Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog

Category: Time

Feb 27, 2019


Law Firm Succession and Transition – All Three Partners Retiring at the Same Time

Question: 

Our firm is a personal injury plaintiff litigation firm in Denver, Colorado. I am one of three partners in the firm. We have one associate that has been with us for twelve years and three recent law grad associates with less than three years experience.  The three partners started the practice together over thirty years ago and we are all in our early sixties. Our lease expires in three years and we need to think about the future of the firm. All three of us are not ready to retire but none of us want to sign another lease. When we do retire we would want to retire at the same time. Do you have any suggestions?

Response: 

I believe your first step would be to agree on your timeline for the group’s phase-down and eventual exit from the practice. It sounds like three years, while it may not be the date that you want to exit from the practice it may be the date that you sell your partnership interests or begin the transition of your interests. Many firms that have other attorneys working in the firm prefer an internal succession strategy as opposed to an external strategy – selling or merging the practice. An internal strategy will depend upon:

I believe your second step is to reach a conclusion as to the above three questions. You may have to have some candid discussions with you associate to determine his or her interest level and his or her readiness to take over the practice. If you determine that your senior associate is your succession strategy you need to decide whether you are willing to start selling the associate shares sooner than later and admit the senior associate as a minority interest partner. As part of this partnership admission you would also execute an agreement for the purchase of additional shares over the next few years and upon your actual retirements. This way you get your associate committed and begin executing a transition plan focusing on additional legal and business skill development as well transitioning client and referral source relationships and firm management responsibilities.

If you determine that your senior associate is not your succession plan you will have to consider other options such as bringing in a seasoned lateral attorney that has the needed skills and desire to take over ownership of the firm, selling the firm to another firm, or merging the practice.

Click here for our blog on succession
Click here for out articles on various management topics

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

Aug 08, 2017


Law Firm Strategic Planning – Reasons for Investing the Time to Develop a Strategic Plan

Question:

I serve on the management committee of our sixteen lawyer firm in Columbus, Ohio. We do not currently have a strategic plan and been discussing whether we should spend the time developing one. However, we are not sure what a strategic plan would do for us or why we should invest the time in developing one. We appreciate any thoughts that you may have.

Response: 

One of the major problems facing law firms is focus. Research indicates that three of the biggest challenges facing professionals today are: time pressures, financial pressures, and the struggle to maintain a healthy balance between work and home. Billable time, non-billable time or the firm’s investment time, and personal time must be well managed, targeted and focused. Your time must be managed as well.

Today well-focused specialists are winning the marketplace wars. Trying to be all things to all people is not a good strategy. Such full-service strategies only lead to lack of identity and reputation. For most small firms it is not feasible to specialize in more than two or three core practice areas.

Based upon our experience from client engagements we have concluded that lack of focus and accountability is one of the major problems facing law firms. Often the problem is too many ideas, alternatives, and options. The result often is no action at all or actions that fail to distinguish firms from their competitors and provide them with a sustained competitive advantage. Ideas, recommendations, suggestions, etc. are of no value unless implemented.

Well designed strategic plans are essential for focusing your firm. However, don’t hide behind strategy and planning. Attorneys love to postpone implementation.

A strategic plan is useless unless it is used. Don’t create a plan and simply file it. You must actively work your plan. Involve everyone in the firm, delegate action items, and require accountability. Consider it a living document – revise it – update it – change it as needed. Refer to it weekly and incorporate action plan items into your weekly schedule.

Use your plan as your roadmap to your future.

Good luck on your journey.

Click here for our blog on strategy

Click here for articles on other topics

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

 

Mar 30, 2016


Law Firm Compensation for TIme Spent by Partners Managing The Firm

Question:

Firm has three partners, two associates, and 2 staff members. We are a new firm and just started in practice a year ago. We are equal partners and we allocate compensation equally based upon these ownership interests. We believe the system has worked well for us but we been considering whether one person should handle all the management duties and if so how that person should be compensated. We would appreciate your thoughts.

Response:

First I would identify the duties and hours involved and make sure the duties are managing partner level duties and not office manager level duties that should be handled by staff. Delegate or consider hiring an office manager for duties than can be delegated. For duties that can't be delegated I would suggest you that a look at the hours that will be required and determine a  fixed additional compensation amount based on expected hours and the partner's standard billing rate. The partner's compensation would be his/her fixed additional compensation amount plus his/her allocation based upon ownership interest.

Click here for our blog on compensation

Click here for articles on other topics

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

 

Feb 04, 2015


Law Firm Financial Performance – Billable TIme and Fees

Question:

I am the managing partner of a four attorney (all partners) estate planning firm in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We are all working hard but I do not believe that we are making the money that we should be. Last year our fee collections were $600,000 and our net income $250,000 which was the total amount that was available for partner compensation. Thus, we each made $62,500.00. Each of us have been practicing for over 20 years and I believe this is totally unacceptable. We appear to be busy and have plenty of work. I would appreciate your thoughts.

Response:

I agree that the firm should be doing much better. Regardless of practice area (unless you are an insurance defense firm) and where you are located I believe you should be averaging $300,000+ fee collections per lawyer. You are averaging $150,000 per lawyer. You expenses of $350,000 ($67,500 per lawyer) is actually low and not the problem. You need to dig into the numbers and look into why the revenue numbers are not higher. Usually the culprits are lack of business, inadequate billing rate (or effective rate for flat fee matters), not putting in the hours, or poor time management and time keeping habits. Each attorney should strive for 70% of worked time to be billable (client production) time. Lexis has published a couple of studies on billable hours that you might find useful - Billable Hours Survey Report, Non-Billable Hours Survey Report and Where Do all the Hours Go

I find that many estate planning firms that do much of their work on a flat fee basis often are not realizing effective rates anywhere near their target time billing rates.

Look into the numbers and determine the culprit or culprits and then develop a strategy for dealing with each one – marketing to improving work ethic and time management and time keeping habits.

Click here for our blog on financial management

Click here for articles on other topics

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

    Subscribe to our Blog