Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday E-Cards: Although I'm Not a Big Fan, These Two Stand Out from the Crowd

Ahhhhh, the holidays.....

It's the time of year when many law firms embark on their biggest client outreach initiative of the year, not involving a bill.

Traditionally, it's been the mailed holiday card. I like the ones that are actually signed by the sender and include a personal note. "If you're gonna send 'em, you gotta sign 'em," I say. Although a generic card with a law firm's name printed on the inside is better than nothing, I suppose.

In addition, we're getting more and more e-cards with each passing year. Nothing conveys "happy holidays," "thank you," "or "wishing you success in the new year" quite like a ho-hum e-mail blast sent to 800 contacts in your Outlook address book.

There are exceptions, however. If you do send an e-card, make it memorable and customize it to your firm. And that's exactly what Manatt did with its 2010 holiday e-greeting, which was voted best in class by readers of the WSJ law blog. Click here and get ready to laugh!

Another great example is this effort by Knobbe Martens, a California-based IP boutique.

My advice for the holidays?

1) Call Five People Who Matter the Most to You
Set aside an hour or two one afternoon next week to call and thank the people who have contributed the most to your success and who matter the most in your life.

2) Take Your Top Client to a Great Lunch
Schedule a lunch meeting with one or two of your top clients or referral sources before the end of the year. Celebrate the season and go someplace nice!

3) Go Visit Your Top Clients Early in 2011
Schedule Client Site Visits with your top five clients during the first quarter of 2011. Thank them for their business. Learn more about them, their companies and their industries. Ask how you and the firm can improve your performance and add value to the relationship. And leave your firm brochures back at the office. These visits are all about the client.

Finally, click here for my article entitled "Ten Marketing Tips for the Holidays."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

MPF E-Newsletter - December 2010

Last week, we distributed the December issue of the MPF E-Newsletter, which is sent to more than 5,300 law firm leaders every month.

In addition to Bob Denney's annual "What's Hot and What's Not" Report, we feature a report entitled "The State of Law Firm Leadership" by Patrick McKenna. We also lead you to some great examples of law firm social media policies.

Click here to download a copy of the newsletter, then visit our website to learn more about the topic(s) in which you're interested.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Smaller and Midsized Law Firms Need Formal Social Media Policies for Lawyers and Staff

Now is the Time to Act if Your Firm Does Not Have One in Place!

In an ideal world, common sense should prevail. But, as we all know, it's not an ideal world and we continue to read and hear about embarrassing -- sometimes even disastrous -- situations involving lawyers and their use if the Internet. In this day and age, it's way too easy to divulge confidential information, create an unwanted client/attorney relationship, run afoul of bar advertising rules, or do something foolish that you later regret.

By now, almost every Amlaw 200 law firm has developed and implemented a formal set of social media policies and procedures regarding the use of the Internet - including blogs, listservs, and social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook - by its lawyers and support staff.

We've observed, however, that most smaller and midsized firms don't yet have such policies in place. For example, we recently presented to a group of 100 firm administrators at an ALA Conference in Charlotte and asked, by a show of hands, how many had a social media policy. Three hands. We then asked how many thought their firms should have one. Nearly every hand in the room. It's one of those things that firms recognize the need to do, but never seem to find the time to actually do it.

If your firm does not have a social media policy, the time has come to get one. To assist in that regard, we've searched the Internet and found three examples of thoughtful and well-written policies created by some of the top consultants to the legal industry.

Click here to take a look.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lessons Learned from GC Panel Discusssion - November 18th in Boston

I recently had the pleasure of moderating a panel of in-house counsel at the 2010 Annual Conference presented by the New England Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association. The Conference was held November 18th and 19th at The Colonnade Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts. More than 120 attorneys and law firm marketing professionals attended.

