Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog

Category: Finding

Oct 10, 2019

Finding and Training in a New Estate Planning Attorney


I am the owner of an estate planning firm in the Western Chicago suburbs. My practice is a specialized practice that focuses on estate planning, estate administration, estate litigation, and elder law. While I was a solo practitioner for many years approximately four years ago I brought in an associate that had three or four years experience with an other estate planning firm. Unfortunately, he just gave me his notice and advised that he was leaving to join another firm. We have too much work for me to handle by myself and I am going to need another attorney with estate planning experience. How do I go about finding this person. Any suggestions that you have will be appreciated.


I have assisted several of my Chicagoland estate planning law firm clients as well as clients in other parts of the country and I can tell you that experienced estate planning/administration and elder law attorneys are like gold and hard to find. This was even the case during the 2008 recession when recent law school graduates and experienced attorneys with other skill sets were having difficult times finding jobs. Now, with the current job market, finding experienced estate planning/administration and elder law attorneys is even more difficult. Many of these attorneys tend to work in small firms, are loyal to their firms, and less mobile. They tend to stay put and often remain with one law firm for their entire careers.

I would start your search for an experienced attorney by:

  1. Putting the word out through your professional network. Ask around.
  2. Prepare an ad for the position
  3. Post the ad with, Career Center, LinkedIn, local suburban bar associations, and local law schools.
  4. Have resumes come to you electronically.
  5. After initially reviewing resumes and narrowing down to candidates of interest use a telephone interview as your first interview and face to face for a subsequent interview if appropriate.

If after thirty days or so you are having no luck you might have to consider using a local headhunter or simply looking for a recent law graduate and investing the time to train a new attorney.  Several of my estate planning/administration and elder law clients are having to hire new law graduates and train them. Many have been quite satisfied with the results and now believe it is the best way to go. Recent law graduates start with a clean slate and do not bring in any baggage or bad practices or habits picked up in other law firms. They are often more loyal and stay with the firm longer.

A few suggestions concerning recent law school graduates:

  1. Look for candidates that took elective courses in estates/trusts/elder law.
  2. Look for candidates that had meaningful clerking experience with law firms specializing in estate planning/administration and elder law. Not running errands but meaningful experience.
  3. Develop a comprehensive training plan with specific timelines designed to get the attorney billable and productive as soon as possible in easier forms of work (possibly guardianship) and then gradually move the attorney into simple estate plans and more complex areas over time.
  4. Be patient – the process will take time – consider it an investment.
  5. It will take time for you to make money from the new associate. Be happy if you cover the cost of the associate in the first year.

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

Apr 28, 2015

Law Firm Merger – Finding Merger Candidates


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.


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,, 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 08, 2014

Law Firm New Business Development – Finding New Startup Companies Before They Startup


I am the managing partner of a 17 attorney law firm located in Rockford, Illinois. While we have an active business law practice representing small companies we are planning on beginning to work more with entrepreneurial and startup companies. How can we go about finding and identifying these companies earlier in their development – possibly even before they have actually launched their businesses?


Many of the larger law firms are developing entrepreneurship and startup practice areas as a means of beefing up their business practices with new sources of business. So, I believe that your plan to reach out to entrepreneurs is a worthwhile strategy if you can learn to think like an innovator rather than being trapped by precedents of the past and become part of their network. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Learn to think like an innovator, embrace opportunity, and react quickly. Precedent can be the enemy of innovation.
  2. Go where entrepreneurs go – don't just hang out with lawyers.
  3. Join business/entrepreneurial trade associations.
  4. Speak and present at entrepreneuria trade conferences.
  5. Attend entrepreneuria trade conferences and go to the educational sessions.
  6. Write and publish in entrepreneuria trade association publications.
  7. Get a booth and exhibit at small business trade shows. For example – in St. Louis we have the Small Business Expo –
  8. Become involved with (possibly sponsor) startup incubators in your local community or universities.
  9. Scan public documents (i.e. Secretary State, etc.) concerning new business startup filings.
  10. Become active in your local chamber of commerce.

You will increase your odds if you can develop relationships with entrepreneurs before they have launched their businesses – this may be when they need a trusted advisor the most.

Good luck!

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


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