Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog

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May 2015

May 20, 2015

Law Firm Succession – Coming to Terms With Aging


I am the managing partner in a 12 attorney firm in Chicago. We have 6 partners and 6 associate. We a boutique litigation firm. Three of our partners are in their mid to late 60s and should be thinking about retirement but they seem to be in denial? How to we begin to addresses this issue?


Several years ago I was giving a presentation to an ALA (Association of Legal Administrators) Chapter and after the presentation an administrator came up to me and asked, “what kind of financial incentives can we put in place to encourage some of our senior attorneys to retire”? I responded by saying “help them identify some hobbies.” While my comment was partially in jest, many attorneys,
especially baby boomers, have invested so much into their careers and law practices they have not had either the desire or time to invest into other areas of interest.

The more difficult components of retirement include:

For some people the best way to retire may be to continue working.      

For others, rather than being a time of easing back and retiring into old age or continuing to work in one’s old job or career, it can be a time of personal growth and an opportunity to explore other interests, callings, and vocations. It can be a time of freedom to do what you always wanted to do but could not because you had to earn money and the pressure of work prevented you from pursuing you dreams and interests that were in tune with you values and beliefs. Here is a list of a few areas that lawyers approaching retirement might want to explore:

  1. Teaching courses at a local law school or university
  2. Pro-bono work
  3. Writing
  4. Photography, gardening, travel, or other hobbies
  5. Serving as a director on a profit or non-profit board
  6. Counseling
  7. Volunteering

Retirement planning begins with taking the time to think about how one will use their time.
If you live fifteen years beyond your retirement your will have 28,800 hours that will have to be filled with retirement activities. (five days a week, eight hours a day, 48 weeks, for fifteen years)

Find ways to encourage your senior attorneys to explore and think about their future and explore other interests - both at home and at the firm.

Click here for our blog on succession

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


May 12, 2015

Law Firm Marketing and Advertising – How Much Should a Bankruptcy Firm Spend on Marketing


I am the sole owner of a debtor bankruptcy practice. I have one other attorney and three staff members. Last year we spent $50,000 of advertising. Our fees collected were $550,000 and Net Income was around $160,000. Are we spending too much?


You are spending 9% of fee revenue. I believe that in a consumer practice such as personal injury and debtor bankruptcy you have to spend around 10% of fee revenue to get the business you need to sustain the practice. I have some practices spending 19% of revenue.

So, I don't think you are necessarily spending too much if the advertising is working for you. You have to constantly measure the ROI on your advertising and fine tune it when needed.

Also, insure that the business is actually coming from the advertising – in other words don't advertise to get business you would have had anyway or in a market that you have saturated and more advertising will not yield any additional business.

Click here for our blog on marketing 

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

May 06, 2015

Law Firm Contingency Fee Practice – Surviving the Cash Crunch


Our firm is a six attorney personal injury plaintiff located in Kansas City. We have been in practice for 20 years and the firm has been very successful. However, in the last few years the cases are getting larger, more complex, and really putting a drain on our cash flow. We are always into our credit Line. You thoughts would be appreciated.


Cash flow has always been a challenge for contingency fee practices. However, times are getting harder. For personal injury plaintiff firms insurance companies are refusing to settle cases, stretching out timelines for settling cases that they do settle, paying less, and becoming even harder to deal with. Other contingency fee practices are also facing similar challenges and everyone is finding it harder to find adequate lines of credit. Many firms that were once 100% contingency fee practices are looking for ways to improve cash flow implementing different fee arrangements or by adding non-contingency fee practice areas.

I suggest that you evaluate ways that you might re-balance your case portfolio to say 60% contingency/time-bill mix. You might consider:

  1. Billing and collecting up front for all client costs even if the fee is contingent.
  2. Flat fee paid up front for a certain segment or phase of work – then contingency fees for the rest of the work.
  3. Actively marketing and targeting certain small business firms, establishing relationship, and seeking out defense employment work billed on a time-bill basis.
  4. Adding a different practice area that would not be billed on a contingency fee basis.
  5. Bring in a another attorney with a book of business in a complimentary non-contingency fee practice area.

Review your case pipeline report and your work habits to insure that you are putting the right effort and mix into the cases that you have so that when your time bill matters come up for billing at the end of the month – all can be billed.

Click here for our financial management topic blog

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


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