Browsing Category 'law firm management’ RSS

Flexibility and Urgency in Hiring

Date August 10, 2017 Comment Comments Off on Flexibility and Urgency in Hiring

Flexibility and Urgency in Hiring

It’s no longer 2009.  With unemployment rates hovering close to 4%, employers need to change their approach to recruiting talent.Workplace flexibility concept on the gearwheels

In the legal search business, we are seeing candidates who are being much more discriminating about what jobs they are willing to consider.  In certain areas of practice, notably corporate, real estate and IP, the attorneys and paralegals we are trying to recruit are commanding higher salaries than ever.

More importantly, some of the best talent we approach already have flexibility in their hours and they are not willing to give that up.  In 2017, the best talent wants and demands flexibility.  This is true for the attorneys and paralegals that we work with.

While most employers are not eager to have their employees coming and going, the reality is that our workforce is connected through smart phones and email.  In order to compete for the “best” talent, smart employers should be prepared to permit professional staff (and to the extent that it is consistent with the needs of the business, support staff) to spend a portion of their time working remotely.

I speak all the time to lawyers and paralegals who already have these arrangements.  If you thought hiring the “best and the brightest” was a challenge a couple of years ago, right now, it’s harder than ever to convince top talent to consider other opportunities.

Similarly, we are seeing that adding a sense of urgency to the hiring process is important in the war for talent.  When our law firm and corporate clients move quickly, they greatly increase their chances of getting the candidates they want.

While this has always been true, this seems more true than ever.  The Catch-22 is that most employers hire because they are too busy.  In the short run, the hiring process can exacerbate that problem.  But until the economy turns again, employers beware!  A long and drawn out hiring process may mean losing out on the chance to get the best talent.

Getting the Help You Need

Date April 8, 2013 Comment Comments Off on Getting the Help You Need

Getting the Help You Need

One of the key things that you do as a lawyer is to help your clients sleep better at night. You identify legal risks and work with your clients to manage these risks. In doing so, you enable your clients to focus more of their mental energy on their businesses and less on worrying about what might go wrong.

Lawyers also need help in running their law practices. But unlike people who run other types of businesses, lawyers are not very good at asking for help. (“I’m smart. I should be able to figure this out myself.”)

In the complex world that we now live in, failing to get help can be a crucial mistake. As a lawyer, all you have to sell is your time. Do you want to spend your time doing client work and cultivating relationships that can lead to higher value client work? Or would you like to spend hours solving your computer problems, doing your own bookkeeping and preparing your own tax returns.

If you are just starting in practice, paying for help may not be feasible. Until you have generated some cash flow and until you are busy with client work, it may make sense to try a “do-it-yourself” approach for a while. But if that is the case, you can still tap into some of resources that are available to you at little or no cost. In doing so, you won’t spend hours reinventing the wheel.

One source of free help is other lawyers who have been in practice for a while. There are many attorneys who remember what it was like to be starting out. Find someone who is willing to meet with you to discuss how to organize your practice. Find out what technology they use and how they do their billing.

A great resource is Massachusetts LOMAP (Law Office Management Assistance Program), an agency supported by your bar dues. LOMAP provides free technical support to lawyers in the areas of law office management and technology. They will work with any lawyer in Massachusetts and they do a great job.

The Law Practice Management Section of the MBA hosts seminars and meetings that are low or no cost. Check the calendar to see what is coming up.

As your law practice (and your cash flow) continues to grow, make sure that you hire professionals who can help YOU sleep better at night. Hire an accountant and bookkeeper to worry about the books. Get a technology consultant who can work on your firm’s network while you spend time on legal work and marketing.

If you are spinning your wheels about where to focus your marketing energies, consider hiring a marketing coach. A good coach is a sounding board and provides guidance and encouragement to ensure that over time, you are doing the “right” things to help you elevate your reputation and build your referral relationships (and ultimately generate the work you want).

Initially, bringing in help may cause your cash flow to decrease. But hiring consultants is an investment in yourself and in your business. Getting help means giving yourself the time to produce higher quality work and to focus on building your business. You also get the benefit of learning how to run a more efficient and professional practice.

