Law Practice Management News
Ideas for Lawyers and Managers That Dare To Be Different July 2014

in this issue

Law Firm New Business Development - Finding New Startup Companies Before They Startup

Law Firm Associate and Non-Equity Partner Compensation: Is There a Cap or Ceiling?

Solo/Small Firm Question of the Month - Buying a Law Practice - What Should I be Considering

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.

Law Practices For Sale and Law Practices Looking to Acquire Practices. As a service to our clients looking to sell, acquire, merge, or otherwise join another firm we now have an area of our website dedicated to helping our clients connect and explore mutual opportunities. Click here to access the listing. Interested parties should contact John Olmstead via e-mail at jolmstead@olmsteadassoc.com.

  • Law Firm New Business Development - Finding New Startup Companies Before They Startup
  • Many of the larger law firms are developing entrepreneurship and startup practice areas as a means of beefing up their business practices with new sources of business. So, I believe that your plan to reach out to entrepreneurs is a worthwhile strategy if you can learn to think like an innovator rather than being trapped by precedents of the past and become part of their network. Here are a few ideas:

    Read on . . .
  • Law Firm Associate and Non-Equity Partner Compensation: Is There a Cap or Ceiling?
  • Recently the managing partner of an sixteen attorney insurance defense firm asked us the following question.

    "In the past our associates stayed for a while and left after several years. As a result about the time they reached the higher compensation levels they left and we replaced them with lower cost associates. In the last few years - with the economy and the oversupply of lawyers - they are staying much longer. While we - the equity partners - want to be fair and are willing to share - we are concerned about our reducing profit margins and at what point an associate or non-equity partner's compensation is "maxed out." We would appreciate your thoughts."

    I advised him that law firms of all types of practice are experiencing this dilemma. The problem is even more evident in insurance defense firms where much of the work is routine discovery work that can be handled as well by an attorney with two years' experience as by an attorney with ten years' experience at lower cost. Here are a few thoughts and suggestions.

    Read on . . .
  • Solo/Small Firm Question of the Month - Buying a Law Practice - What Should I be Considering
  • QuestionI am an associate in a law firm in Akron, Ohio. The firm is an estate planning practice consisting of the owner/founder of the firm, myself, and two legal assistants. I have been with the firm for ten years and this is the only firm that I have worked with since law school. The owner is 67 and has announced that he wishes to retire. He has approached me and provided me with a proposal to buy his practice via an arrangement where I would initially pay him a down payment of 50% of his asking price and after two years the other 50% would be paid over a period of five years. The arrangement would be structured as a partnership and for the two year period we would be 50-50 partners. Compensation would be based upon these ownership percentages. The owner's asking price is two times his average net earnings ($125,000) - $250,000. Average revenues - $210,000. I would appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.

    Answer:Buying a law practice is a major commitment and major investment. To a large extent you are buying a job as well as hopefully a book of business. Here are a few ideas that you may wish to consider:

    1. A general rule of thumb for establishing a value for when a law practice is being sold to an outside buyer is a multiple of 1.0 times average gross revenue or a multiple of 2.0 times average net earnings. Typically this is a best case scenario for an outside buyer. Buy-ins for associates that have invested "sweat equity" over the years is usually less. In addition you must consider the extent of repeat client business, talent of those that will remain with the firm, management skills and ability of the new owner, and management infrastructure. (IT, databases, case and document management systems, automated billing and accounting systems, etc.) Personally, I think the asking price/buy-in figure is high. Try to get the owner to do better for you.
    2. Review at least the last five years financial statements and insure that there are no surprises.
    3. Insure that all debt and potential malpractice claims are disclosed.
    4. Review the office and equipment leases.
    5. Create a demographic profile of the firm's clients and referral sources.
    6. Have you been able to generate a book of business? If no, why not? Do you believe you will be able to in the future?
    7. Create a business plan for the future practice and share with the bank when applying for any needed financing.
    8. Are you sure you want to own and manage a business?
    9. If you will be borrowing money from a bank determine all the interest that you will be paying as well as any interest on the five year payout to the owner. Determine the time it will take to receive a return on your investment - how many years. If you pay $250,000 for the practice plus interest - say $300,000 over five years - will you earn this amount in additional income over and above what you are presently earning and is there upside potential? Does the deal make sense?
    10. Insure that you develop a partnership agreement for the new partnership. Insure that is provides for retirement of the owner after two years - if not be careful of the compensation arrangement. Finally, insure that the owner makes a commitment to timely transitioning client and referral source relationships.

  • 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 post confidential listings on our website.

    Click here for a link to view listings
  • FREE Guide to Law Firm Management Best Practices
  • Download a FREE copy of our Guide to Law Firm Management Best Practices.

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