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Best Practice Tips

Asked and Answered

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

Q. We have a two-partner firm in Columbus, Ohio. We have two staff members, and there are no other attorneys in the firm. We have been in practice together for 17 years. I am 62 and my partner is in his fifties. My practice is limited to intellectual property and my partner’s practice is limited to medical malpractice defense. Recently, as a result of lack of coverage, our unwillingness to hire associate attorneys, and our frustrations with dealing with management issues, we have decided that we would like to merge with a larger firm. However, we are concerned that our numbers may not be satisfactory. Our five-year averages are as follows:

  • Gross Revenue – $500,000
  • Expenses – $240,000
  • Net Income – $260,000

Since we split the pot evenly we each made $130,000 on average. With these numbers are we a suitable candidate or are we just whistling in the wind? We would appreciate your thoughts.

Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am the owner of a plaintiff personal injury law firm in Arlington, Texas. I have three associate attorneys, six non-lawyer case managers, and three other staff members. Our marketing consists of our yellow pages program and our website. I am considering TV advertising and I would appreciate your thoughts concerning venturing into this arena.

Asked and Answered

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

Q.  We have a 16-attorney business law firm in Cleveland, Ohio – six equity partners and 10 associates. The equity partners have been discussing putting in place an associate attorney career advancement program and outlining equity partner admission requirements. Can you share your thoughts on what we should be considering and how we should get started?

Asked and Answered

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

Q.  We have a 12-attorney business litigation firm in Sacramento, California. I am one of three members on our technology committee. Our IT infrastructure consists of an in-house Microsoft file server, a separate Microsoft Exchange e-mail server, and document management and time, billing, and accounting software. Our documents are stored locally and managed by the locally installed document management software. Several of our partners have talked with other firms that are operating totally in the cloud. We would appreciate whether moving to the cloud is something that we should consider?

Asked and Answered

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

Q. We have a 25-attorney firm based in San Antonio, Texas. We have 15 equity partners. We are equal partners and have equal ownership interests. Our partners are paid based upon ownership shares. Thus, each is paid the same. The system has worked well for us for many years and has supported our team-based collaborative culture. However, we are having issues with non-productive partners, and some of the productive partners feel that the compensation system is no longer fair. Some of the partners have suggested that we move to a formulaic system. Other partners in the firm feel that such a system would destroy the collaborative culture we have built. We appreciate your thoughts.

Asked and Answered

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

Q. We have a 12-attorney business litigation firm in Springfield. I am part of our three-member management committee and have been charged with helping the firm find and hire our first legal administrator. While we have a bookkeeper who handles our billing and accounting, the rest of the firm's management matters are handled by the management committee. We believe we have reached a size where we need help with managing day-to-day operations. What sort of skill set and type of person should we be looking for?

Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am the owner of a personal injury plaintiff practice in downtown Chicago. I am the only attorney in the firm. I have two legal assistants. I am 66 years old and am starting to think about retirement and how to exit my practice. I would like to sell the practice to another law firm or practitioner. Does my practice have any value and can it even be sold?

Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am the owner of an eight-attorney insurance defense firm in San Antonio, Texas. I have been practicing fifteen years. I am forty-five years old. Many of my peers in firms my size are in partnerships. Is my situation unusual? Should I consider having partners?

Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am the sole owner of a four-attorney firm in St. Louis, Missouri. Our firm has four staff members - 2 legal assistants, a receptionist, and an office manager/bookkeeper. It is that time of year again where I anguish over year-end bonuses for staff which end up being Santa Claus bonuses with no relationship to actual performance. I would like to move away from this approach and tie their bonuses to performance. How do I measure performance for bonuses?

Happy New Year and Best Wishes for a Personal and Professional 2017

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

As 2016 comes to an end we begin with a clean slate for 2017. As with anything new - the uncertain future can be scary and exciting at the same time. Year-end provides an opportune time for reflection on the past year and setting goals for the next year - both personal and professional. Goal setting can improve your personal life and your practice.