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April 2015

Apr 28, 2015


Law Firm Merger – Finding Merger Candidates

Question:

I am the managing partner of a 14 attorney firm in Los Angeles. We are primarily a transactional practice and we are considering looking for a litigation firm to merge with our firm. I would appreciate your thoughts on locating merger candidates.

Response:

For larger firms that have a talent or book of business void or solo practitioner and sole owners’ merger is often an appropriate strategy and approach. It all comes down to the finding the right firm, the right culture, and the right fit. The search process can take time as we.Here are some suggestions to help get the search process started.

  1. Using the Internet and Google, start by thinking about possible target law firm candidates;
  2. Prepare a merger candidate short list based upon firms that your firm has worked with or have had contact; 
  3. Prepare a merger candidate short list based upon firms that your firm is aware of but have not worked with nor had any contact – cold leads;
  4. Decide on an initial contact strategy for each target firm and who in your firm will initiate contact;
  5. Begin contacting target firm and setting up initial meetings;
  6. Maintain and constant and consistent flow with prospective merger candidates rather than fits-and-starts;
  7. Work toward a specified target goal and maintain a timeline to avoid project drift;
  8. If your firm is unable to maintain a constant and consistent flow consider outside assistance;and
  9. If your firm is unable to identify suitable target candidates, consider some advertising vehicles such as Craigslist, Law Schools, Bar Association, Legal Publishers, Monster.com, Local Newspapers – print and online, and legal recruiting firms. 

My experience has been that for small law firms the most successful approach for locating merger candidates has been developing the short list and looking in their own backyard. However, other approaches, including advertising, have worked as well. If the firm decides to use advertising, the firm may want to keep from divulging the firm name too early in the process.

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

 


 

 

 

Apr 22, 2015


Law Firm Associate Attorney Billable Hours

Question:

I am a solo attorney in upstate New York. My practice is limited to estate planning, estate administration, and elder law. I have just hired my first associate and am trying to get a sense of the number of billable hours I should expect her to produce. You comments would be appreciated.

Response:

For many years the national norm for all firms has been around 1750 billable hours – much higher for litigation firms – often in the 1800-2000+ range. In my experience I find 1650-1700 a good target for most firms. However, I am finding that 1500 is more the norm for estate planning firms such as yours, especially if the attorney is also doing new client intake interviews and meetings. As a general rule attorneys should be billing approximately 70% of their total worked time. Of course this all assumes that you have adequate work to keep you both busy on a full load.

Lexis has published a couple of studies on billable hours that you might find useful - Billable Hours Survey Report, Non-Billable Hours Survey Report and Where Do all the Hours Go

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

 

Apr 14, 2015


Law Firm Associate Compensation – Bonus Tied to Performance

Question:

I am a partner in a 14 attorney firm in San Francisco and I serve on our associate compensation committee. Presently associate compensation is based on a salary and discretionary bonus. I would like to see a stronger tie to performance. I would appreciate your thoughts.

Response:

I believe that salary should be the primary element in your compensation system for associates. However, you might want to pay a performance bonus for working attorney fees in excess of a certain threshold – say three times salary. So, if you are paying an associate $100,000 you might pay a bonus of 20% for fees collected in excess $300,000 ($75,000 per quarter) and pay the bonuses quarterly. In order to reward other contributions you might want to tie additional bonus to accomplishment of specific strategic goals agreed to in advance each year by you and each associate. For example:

Thus, a maximum of 10% of salary could be received by the associate in goal bonus ($10,000 for a $100,000 associate) and $20,000 could be received if $400,000 in fees were collected – for a total of $30,000 in bonuses.

The goals should be require some degree of stretch and should be result orientated rather than activity orientated. Chair on a bar association committee is a result – attending bar associate meetings without being notices is an activity.

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

 

Apr 07, 2015


Law Firm Website Search Results in Google – April 21, 2015 Google Update May Impact Your Google Ranking

Question:

I am the managing partner with a 14 attorney firm in Cleveland. A friend of my just advised me that Google was coming out with a change to their search engine that might impact our website. Have you heard anything?

Response:

Yes. Google is making a change to their algorithm on April 21, 2015 that will favor mobile-friendly websites.

If your website is not truly compatible with the hundreds of millions of mobile devices out there your search ranking will be penalized. Google is drawing a line in the sand when it comes to mobile functionality and search engine results.

I suggest that you update your site as soon as possible. We are having to upgrade our site as well. Weblinx from the ChicagoLand area is doing our upgrade 

Here is a link to a Google tool that will test your site. 

Here is a link to other information regarding the Google update

I believe that a firm's website and it's search engine optimization strategy is a top marketing priority for all law firms and worthy of appropriate investement to keep it working for you.

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

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