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Best Practice Tips

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

Q. We are a firm is a 15-attorney firm in Kansas City, Missouri. Our management committee is charged with the responsibility of determining partner, associate and staff compensation. Several years ago we switched to a competency based, goal driven system for partners, associates, and staff. The system requires self-evaluations, peer evaluations for partners and associates, and self-evaluations. This requires extensive performance reviews, tracking, scheduling, and documentation. We are using Excel spreadsheets and MS Word documents and having a hard time managing all of this. Do you have any ideas?

Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am a partner in a 12-attorney firm in Downers Grove, Ill. We have eight partners and four associates. We are managed by committee of the whole - all partners are involved in all decisions. We have been considering moving to an executive committee. How do we set it up?

Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am a member of a three-member executive committee for a 34-lawyer firm in Austin, Texas. We have been in practice for over 100 years. While we have had partners retire in the past with no issues, we are now facing a situation where seven partners are approaching retirement at the same time and each of them controls significant books of business. What can the firm do to ensure that retiring partners properly transition their clients so the firm can continue to flourish after the partners are no longer here? We would appreciate your thoughts.

Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am the managing partner of a six attorney boutique estate planning practice located in Madison, Wisconsin. We had a great year last year financially as we have the last several years. However, this year (2016) we are off to a terrible start. Our new matter intakes are down by twenty-five percent. We have a very proactive marketing program - print advertisements, directory listings, top notch website, and we do seminars for prospective clients. I know other estate planning attorneys that do more seminars than we do. Should we be doing more seminars? I would appreciate your insight. 

Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am the sole owner of a 25-attorney litigation boutique firm in Los Angeles. I am the only equity partner with nine non-equity partners and 15 associates. I am concerned that if I don't provide a path to equity partnership, some of my senior talent may gradually defect to other firms or split off to create their own firms. I also believe that providing a path to equity partner for deserving non-equity partners is the right thing to do. Therefore, I am planning on admitting two non-equity members this year. Should I require capital contributions?

Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am a member of our firm's executive committee. We are a 16-attorney business transactional firm in Seattle. Recently the firm has lost several key clients and we want to know what we can do determine why this happened and what we can do to improve client retention. I would appreciate your suggestions.

Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am the founder and managing partner of a 27-attorney firm in Dallas, Texas. I own 90% of the stock in the firm. I have a three member management committee that serves as a sounding board, a firm administrator, and several people in accounting that work for the firm administrator. We are anticipating hiring a marketing director and are trying to think our way through how to structure this new position as well as future management positions down the road. I would appreciate any thoughts that you may have.

Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am the managing partner of a 12-lawyer insurance defense firm in Oklahoma City. We have four partners and eight associates. While we have grown over the last five or six years by adding associates, our profitability has remained flat. We feel that we are not getting the billable hours that we should out of our associates. What are other firms like ours getting out of their associates in terms of billable hours?

Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am owner of a four-attorney firm in Amarillo, Texas. We represent both individual and institutional clients. Recently, we have had numerous complaints from clients advising us that our services took longer than expected and fees were also higher than expected. I would appreciate your thoughts.

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

Q. I am part of a three member management committee of a 16-lawyer firm located in Akron, Ohio. We have 10 partners and 6 associates. Several of our partners are in their 50s and 60s. We have had recent discussions with a couple of potential merger partners and laterals and in all cases they have backed out because they were uncomfortable with our balance sheet. What can we do to better position ourselves? We desperately need to bring in new talent with books of business.