Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog

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April 2012

Apr 25, 2012

Law Firm Partner Compensation – Why Change If We Are Happy


I am a partner in a 16 attorney firm in Memphis. Our firm has had the same partner compensation system for 20 years and we are generally happy with it. It is an eat-what-you-kill system. Since we are generally happy why should we consider changing it?


You can start with the following firm – self-test. Has the firm experienced or is it experiencing:

If your firm is experiencing or has experienced the above symptoms, it is time to really examine where the firm is headed and what messages your compensation is sending out to your partners. Is the firm trying to be a firm or merely a group of lone rangers? Even though your partners are content your compensation system may be holding the firm back from becoming all that it desires to be. Contentment may not be the best measure of success.

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

Apr 18, 2012

Law Firm Succession: Using Affiliation As a Phase I Pilot Test


I am sole owner of a law firm in Chicago with an elder law practice. I have two paralegals and two legal assistants. Although I want to continue to practice as long as I can I am in my late 60s and am beginning to think about what to do with my practice. I have recently had several discussions with another sole owner that is interested in buying my practice. Since I want to practice as long as I can I am concerned about the timing of selling my practice due to the current ethical rules. I also want to insure that the other firm would be the right fit for my clients and staff. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions?


Making the right decision concerning the "Who" is usually more important than the "What" or the "How". Take your time to do the proper due diligence regarding the other firm. Get to know the owner as well as the employees of the other firm. Ascertain practice, client, and cultural compatibility. If you both determine that a a deal might make sense – then move to the "How". Even though you have done the best due diligence you can – you won't really know about the other firm until you try working together. So before you jump – consider taking a few baby steps first. You might start with an affiliation arrangement (Of Counsel) as a Phase I pilot test for six months. Under this arrangement you can both refer work to each other as well as have the other attorney work on some of your client matters at your office. Outline the details of the relationship in an affiliation (Of Counsel) agreement. After six months review the success of the arrangement and whether it makes sense to take the next step. If it does – a Phase II step might be to enter into a more formal practice continuation/transition arrangement with the other firm. Phase III would be either the eventual sale of your practice or merger with the other firm. Taking a phased approach allows you learn more about the other firm which will increase your odds of a successful transition and buys you time before actually selling your practice if that is the direction you should go.

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

Apr 10, 2012

Using Competitive Intelligence to Support Law Firm Strategy

I am managing director of a 45 attorney firm in Pittsburg. Due to changes in our client industries, competition from both regional and national law firms, and shrinking demand we are starting to work on our first strategic plan. I have been hearing a lot about competitive intelligence. Should this be part of our planning process?

Competitive intelligence is a popular term being used to describe information gathering (secondary research) on your clients, client industries, prospective or target clients, competitors, geographic markets, emerging practice areas, etc. Its goals are to provide actionable intelligence that provides a competitive edge. It reduces risk and identifies opportunities.

All strategic plans should contain a secondary research (competitive intelligence) component. Research objectives might focus on one or all of the following:

1. Identify prospects
2. Spot litigation activity for current and prospective clients
3. Identify emerging litigation issues and trends
4. Improve the quality of your client proposals
5. Identify lateral candidates
6. Identify potential acquisition and merger partners
7. Identify emerging client and industry needs
8. Identify emerging new practice areas
9. Explore expansion into new geographic locations

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

Apr 03, 2012

Using A Law Firm Key Account Survey to Access Client Satisfaction and Your Competitive Profile


I am the managing partner of a 16 attorney firm in Santa Monica, California. We represent large energy companies located on the west coast. We are contemplating developing our first strategic plan. We would like to obtain insight from our clients, receive their feedback, and use this information to access our level of client satisfaction and our competitive profile. However, we are not sure whether we should conduct a random survey involving selecting a percentage of our clients or a census involving surveying all clients rather than taking a sample. Please advise as to your thoughts.


Rather than doing a random survey of your client base, you may want a more targeted and focused survey of a particular client group. For example, if 80 to 90 percent of your business comes from ten clients, you may want to create a survey that is specifically targeted to them. The advantage of a targeted key client survey is that it is limited in scope and precisely focused. Before you commit time and resources to a client survey identify your purpose and establish specific goals and objectives.

Develop a survey plan. Insure that a follow-up strategy is incorporated into the plan.

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

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