Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog

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February 2016

Feb 23, 2016


Law Firm Partner Capital Contributions – How Much?

Question:

Our firm is an 18 attorney firm in Chicago that was formed by the existing four equity partners ten years ago. We have four equity partners (founders), eight income (non-equity partners), and six associates. The income partners are not required to contribute capital. We are considering admitting a couple of the income partners as equity partners and also approaching possible laterals. What should we require in the form of buy-in or capital contribution?

Response:

While capital contributions are all over the board ranging from zero to $100,000 in firm's your size I often see capital contributions ranging from $25,000 to $50,000. All depends upon the number of ownership shares being offered. I am seeing firm's requiring more as many firms are resisting the temptation to take on bank debt to finance their short-term working capital requirements. Citibank's Private Law Firm Group reports that between 2004 and 2007 capital contributions averaged 20 to 25 percent of a partner's income. Citibank's recent survey reports that partners are now contributing an average of 30 to 35 percent of their earnings. Thus, a newly admitted partner that will be earning $150,000 upon admission would be expected to contribute $45,000. Contributed capital is returned when a partner leaves the firm in full upon withdrawal or more commonly according to an incremental installment payment schedule.

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

Feb 16, 2016


Law Firm Acquisition – Acquiring a Personal Injury Plaintiff Practice

Question:

I am a partner in a two owner personal injury plaintiff firm in Los Angeles. We have four other attorneys. We do traditional personal injury work with a high volume of medical practice and products liability. One Hundred percent of our fees are contingency fees. My partner has expressed an interest in retiring and selling his interest to me. How do I go about determining a fair price to offer him for his shares? I would appreciate your thoughts.

Response:

It would be nice if the two of you could agree on a fair price. However, often it is not possible in a contingency fee practice. Often the primary value of a practice such as yours is the value of the pending cases on the books and those values are unknown until the cases are concluded in the future. It all depends on the extent of fluctuations in the annual revenue stream. I just completed two assignments where a dollar amount was agreed to based upon a gross revenue multiple. However, in both cases the revenue streams were fairly consistent over a five-year period. When there are extreme swings in revenue over a three to five year period there often is no choice but to base the acquisition price upon a payment arrangement as cases are completed. A percentage of completion ratio (how long the case was opened before the acquisition and when the case is concluded) or other method will have to be considered as well as overhead paid.

While cases in progress may be the major asset you also should expect to purchase your partner's cash-based capital account or shares of stock as well.

There are a variety of other approaches. I have never seen the same approach used twice.

Click here for our blog on succession

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

 

 

Feb 09, 2016


Law Firm Marketing Director – Are We Ready For One – What Should we Look For?

Question:

We are a 25 lawyer insurance defense firm in Northwest Dallas. We are managed by a managing partner, firm administrator, and director of human resources. We have been discussing the need for a marketing director. Are we too small? If we decide to hire one what should we be looking for and where should we start our search?

Response:

There is no magic size. I have seen five lawyer firms effectively use a marketing director and thirty lawyer firms that do not have one. It all comes down to your firm's specific need, what you are wanting to accomplish, and what the lawyers are willing to let a marketing director do.

While the popular title is marketing director, director of client and business development, etc. some marketing staff in smaller firms often function more as marketing coordinators and event planners. If you are looking for someone to help the firm devise a competitive strategy, lead the firm's strategic planning effort, help diversify the practice, etc., you need to look for an experienced marketing director with five plus year's experience in law or other professional service firm marketing at a director level.

If you need someone to update the website, write bios, write blogs, update social media, create brochures, and plan and coordinate events – you may only need a marketing manager or coordinator with excellent writing skills. Prior experience in law or professional service firm marketing is a plus but not required. Journalism and mass communications are popular degrees for this position.

The Legal Marketing Association (LMA) is an excellent source for finding candidates. Here is a link to the LMA job bank

Click here for our blog on marketing 

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

 

 

Feb 02, 2016


Law Firm Succession – Should I Close My Doors

Question:

I am a lawyer from Carbondale, Illinois area. Last week I attended you Illinois State Bar Association CLE Webinar – Law Practice Succession and Transition – Ideas for Getting Started. I am 66 years old and I fit the "Sole Owner" model that you discussed. I am the practice. I have one associate and one legal assistant and my associate has neither the desire or the ability to take over my practice. I am tired and want to retire by the end of the year. With no successors in site I am thinking that I should just close the doors at the end of the year. I welcome your thoughts.

Response:

It could come to that if you cannot find someone interested in taking over your practice. However, since you have almost a year before your planned retirement I would at least try to see if you can find another lawyer or law firm to buy or otherwise takeover your practice – preferable "buy". Start now as it often takes a year. Make a short list, make some phone calls, have some lunches, get to know some folks, and see what kind of interest there might me. Keep a continual momentum going. Since you are the practice – this will be a concern to a potential buyer especially if you are unwilling to stay on after the sale in a consultative transition capacity. You might want to rethink your timeline – otherwise you may have to simply close the doors and refer out the work and strike the best arrangement that you can.

Click here for a link to my book – The Lawyers Guide to Succession Planning – published this week by ABA

Click here for our blog on succession

Click here for out articles on various management topics

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

 

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