-term succession planning; maybe I should be, but I am concerned about the short-term. What would the firm do if I got hit by…
Question:  I am a family law practitioner in the western suburbs of Chicago. I have been in practice for thirty years. I have two associate attorneys and two staff members. In the past I had other partners but that was many years ago. Over the last few years our business has been declining. Our financial performance last year was terrible and I made less than my associates. If this continues I may have to lay off an associate or two. Recently we have made some improvements to our website but I am not sure we have not done enough. I…
Question: I am the sole owner of an estate planning firm in San Francisco Bay area. I have four full-time associates, six paralegals, two secretaries, a firm administrator, and four other staff members. We are a high volume operation and we do a lot of marketing. We need help coordinating and handling the marketing. Are we ready for marketing coordinator or director? Response:  Personally I think the firm is a little small for a full-time marketing position. If you can find a person that is willing to work part-time that could work in a firm your size. Many firms your…
Question:  I am a partner in a three-attorney law firm based in Orlando, Florida. I did a quick Google search this morning and stumbled upon your excellent blog posting – Associate Attorney Compensation.  John did an excellent job answering the attorney’s question.  We have an associate who I like very much; however, heading into her third year with the firm, she has gotten a bit comfortable with our laid-back style of management.  Our situation is similar in many respects to the situation posted by the Chicago attorney. I would like to find out more about whether coaching could help us…
Question:  Our firm is a fourteen partner firm in the northern suburbs of Chicago with ten partners and four associates. We are a general practice firm with different partners focusing on specific practice areas. Our partners’ compensation is determined by a three member compensation committee.  The compensation committee uses a combination of quantitative data based upon working attorney fee collections and client fee originations and makes a subjective determination regarding other contributions that a partner has made to the firm. The problem that we have is the compensation committee does not have a way to effectively measure the other contributions…
Question:  I am the owner of a twelve attorney business litigation law firm in Northern, California. I started the firm fourteen years ago after practicing ten years in a large law firm. While the practice has been fulfilling both professionally and financially, the management side is often a challenge. As I sit here on December 31, 2019 thinking about management challenges that I may face next year I was wondering what you envision the challenges will be in 2020. Response:  The following were the common challenges that owners and managing partners advised us that they faced in 2019: Talent Management…
Question:  We have a 12-lawyer business litigation firm in Chicago. We have eight partners in the firm and we are managed by a three-member management committee that was just formed this year. I am a member of the committee and I am responsible for the general financial oversight of the firm. I am trying to get a handle on law firm financial metrics and especially what are the financial warning signs that I should be aware. If you have an outline or list that you would be willing to share we would appreciate it. Response:  Here is a short list…
Question:  I am an attorney in solo practice in the southwest Missouri. I am 45 years old and I have two paralegals working for me in the firm. The practice is a general practice firm that I started ten years ago. I have been advise that I should have a succession plan. What exactly do I need to be putting in place? Any thoughts that you have would be appreciated. Response:  Due to the number of baby boomers approaching retirement much of my writing has been on succession and exit planning for this group. Based upon your age I think…