Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog

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September 2010

Sep 28, 2010


Dealing with Difficult – Maverick Partners

Question:

Our firm has been discussing how to handle one of our partners. We are are 25 attorney firm. One of mid-level partners who is one of our highest fee producers and best business getter's simply won't follow firm policy or play by the rules. He won't turn in time-sheets in a timely manner, he is argumentative with others in the office, and not a team player. He is "me first" while the rest of the partners in the firm are mostly "firm first". We are trying to build a team based practice and this one partner is holding up our progress. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions on how we should handle this?

Response:

Dealing with "maverick partners" is always a challenge. Of course they seem to always be the heavy hitters and this makes it that much more difficult as often there are major clients and large sums of money at stake – at least in the short term. This can also be major issues and large sums of money at stake in the long term if you don't deal with the maverick partner as well. In addition you won't be able to achieve the vision and goals the firm is trying to achieve.

Many firms have had to deal with the problem of a maverick "huge business generator" who just wouldn’t cooperate with firm policies and caused conflict and tension in the firm.  It is an unplesant task – but in the end – worth the investment. In the end he or she either conforms or leaves the firm. We have been advised by our clients that even though they may have struggled in the short term as the result of the loss of a major fee producer – in the long run the firm was better off and should have done it earlier.

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

 

Sep 28, 2010


Characteristics of Successful Law Firms – Basic Building Blocks – Block 6 – Client Service

For the past five weeks I have been discussing the characteristics of successful law firms and introduced the following basic building blocks that successful firms typically have in place:

Partner relations, leadership, management, partner compensation, and planning blocks have been discussed. 

The sixth basic building block is client service. Successful firms deliver exceptional client service. They don't just meet client expectations – they exceed them. 

This is the decade of the client. Clients are demanding and getting – both world-class service – and top quality products. Many law firms have spent too much energy on developing new clients and not enough retaining old ones. For many law firms, obtaining new work from existing clients is the most productive type of marketing.

Delivering great client service is extremely important in today’s legal marketplace. More and more lawyers and law firms are competing for fewer clients while client loyalty continues to drop. It is no longer sufficient to simply be competent or an expert in today’s competitive legal environment – law firms must distinguish themselves by the service they provide. Lawyers and law firms must strive for 100% client satisfaction. Service is how many clients can tell one lawyer or law firm from another. 

Clearly, from what law firms' clients are telling us, lawyers and law firms need to improve client service by integrating a client-first service focus into everyday practice and getting feedback on performance.

Most clients can’t evaluate the quality of your legal work. What they can and do is evaluate the experience of working with you. 

Lets face it – customer and client expectations have changed across all industries. It is a buyers market and they know it. Today clients want it all – better, faster and cheaper. If you can’t provide it they will go somewhere else.

The key is to management client expectations – underpromise and overdeliver.

Click here to read my article series on client service.

I will address each of the other building blocks in upcoming postings.

John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC
www.olmsteadassoc.com

Sep 22, 2010


Characteristics of Successful Law Firms – Basic Building Blocks – Block 5 – Planning

For the past four weeks I have been discussing the characteristics of successful law firms and introduced the following basic building blocks that successful firms typically have in place:

Partner relations, leadership, management, and partner compensation blocks have been discussed. 

The fifth basic building block is planning. Successful firms have a long range business or strategic plan in place.   

Based upon our experience from client engagements we have concluded that lack of focus and accountability is one of the major problems facing law firms. Often the problem is too many ideas, alternatives, and options. The result often is no action at all or actions that fail to distinguish firms from their competitors and provide them with a sustained competitive advantage. Ideas, recommendations, suggestions, etc. are of no value unless implemented.

Well designed business plans are essential for focusing your firm. However, don’t hide behind strategy and planning. Attorneys love to postpone implementation.

  • Elements of an effective business plan should include:
    • Decision as to direction of the firm
    • Data collection and review
    • Data collection and review
    • Action plans
    • Implementation and follow-up mechanisms

    Failing to plan is planning to fail.

    Click here to read my article on the topic.

    I will address each of the other building blocks in upcoming postings.

    John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC
    www.olmsteadassoc.com

  • Sep 14, 2010


    Characteristics of Successful Law Firms – Basic Building Blocks – Block 4 – Partner Compensation

    For the past three weeks I have been discussing the characteristics of successful law firms and introduced the following basic building blocks that successful firms typically have in place:

    Partner relations, leadership building, and management blocks have been discussed. 

    The fourth basic building block is partner compensation. Successful firms have a good partner compensation in place. Partners frequently advise us in confidential interviews that they are more dissatisfied with the method used to determine compensation than with the amount of compensation itself.

    How much and how partners are paid are probably the two most challenging management issues that law firms face. Many law firms are struggling with compensation systems that no longer meet the needs of the firm and the individual partners. Failure to explore alternatives to failing systems often result in partner dissatisfaction leading to partner defections and disintegration of the firm.

    In many law firms compensation systems have been counter-cultural and failed to align compensation systems with business strategies. As more law firms move toward teams many are incorporating new ways to compensate partners in order to develop a more motivated and productive workforce. Team goals are being linked to business plans and compensation is linked to achieving team goals. Such systems reinforce a culture that significantly advances the firm’s strategic goals.

    People tend to behave the way they're measured and paid.

    What gets measured and rewarded – is what gets done.

    However, be advised that compensation does not drive behavior – it maintains status quo. Motivation requires leadership which can have a greater impact upon a firm than anything else.

    Compensation systems should do more than simply allocate the pie – they should reinforce the behaviors and efforts that the firm seeks from its attorneys. Many firms are discovering that desired behaviors and results must go beyond short term fee production and must include contributions in areas such as marketing, mentoring, firm management, etc. to ensure the long term viability of the firm.

    Click here to read my article on the topic

    I will address each of the other building blocks in upcoming postings.

    John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC
    www.olmsteadassoc.com

     

    Sep 08, 2010


    Characteristics of Successful Law Firms – Basic Building Blocks – Block 3 – Management

    For the past two weeks I have been discussing the characteristics of successful law firms and introduced the following basic building blocks that successful firms typically have in place:

    Partner relations and the leadership building blocks have been discussed. 

    The third basic building block is management. Successful firms have a good governance and management structure in place and effectively manage the firm. A major problem facing many law firms is the lack of long range focus and the amount of partner time that is being spent on administrivia issues as opposed to higher level management issues. Time spent in firm governance and management, if properly controlled, is as valuable as, if not more valuable, than the same time recorded as a billable hour. (client production time)

    There is a difference between management (governance) and administration.

    Partners and law firm owners should be focusing their time on the management issues rather than administration.

    Management includes:

      – Productive activities, including those of individual lawyers and the firm as a whole.
      – Quantity, quality, and economic soundness of the work.
      – Development of lawyers and future leaders of the firm.
      – Formulation of policies that will determine the firm’s character
      – Financial planning, both short-term and long-range.
      – Marketing and business development.
      – Partner compensation and profit distribution systems

      – Other decisions requiring partner approval

    Almost everything else is administration.

    Hire an office administrator, manager or assistant for the administrivia matters so the partners can focus on the management concerns of the firm.

    I will address each of the other building blocks in upcoming postings.

    John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC
    www.olmsteadassoc.com

     

     

     

     

     

    Almost everything else is administration.

    Hire an office administrator,office manager or assistant for the administrivia matters so the partners can focus on the management concerns of the firm

    I will address each of the other building blocks in upcoming postings.

    John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC
    www.olmsteadassoc.com

     

     

     

     

      

     

     

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