Law Practice Management News
Ideas for Lawyers and Managers That Dare To Be Different October 2013

in this issue

Impact Of Law Firm Growth Upon Management and Organizational Structure

Law Firm Associate Performance Evaluations

Solo/Small Firm Question of the Month - Handling Law Office Staff That Can't Get Along

Download Our Profitability Checklist

Looking to Sell or Merge Your Practice - Let Us Know

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John W. Olmstead


Welcome to Olmstead & Associates Law Practice News, a law practice management resource for practicing attorneys, managing partners, administrators, and others that must keep updated on all aspects of law firm management.

Our Law Practice Management E-Newsletter is distributed on the first Wednesday of each month. Look for it and send us your emails with your ideas for topics that you would like covered. I wish to thank those who take the time to email me with their thoughts and comments. I encourage our readers to do so.

  • We represent a law firm in Central Kentucky looking to sell their tax preparation practice.
  • We represent a business law firm in Houston, Texas looking to merge with another firm.
  • We represent an estate planning firm in Chicago looking to merge or sell practice.
  • We represent an estate planning firm in Peoria, Illinois area looking to sell practice.
Interested parties should contact John Olmstead via e-mail at jolmstead@olmsteadassoc.com.

  • Impact Of Law Firm Growth Upon Management and Organizational Structure
  • Law firm growth can be a blessing and a curse. Many firms have outgrown their management (organizational) structures. A firm with nine people is a different firm than a firm with four people. This is a difficult size - large enough to feel the pains and challenges of being larger but not large enough to reap the organizational benefits of a larger firm such as a full-time firm administrator, accounting manager, HR manager, etc. (I believe that as a law firm grows - management gets harder until a firm gets to around 12 attorneys - then as the firm begins to put in place a management team - it gets easier.)

    Read on . . .
  • Law Firm Associate Performance Evaluations
  • One of the most frequent complains I hear during interviews with associates in law firms of all sizes is lack of specific detailed feedback, unclear or non-existent expectations concerning their performance and future career progression, and vague informal performance reviews.

    Here are a few suggestions:

    1. Institute a system where associates, especially when they are new, have a chance to work with all of the partners in the firm.
    2. As managing partner solicit feedback from your partners and meet monthly with each associate and discuss their performance during their first two years of employment with the firm.
    3. Annually conduct formal performance reviews with each associate. Before the review obtain specific feedback from each of the partners and have each partner complete a written review of each associate using the associate performance rating form. Ask each associate to conduct a self-evaluation using the firm's associate performance rating form and then conduct a detailed review with each associate. The review should be detailed and specific and should be developmental with specific goals and timelines established. Document the review in the associate performance rating form.
    4. Consider developing an associate career progression program (partnership track) and committing it to writing. The program should outline the timeline for first consideration for partnership, competencies and performance factors, what partnership means in your firm, how an associate becomes a partner, buy-in or capital contribution requirements, voting, etc.
    5. Be honest and open with your associates - don't try to be Santa Claus - tell them the truth, have the difficult discussions, and make the tough calls. Be accessible.

  • Solo/Small Firm Question of the Month - Handling Law Office Staff That Can't Get Along
  • Question I am the managing partner in an eight attorney firm in Chicago. We are having problems with office staff members getting along. Office conflict is rampant. Any suggestions?

    Answer: You should begin by identifying some of the causes. Poor communications often can be the root cause of such problems. Interview each of your staff members individually and probe. What do they think? Is communications a problem? Are roles, duties, and responsibilities clarified? Lack of clarity can in these areas can lead to turf wars. You may want to design job descriptions for each employee and clarify roles, duties, and responsibilities for each employee. Conduct short weekly staff meetings to enhance communications. Use agendas. Take and publish notes of the meetings. Advise everyone of your expectations including all members working together as team members. Let them know that working together as a team is a performance factor that will be considered in performance evaluations and reviews. Conduct periodic performance reviews. Counsel and take action against problem employees.

    Maybe it is time to hire a firm administrator of business manager and let them deal with it.

  • Download Our Profitability Checklist
  • Are you looking for a quick and dirty checklist to use to review the profitability of your practice. Click below for a copy of our Law Practice Profitability Checkup.

    Click here to download ...
  • Looking to Sell or Merge Your Practice - Let Us Know
  • We frequently consult and work with law firm clients working on implementing succession strategies that involve the sale of a law practice, merging with another firm, or hiring lateral talent. If you are looking to join up with another firm keep us in mind. We will be posting confidential listings on our website in the near future.

  • FREE Guide to Law Firm Management Best Practices
  • Download a FREE copy of our Guide to Law Firm Management Best Practices.

    To learn more about Olmstead & Associates visit their web site at www.olmsteadassoc.com

    To View & Print the FREE Guide

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