The great American myth is that people who are successful are self made. In truth, behind every successful politician, entrepreneur, athlete, performer or professional services provider is an army of support. So don’t be afraid to get help yourself.  It will do wonders for your practice.

Posted by Stephen Seckler

Connecting the Silos in Your Law Firm

Date September 17, 2012 Comment Comments Off on Connecting the Silos in Your Law Firm

Connecting the Silos in Your Law Firm

A big marketing challenge for law firms is to figure out how to speak with one voice. Unlike businesses where the products or services are easily described, a law firm may offer a broad mix of intangible services. So even a partnership with five attorneys might have the expertise to handle over two dozen types of matters.

In reality, however, there is no effective way for five lawyers to communicate two dozen services to the legal marketplace. A successful marketing strategy needs to be considerably more focused. Rattling off 20 things when someone asks what you do is simply not effective. It does little to differentiate you from any other law firm; and it ensures that you will be completely unmemorable.

A better strategy is to do some assessment and planning and decide where you might get the most return on your marketing investment. In other words ask yourselves:

  • Which practice areas does the firm want to grow?
  • Where do the partners believe they have the best opportunities to generate new business (i.e. taking into account the realities of the marketplace)?
  • Given the relationships that partners have with potential clients and referral sources, where are the best opportunities to go prospecting?

    Businesses in most other industries (including accounting firms and other professional services providers), understand the importance of taking the time to do this kind of planning periodically.

    Unfortunately, many law firm partnerships never take the time to have these discussions. A lot of law firms operate more like an association of service providers who share expenses. Each lawyer stays in his or her own silo and not much is decided on a firm-wide or even practice group level.

    But a group of lawyers can market much more effectively as a firm. By focusing on the “best opportunities” and by getting every partner on the “same page”, a firm can increase the likelihood that its message is getting through the noise. And with the increased competition in the legal marketplace and the explosion of email marketing and social media in the past decade, this is no easy feat.

    So how does your firm measure up? Have you taken the time to survey the partners in your firm and come up with a consensus about where the firm should focus its marketing energies? Do you all describe the firm in the same way? One place to start is to use a marketing audit tool that appeared in Law Practice Magazine several years ago. If that doesn’t move the conversation forward, then maybe it is time to get some outside help.

    Planning Your Goals for 2012

    Date December 23, 2011 Comment Comments Off on Planning Your Goals for 2012

    Planning Your Goals for 2012

    Read my latest LPM tip in the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Lawyer’s e-JournalContact me if you would like to receive some planning tools for 2012.

    Focus on Your Strengths; Hire for Your Weaknesses

    Date September 30, 2011 Comment Comments Off on Focus on Your Strengths; Hire for Your Weaknesses

    Focus on Your Strengths; Hire for Your Weaknesses

    My latest tip in the MBA’s Lawyer’s e-Journal.

    The Ethics of Legal Process Outsourcing-Free Webinar

    Date April 20, 2011 Comment Comments Off on The Ethics of Legal Process Outsourcing-Free Webinar

    The Ethics of Legal Process Outsourcing-Free Webinar

    In order to make alternative fee agreements work, law firms need to find ways to control their costs.  But it is a win/win scenario for attorneys and their clients as the business of law shifts to this new paradigm.  Clients get more predictability with fixed fee billing and with outsourcing,  law firms of all sizes have the ability to handle document intensive cases.  In addition, large firms have a way of continuing to provide very high end strategic advising at premium prices without having to charge the client $300 per hour to have first year associates doing relatively low value document review work.

    There are, of course, a number of ethical issues that should not be neglected and we will be covering some of these in my upcoming MBA panel on marketing your practice with conventional and alternative fee agreements.  But if you want more depth on the ethical issues, LPO giant Inegreon is hosting a webinar featuring LPO guru, Mark Ross.  I’ve heard Mark speak in the past and he does a great job (i.e. don’t let the price convince you otherwise).

