Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog

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August 2014

Aug 26, 2014

Law Firm Attorney Staffing/Growth Models – Overview


I am the managing partner of a 16 attorney insurance defense firm in Chicago Southwest Suburbs. We have 4 partners and the balance of our attorneys are associates – many of which have been with us for several years. We are on a growth spree and needing to hire more associates to handle client assignments. Associate hiring, mentoring, and training has always been a challenge for us and our clients are restricting us in the way we use associates on their files. I would appreciate your thoughts.


Attorney staffing/growth models include:

  1. Grow Your Own Associate Staffing
  2. Lateral Associate Staffing
  3. Contract – Staff Associate Staffing
  4. Lateral Partners (Equity or Non-Equity)
  5. Of Counsel (Various Approaches and Purposes)
  6. Mergers (Or Small Firm Acquisitions)
  7. Branching

I will address the pros and cons of each model/approach in upcoming postings. I will begin by addressing the first one.

The traditional staffing model for insurance defense firms has been Grow Your Own Associate Staffing.


  1. Large available supply of new lawyers.
  2. Lower salary than experienced lawyers.
  3. Better odds of integrating them into the firm's existing culture.


  1. Takes time training, mentoring, getting them ramped up.
  2. May take 2-3 years before they are profitable.
  3. Once they become profitable you may lose them to another firm.
  4. No business comes with them so you must have enough work to keep they busy.
  5. Clients may be unwilling to allow you to use them or dictate how you use them.
  6. Clients may be unwilling to allow them to train on their dime.
  7. Will have to bill them out at lower billing rates than lateral associates or lateral partners.

Click here for our article on hiring associate attorneys

Click here for our law firm management articles

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

Aug 19, 2014

Law Firm Profitability Assessment Tool


I am the managing partner of a five attorney firm in Fort Worth, Texas. I am new to the managing partner role and am looking for a quick and dirty tool to examine our financial performance. Can you point me to a tool that I can use?


I have a quick and dirty tool that I call the Law Practice Profitability and Management Checklist and you are welcome to use it. It is not an exhaustive assessment – just a tool that can be used to get started.

Click here to access the Law Practice Management Checklist

Click here for our blog on financial management

Click here for articles on other topics

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



Aug 12, 2014

Five Ideas for Struggling Personal Injury Plaintiff Practices


I am the owner of a five attorney personal plaintiff firm in Wheaton, Illinois. Our practice is in its 25th year of practice and we are 100 percent concentrated in personal injury. Over the years we have been very successful but over the last three years we have been struggling and revenues and profits have been flat. It is getting harder to get good cases and harder to settle and move the cases that we have. We need to approach our business differently. I would appreciate your ideas and thoughts:


We are hearing this question quite often and have provided some thoughts in past blogs and articles.

The majority of our PI law firm clients are advising that they are having to work much harder at getting clients and investing more heavily in marketing – both time and money. PI firms were feeling the most of these challenges before the recession. However, the recession may accelerate the pace with which law firms reevaluate existing processes and consider new business models. PI firms may want to begin by:

1. Develop a firm strategic plan and individual attorney marketing plans which include aggressive network/contact plans for past clients, attorney referral sources (non PI attorneys), attorney referral sources (other PI attorneys), and other referral sources.

2. Evaluate the feasibility of adding an additional practice segment to reduce the level of risk in the case portfolio and reduce cash flow variability.

3. Reduce case portfolio risk and improve case profitability by implementing a case intake system whereby all new cases over a specified level of projected case value are reviewed and approved by the partnership (or a client intake committee) in order for the case to be accepted by the firm. In other words – don't let one attorney expose the entire firm to either excessive levels of case risk or case investment (time and client cost advances) without other partners having a say on the matter.

4. Analyze the profitability and return on each case and ascertain what can be done differently on future cases. Metrics might include effective rate, return on LOADSTAR, dollar case profit after allocation of all appropriate firm overhead, etc.

5. Review and measure present marketing investments (time and money) and determine what is working and what is not. Reallocate resources if appropriate.

Click here for our blog on law firm strategy

Click here for our law firm management articles

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

Aug 04, 2014

Law Firm Client Telephone Satisfaction Interviews in Insurance Defense Law Firms


I am the chair of our firm's marketing committee. We are a 24 attorney insurance defense firm in Houston. While we solicit feedback from some of our larger insurance company clients at lunch and face to face meetings – the sessions are not structured, data is not really tabulated, and only a handful of clients are usually involved. We have been thinking of embarking on a more structured process. I would appreciate your thoughts:


Our firm recently completed client satisfaction interviews for several of our insurance defense law firm clients. Here are a few quotes and a summary of what these insurance company law firm clients told us:

Much can be learned by talking to your clients. Structured telephone interviews conducted by a neutral in-house law firm marketing employee or outside third party can provide many surprises as well as answers. Client satisfaction interviews can be the best marketing investment that you can make.

Click here for our blog on marketing 

Click here for articles on other topics

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


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