Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog

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September 2013

Sep 24, 2013


Law Firm Administrator/Business Manager – Establishing Presence & Earning Respect

Question:

Our firm is a 8 attorney firm located in downtown Chicago. We have just hired our first administrator/business manager and he starts in two weeks. We are concerned that we get started on the right foot so our experience is successful. Any thoughts?

Response:

Relationship With Partners

On the first day of employment with the firm, the administrator must begin to develop a relationship with the firm’s partners that is based upon need, understanding, credibility and trust.

Governance Plan

Business management in many law firms suffers from decision-making paralysis — in other
words, helpless inactivity and the inability to act decisively. Lack of effective implementation of decisions is also evident. The result: missed opportunities and a deteriorating competitive position in the legal marketplace. Administrators who can be proactive and turn this situation around will be off
to a good start to solidifying their positions in their firms.

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

 

Sep 17, 2013


Law Firm Non-Equity Partnership Tiers

Question:

Our firm is a 12 attorney firm in Houston. Currently we have three equity partners and nine associates. Several of our associates have been with the firm for over ten years. My partners and I are all in our early 60s and are beginning to think about succession and retirement. If possible, we would like to keep the firm within the family and not go the merger route. What are your thoughts concerning two tier partnership structures (equity and non-equity partnership)? Should we consider bringing associates in first into a non-equity tier?

Response:

I believe that a non-equity tier gives a firm a way to give associates the professional recognition and status of being a partner without conveying actual ownership and diluting ownership and control. Often a key differentiating factor between equity and non-equity partnership is client origination. Partners that don't originate a sizeable book of business often don't make it to the equity tier. For very small firms a non-equity often does not make sense - for others it often does. If you believe, as I do, that equity partners should be client originators and if you currently have a mix of client originator and non client originator associates with ten years or more time with the firm you may want to consider a two tier structure. You should carefully define, and put in writing, admission criteria for each tier.

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

 

Sep 10, 2013


Handling Law Office Staff That Can’t Get Along

Question:

I am the managing partner in an eight attorney firm in Chicago. We are having problems with office staff members getting along. Office conflict is rampant. Any suggestions?

Response:

You should begin by identifying some of the causes. Poor communications often can be the root cause of such problems. Interview each of your staff members individually and probe. What do they think? Is communications a problem? Are roles, duties, and responsibilities clarified? Lack of clarity can in these areas can lead to turf wars. You may want to design job descriptions for each employee and clarify roles, duties, and responsibilities for each employee. Conduct short weekly staff meetings to enhance communications. Use agendas. Take and publish notes of the meetings. Advise everyone of your expectations including all members working together as team members. Let them know that working together as a team is a performance factor that will be considered in performance evaluations and reviews. Conduct periodic performance reviews. Counsel and take action against problem employees.

Maybe it is time to hire a firm administrator of business manager and let them deal with it.

Click here for our blog on career management

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

 

Sep 03, 2013


Successful Law Firms – What Are They Doing Right?

Question:

Our firm is a 12 attorney firm in Dallas. Our practice areas are business transaction and litigation. We also have an active energy practice. The past two years have been difficult for us financially. What are some of the successful firms doing right?

Response:

In spite of the recent economic woes many small firms have still done well. Many of these firms were those that:

I believe that law firms that fail to focus their practices, set goals, measure accomplishments, and foster accountability will fall short and not meet their financial objectives. Law firms that fail to plan are planning to fail.

Law firms as well as solo practices need to begin focusing their firms and practices, setting firm and individual production goals, measure accomplishment and implementing systems to instill accountability from all members of the team – attorneys and staff alike.

What gets measured is what gets done.

Click here for our blog on law firm strategy

Click here for my article on business planning

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

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