Our firm is a ten attorney boutique litigation firm located in Memphis with four partners and six associates. We are in very early discussions with another firm in town that has three partners and four associates. We believe that a merger would improve our lawyer talent base and help us grow. In our last meeting the topic of firm name was discussed and it was an unpleasant discussion and we are concerned that we may a difficult time agreeing on the name of the firm. Is this a common issues and problem?
Yes. Deciding on a name for the new firm is another interesting reason why some firms decide not to merge. It is unbelievable how egos can override important business decisions when the time comes to choose a name for a combined practice. It is ludicrous for the receptionist to greet you with six names when you call a law office.
Nowhere in the business world should a caller have to wait that long before being able to ask for the person sought. The truth of the matter is that everyone remembers the first and possibly second name of most law firms, and this point should be dealt with in negotiations. The importance of the firm name in marketing and branding should also be considered.
If the combined firm is having trouble with the name of the firm, then obviously the firm is going to have a lot more trouble in the future. Where there are problems in selecting the name of the firm, I would recommend that the firms not merge because of the egos involved. It is a sure sign of future problems when people cannot sit down and immediately offer to give something up – such as inclusion of their name in the firm name. What is more important – firm security, bottom line, future growth, or “your name in the firm?” Some may say all four, but the point is to look at the business opportunity at hand.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC