VICTOR LEGAL SOLUTIONS
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I am a lawyer. I am married to a lawyer. I am the friend of hundreds of lawyers and hold thousands more in great regard. If you're a lawyer (or love them), welcome. I invite you to share your thoughts and ideas in this space.

Tattoo Removal

A cynical and successful business lawyer I know believes there are three universal questions within law firms: “Who’s boss?”, “How loyal are you?”, and “How long are you planning to stay with the firm?” Some might say that the mere act of considering these questions as paramount undercuts any real concern for colleagues. Still, from what I have seen, as a rainmaking and recruiting consultant, most firms include lawyers who work well together and like each other. However, when significant energy is spent on intra-firm power and money struggles the result is unhappy lawyers, or worse. Sometimes the power plays and money divisions are so intolerable to lawyers that they start to leave the firm. When enough people leave, it can start a dangerous downward spiral. Over the years, local and national law firms of varying sizes have been significantly harmed, and sometimes closed, over the issue of how authority and money is divided.

Since January is the month in which most law firms are considering how to divide their profits, it’s a good time to explore the compensation implications surrounding the harsh but crucial questions of who’s boss, how loyal the attorneys are to the firm and how long they expect to stay.

Frequently, client origination is given the highest weight in deciding partner compensation. Although I do not believe that is always the best model, (See: “The Ideal Law Firm Compensation System”), emphasizing client origination can work well, provided that clients are not tattooed to lawyers. When the lawyer who originally brings in a client retains all the client credit, even when doing little or no continuing work, the originator is inevitably resented. To run a firm with cooperative and contented partners, “client tattoos” must be removed; the wealth must be shared with at least some fairness.

Bringing in a client is a big deal. However, when other lawyers have nurtured, expanded or maintained the client relationship and worked hard with that client over the years, origination credit should diminish over time. This is especially true when the client is neither a relative nor a friend of the originator. In those cases, clients often transition into thinking one or more non-originators are his or her lawyers. Such clients can, and do, leave with the person who has become “their” lawyer, the person running their deals or litigations.

Tatooing clients to the lawyer who made the original connection encourages resentment from those who have taken over the hoeing and watering. Even when a client is unlikely to remove all of its work because the original procurer is a relative or friend, the disruption caused by departures of one or more of the client’s “service” partners hurts both the client and the firm. That client will often send at least some business to the new firm where the lawyer who worked with them has landed.

The exact factors to be considered in dividing a firm’s profits can legitimately vary from firm to firm. However, it is always a mistake, for the individuals involved and the firm as a whole, to place enormous weight on an introduction that occurred years ago, and particularly the lawyer has not continued to significantly work on that client’s matters.

Posted in Compensation, Internal Firm Relations, Law Firm Profits | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Holiday Choices

Holiday ChoicesPHOTO Emply Egg Type Chairs in loungeWhile I was still in law school and interviewing for a summer associate position, a mid-level associate with a large firm bragged to me that he had been delighted to cancel his July 4th plans with his wife and child during that holiday. His pride stemmed from being considered “crucial” to this client. Since I had no reason to suspect that this person did not care about his family, I reasoned that he was an ambitious lawyer and knew where his priorities lay.
Continue reading

Posted in Career Success, Client Responsiveness, Practice Habits | 1 Comment

Thanksgiving – Sometimes You Pay It Forward

Referrals Within Your Firm PHOTO, Lazy Susan at RestaurantThanksgiving starts the holiday season in which most of us remember, appreciate, and thank the people who have helped us throughout the past year. For lawyers, thinking about who shared or referred business is often easy to remember: the bills you sent are probably good reminders. Gifts may be appreciated, but are seldom crucial. Contact, however, is crucial. Thank your clients and referral sources. Any form of direct contact will do, but don’t forget. Pick up the phone or send an e-mail or note, making explicit reference to what the person did and your gratitude. Continue reading

Posted in Career Happiness, Friends, Referrals | Leave a comment

Referrals Within Your Firm

Referrals Within Your Firm PHOTO, Lazy Susan at RestaurantFrom a logical perspective, you would think that your best referrals from other lawyers would come from within your own firm. However, in my experience, firms often leave internal referrals to chance and good will. Therefore, firms that do not organize for or teach the art of internal referrals have lots of “leakage”. Work is sent elsewhere, or is otherwise not captured. Fortunately, such leakage can be prevented. Firms can institutionalize activities that encourage cross-referrals among its lawyers. Continue reading

Posted in Law Firm Management, Networking, Referrals | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Referring and Collaborating, Part 2 – Getting Work

Working_Together_Teamwork_Puzzle_Concept (1)One hallmark of a contented and mature personal life is that you can help others without expecting a return. Few of us are consistently mature, but many lawyers do give referrals without strings to other lawyers. It is also true that lawyers’ maturity may not be tested much, because lawyers who help their fellows often get helped in return.

In the world of legal referrals and business collaboration, long-lived selfless giving is not expected. Business reciprocity is not about love, or even karma. It is about respect, helping each other’s (or shared) clients, and getting a job done well. You will not, and should not, be sent work for which you are ill-suited, and which you could not do well.

Three key ways to obtain referral work from other lawyers are 1. Having and maintaining technical legal skills and acumen, 2. Having a reputation for the same, as well as for good judgment, and 3. Being trustworthy regarding not stealing another lawyer’s clients. Continue reading

Posted in Legal Specialties, Referral Arrangements, Solo Legal Practice | Tagged , , | Leave a comment