Our firm is a personal injury plaintiff law firm located in Austin, Texas. We have 4 attorneys in the firm and all are partners who have been practicing for over 25 years. One hundred percent of our practice is PI plaintiff. We have been extremely successful over the years and handled some very large cases, have had some big wins, and handled several class action cases. Our current challenge is cash flow. The cases we are involved with seem to be bigger and more complex with fewer smaller cases that can be resolved quickly and contribute to cash flow. We are getting in deeper to our line of credit. Of late we have been discussing pros and cons of diversifying the practice and adding a non-PI practice area to our practice. What are your thoughts? Have you seen PI plaintiff firm do this successfully?
More and more of our PI plaintiff law firm clients have been raising this question during the past year. While a lot can be said about specialization – a firm can also sometimes be too specialized. I have seen many hybrid firms over the past 20+ years that have successfully combined a plaintiff personal injury practice with a transactional practice. As one firm told me "us transactional folks bill the hours and pay the bills while we turn the PI folks loose to go after the big hits." Firms that operate the firm as a "firm-first" firm tend to be more successful with such a practice mix than do firms that are "long ranger" firms operating as a collection of individual practitioners. In these firms compensation can become difficult and divisive due to the large swings that can occur in contingency fee work. However, firm-first firms look beyond this year's fee production, carry their contingency fee brothers and sisters when their numbers are down, and share the wealth when the big hits come in. Marketing and advertising came be more challenging – but it can be done. Practice areas might include commercial litigation, employment discrimination, business transactions, etc. High-end family and criminal practices have also been good candidates as well. It is not so much the type of practice as it is the type of practitioner and whether then be a good "cultural fit" with the PI folks.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC