Governance

Law Firm Consulting Services: Governance and Management

Partnership Agreements

The Partnership Agreement is the foundation of the partners' relationship with each other. We find many small firms (and some larger firms) with no written agreement. Sometimes lawyers with good intentions have an unsigned first draft in the bottom draw. Partnerships can get by from day to day without a written agreement, but eventually something unexpected will happen and a controversy will erupt. Read the legal press and you will see stories about litigation that resulted from either the lack of a Partnership Agreement or an inadequate Partnership Agreement. And a Partnership Agreement that was adequate for the founders of the firm may not be adequate as the firm grows and new partners join the ranks. We are prepared to help you develop a written Partnership Agreement that will properly reflect the arrangement between the partners, will accommodate growth, and will protect the firm in the event of unexpected developments.

Two Tier Partnerships

Long utilized by large firms, two tier partnerships are now being established by many small and midsized firms as an effective approach to succession planning. Non-equity partners can be given increased status along with participation in many of the operational decisions of the firm, while the equity partners retain control of the most critical decisions. Many firms have found the non-equity partner status as a useful way to groom lawyers for eventual participation as equity partners.

Mergers and Acquisitions

The recent recession has caused lawyers and law firms to reevaluate their practices and think about changes in their practice settings. Mergers and acquisitions are no longer activities of only large firms. We have helped some of our clients by seeking out potential candidates, evaluating the possibilities and assisting them in negotiating a merger or acquisition.

Partner Compensation Plans

Partner compensation plans are intended to fairly compensate partners for their contribution to the success of the firm. While achieving that goal is critical to a healthy partnership relationship, today's law firms use the compensations system as a management tool, by rewarding desired behaviors and penalizing unwanted behaviors. Firms should reevaluate the effectiveness of their compensation system every five years. The compensation system can be a powerful management tool.

Associate Career Planning

Associate turnover is far more costly to a law firm than most lawyers appreciate. Associates are investments that should be developed and protected. While it is not likely that every associate will succeed with your firm, a higher percentage can be retained as valuable lawyers with attention to training and career development. Interestingly, for most associates, training and career planning is more important than salary. Let us assist you with an associate program that will reduce turnover and improve the financial health of your firm.

Effective Practice Groups

Practice groups can provide a process for your lawyers to be more efficient and effective in the delivery of legal services. While newly created practice groups start out by managing practice methods, delivery systems, client intake standards, associate training, CLEs, etc., practice group leaders can provide firm management with assistance in projecting revenues and managing resources.

Strategic Planning

Every three to five years, a law firm should undergo a long range planning session to develop or update its plan for the future. Gone are the days when lawyers could succeed by simply showing up at work each day and reacting to whatever issues surface. Let us guide your firm, or its leadership, through a long range planning process.

Financial

Financial

Profitability Studies

A profitability study identifies opportunities for improved profits within the firm's current structure and making use of its current resources. The first step is a comparison of the firm's expenses with industry standards and a determination as to whether any expenses appear out of line. However, the more important aspect of the study involves opportunities on the revenue side. The firm's revenue capacity becomes a benchmark against which the firm's actual revenue is compared. By comparing the financial indicators with the results of the capacity study, it is possible to see the shortfalls and thereby identify opportunities for improved revenue. In typical firms, a 10% increase in revenue can result in a substantial improvement in the bottom line.

Meaningful Financial Reports

Many small and midsized firms do not make good use of their financial software and end up working with inadequate financial reports. We assist firms in identifying the financial reports that are lacking and provide guidance in how to use the reports to better manage the firm.

Alternative Billing Methods

The trend toward alternative billing methods began as an improvement to hourly billing, which was troublesome to most clients and some lawyers. But, the recession transformed the movement away from hourly billing in a marketing strategy, as a number of firms are surviving and thriving by offering clients an alternative. Let us help you develop alternative billing methods for your firm.

Business Development and Marketing Strategies

Firms without formal marketing programs are finding their client base eroding. These firms are coming to the conclusion that they can no longer survive without a marketing program, be it simple or complicated. We help firms re-evaluate their position in the marketplace and when necessary help them create an identifiable "brand." We also assist with firm marketing strategies and individual marketing plans.

Billing Process and Collections

Many small and mid-sized firms have financial difficulties due solely to inadequate billing and collections practices. We provide a step-by-step approach to client intake, fee agreements, billing and follow-up practices that insure timely collections. Let us help you turn things around. Stop pretending you can be the lawyer and the banker.

Retreats

Retreats

Planning and Facilitating Retreats

Retreats are a critical means of addressing major firm issues, keeping lawyers committed to common goals and objectives of the firm and providing a group session off site to enhance team and camaraderie. Retreats are best led by outside facilitators who keep the discussion focused and bring an objective presence to the process. We are prepared to provide either comprehensive services guiding leadership through the process of developing the retreat agenda or, in a more limited role, of simply leading a retreat based on the agenda prepared by firm management.

Long Range Planning Retreats

Most firm retreats focus on long range planning. One approach is for us to interview the partners in advance and then work with firm management to develop the retreat agenda. By taking this approach, we are able to assess the issues of concern among the partners and include the appropriate topics on the agenda. Since implementation and follow-up is critical to the success of a retreat, we offer the continuing service of monitoring the firm's progress. For many firms, this post retreat role becomes the most valuable part of our service.

Focused Retreat Topics

While most retreats are for long-range planning, there are times when one major issue needs to be addressed in a retreat session. We have conducted retreats focusing on the following single topics, including the partner compensation system, developing a marketing plan, and improving the firm culture.

Law Firm Productivity

Law Firm Productivity

Accountability

A law firm must rely on each member as a contributor to the success of the firm. Each partner, associate, paralegal or other billing employee must understand their role in the firm's success. Billing practices and systems such as management reports must be in place to measure accountability.

Particularly in situations where employees have not been held accountable the transition can be challenging. We create transition plans and develop materials, including Billable Hour Guidelines and Time Recording Instructions so that the firm puts into place what it needs to achieve revenue capacity and to reach for success.

Effective Paralegal Utilization

The first step in utilizing paralegals is seeking candidates with an explicit skill set and experience level. Paralegals should be viewed as profit centers. We develop job descriptions and specific guidelines for how the firm should integrate paralegals into the practice and also offer strategic planning on expanding paralegal roles.

Associate Training and Development

It costs firms not only time but money to hire associates. Once hired, keeping their career goals satisfied and rewarding their performance are often underappreciated and overlooked by firm management. We evaluate existing associate programs or work with firms to develop them so that associates are being led to contribute their best efforts to the firm.

Work Flow Efficiencies

There are often ebbs and flows to the volume of work, but the process for streamlining work must always be in place. Methods for delegating work, operations of work teams, implementing regular communication networks and maximizing technology devices are important to keeping the work and the revenue flowing. We meet with staff and lawyers to assess the processing of work in the firm and how it may be affecting the bottom line.

Staffing and Support Issues

Every firm has its own distinctive needs. We take a look at the firm's make-up and offer advice on how the firm's current staffing and support could be improved. Sometimes small improvements make the biggest difference.

Succession Planning

Succession Planning for Law Firms

Retirements and Exit Plans

Moving on after a career in practicing law means more than having a portfolio in place. Career planning takes forethought and setting goals to put that plan into effect. Whether your goals involve valuing the firm for sale; merger or succession; or winding down, there are many available options, provided you plan ahead.

Transitions

Mid-career to late career are periods to evaluate your next steps. Once you ask yourself where you might like to go we help by presenting the best options and create a road map for getting there.

Recruiting Successors

If you choose to seek a firm successor, our skills include searches for viable candidates to fit your specific needs. We assist in creating a search plan and seeing the process through interviewing, negotiations and hire.

Of Counsel Arrangements

One available alternative might be leveraging past experience in an Of Counsel or similar arrangement. Often this can be the perfect bridge to many lawyers. We assist by offering viable prospects, brokering leads and preparing the Agreements.

Leadership Development

A firm's success can rise or fall on one key ingredient: Leadership. If you need help building your own leadership skills, we offer advice and coaching, as well as provide resources and recommendations. We also provide guidance in finding others with the right leadership ability.

Our New Succession Planning Brochure

The link is available on our Home page. Our brochure outlines the various ways we can assist in your planning process.

A Practical Guide Book - "Succession Planning for Law Firms and Rewards for Retiring Lawyers"

Buy the book online for $45!

Law Firm Succession Planning

Office Culture

Office Culture

Identifying and Improving Law Firm Culture

Every firm has its personality, its own culture. Poor attitudes or morale, decreased motivation or failing performance can often be tied to aspects of a firm's culture.

Team work and quality service are just a couple of the indicators of a firm's culture. An assessment of these indicators is an important part of looking at firm profitability. A positive culture can translate into productivity, accountability and success.

Improving Communications

A lawyer's role in operating a law practice involves managing client work and the firm's financial and other operations. It also involves managing people. No matter how small or large the office, associates, paralegals and assistants are the most important resource you have. They can be the key to success or the cause of failure.

One of the most discerning aspects of successfully managing people hinges on communication. We offer advice on how to manage the firm through effective communication and strategies.