    Getting Paid: How to Market Your Practice With Conventional and Alternative Fee Agreements

    Date April 8, 2011 Comment Comments Off on Getting Paid: How to Market Your Practice With Conventional and Alternative Fee Agreements

    Getting Paid: How to Market Your Practice With Conventional and Alternative Fee Agreements

    Fee agreements are the cornerstone of any legal practice. Drafted properly, they increase the likelihood that you will get paid for your services in a timely fashion.   Good fee agreements decrease the chances that you will get into a dispute with your clients or with the Board of Bar overseers, and they can even be an effective marketing tool as well.  On May 4th, Stephen Seckler will chair a panel on the subject at the Massachusetts Bar Association.  For more, click here.

    Adopting Alternative Billing and Keeping the Pipeline Moving

    Date February 16, 2011 Comment Comments Off on Adopting Alternative Billing and Keeping the Pipeline Moving

    Alternative billing remains a good marketing opportunity for law firms of all sizes.  But how do you move away from hourly billing without cutting into your own profitability? Read my latest in the Massachusetts Lawyers Journal (see page 21.)        And while you are there, see page 22 for an excellent article on why it is risky to spread out your work when you are slow.

    Stale Partnership Agreements Lead to Practice Pitfalls

    Date August 27, 2010 Comment Comments Off on Stale Partnership Agreements Lead to Practice Pitfalls

    Stale Partnership Agreements Lead to Practice Pitfalls

    Revisit Law Firm Partnership AgreementsDrafting a partnership agreement is a key component of starting a legal practice – keeping it updated, however, is one housekeeping item that often falls by the wayside at busy firms. Whether gaining or losing a partner, attorneys need to put the parties’ expectations in writing.  Failing to do so can place the law firm at risk of losing control over its current revenues or worse, can lead to the collapse of the firm.

    Discrepancies in one partnership agreement resulted in a legal battle in the following case:  the law firm Chadbourne & Parke sued a former partner over a fee awarded in a matter involving trusts for descendants of department store magnate Marshall Field.  The former partner, a veteran trusts and estates lawyer who left Chadbourne in 2000 to join another firm, had continued to provide legal services to the client after leaving the firm and claimed entitlement to a portion of the fee awarded by the court after he departed the firm.  While his original partnership agreement would have required him to split the fees if he were still at the firm, the agreement was silent on arrangements with former partners.

    Another recent case highlights the importance of updating a firm’s partnership agreement, particularly where its terms contain precise requirements regarding who the firm must maintain as partners in order to continue functioning as a business.   The widow of a firm’s founding partner was able to force the firm’s dissolution following the partner’s death because the partnership agreement had not been updated to reflect the interests of additional partners who joined the firm after the agreement was drafted.

    Law firms and the attorneys responsible for updating partnership agreements should keep the items below in mind in order to help reduce risk:

    • Partnership agreements should be reviewed at least annually in addition to every time there is a substantial change in the firm’s normal order of business (e.g., new partners added, merger, etc.).  Think of a partnership agreement as a fluid document requiring periodic review and updating similar to a will.  Key “life events” in your firm will trigger the need to review the terms of your partnership agreement much like a marriage, divorce or having children prompts the review and possible update of a will.
    • With the trend in downsizing, firms may be restructuring their staffs.  These changes in operating structure or responsibilities can open firms up to risk if they are not careful to consider how these changes impact their partnership agreements and revise the terms accordingly.  The partnership agreement in many ways is not unlike an operating manual for the firm.
    • In particular, firms that have created a dedicated committee to handle management decisions may want to consider management liability insurance which can provide financial protection for those individuals in the event of a lawsuit or other dispute which could become costly to defend

    This post by Jim Rhyner, worldwide lawyers professional liability insurance product manager, Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, is one of a continuing series of guest posts on CounseltoCounsel. Special thanks to Jim for his continued contributions.

    Thinking of Running a Virtual Law Practice? [via @MassLomap]

    Date August 10, 2010 Comment Comments Off on Thinking of Running a Virtual Law Practice? [via @MassLomap]

    Here is a good rundown of the ethical issues that you should be concerned with if you are thinking of running your law practice with cloud computing.