Here are a few things the panelists said they like:
  • Newsletters and White Papers - timely, relevant, and well-researched

  • Industry Trade Associations - lawyers who are actively involved in them

  • Likable Lawyers - flexible and easy to work with

  • Client Feedback - informal and at the conclusion of a matter

  • Quick Answers to Quick Questions - no need to research the issue to death

  • Specialists - not "jacks of all trades"

And here are few things that don't matter very much, according to the panel:

  • Mailed Holiday Cards - save your firm's money as they really don't matter very much

  • Electronic Holiday Cards - they matter even less, no matter have clever

  • Directory Listings - Chambers USA might be the exception

  • PowerPoint Presentations - when making a pitch for business

  • History of the Firm - do today's clients really care that the firm was founded in 1872?

My good friend and colleague, Larry Bodine, was in the audience and wrote a nice article summarizing the major points. Click here to download a copy.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Leaders of Mid-Size Firms "Cautiously Optomistic" for 2011

Observations from International Law Firm Network Conference

Law firms leaders are feeling pretty good about 2011.

Using audience polling technology, we asked leaders more than 100 law firms (about half from the US) how they would describe their projections for 2001. Their answers:
  • 14% project "solid improvement" over 2010
  • 65% are "cautiously optimistic," with lingering concerns about the global economy
  • 18% project "flat" performance in 2011
  • Only 2% project profits per partner to decline

And firm leaders in the US seem to be on the same page.

At our inaugural Managing Partner Forum for Northeastern Law Firms, we asked the same question of managing partners of 35 mid-size Northeastern law firms. Here are their responses:

  • 4% project "solid improvement"
  • 74% are "cautiously optimistic"
  • 22% project "flat performance"

We see a good year for well-run mid-size firms, as well, with strategic planning, leadership development and marketing emerging as top priorities for many smaller and mid-sized law firms.

For articles, White Papers and more, be sure to check our website.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Profits Up for Mid-Size Law Firms in 2009 and 2010

Observations from Law Firm Network's International Conference

I had the good fortune to speak at a recent international conference presented by one the leading global law firm networks. Leaders of over 100 law firms - mostly mid-size in their respective markets - were in attendance. Just over half of the participants were from US firms, and about 27% represtented European firms.

During our session, we used state-of-the-art audience participation technology to elicit their answers to a series questions about a myriad of issues relating to financal performance and firm governance.

Let's first look at financial performance in 2009 and 2010. As BigLaw suffered, here is what they had to say:
  • 29% reported profits per partner (PPP) up more than 10%.

  • 34% reported profits per partner up 1-10%.

  • Only 6% reported a decline in profits by more than 10%.

Not bad at all.....and more data reinforcing that well-run smaller and mid-size firms have performed exceptionally well during the economic downturn. Our next blog post will reveal what they are projecting for next year.

Monday, November 15, 2010

MPF E-Newsletter - November 2010

Yesterday, we distributed our monthly MPF E-Newsletter to over 5,300 law firm leaders.

It features several recent articles about how law firms are being impacted by the lingering recession. With mounting pressure on in-house legal departments to rein in spending on outside counsel, it looks like smaller and mid-size firms may emerge as big winners at the end of the day.

Click here to download a copy.

If you like what you see, be sure to visit our Website where you'll find dozens of articles, White Papers and other resources on law firm leadership and management.

Monday, September 20, 2010

MPF E-Newsletter - September 2010

We just published and distributed our September Newsletter. Click here to see a copy.

If you like what you see, visit the MPF Website. It includes a growing library of over 100 articles, surveys, White Papers and other resources for law firm leaders.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Two New Surveys about Life as an Associate Attorney - Compensation and Career Satisfaction Are Not What They Used to Be

We just posted two new articles to the MPF website about life as an associate attorney in a big law firm.....and things do not appear as rosy as they were just a few short years ago.

The first article - "Associate Salary Figures in a Holding Pattern" - summarizes a NALP (National Association of Law Placement) survey about starting salaries for first-year associates. They have leveled off over the past two years, hovering at around $115,000, says NALP. That's down sharply from $130,000 in 2008.

The second article - "They Survived the Economic Downturn, but Now What?" - appeared recently in The American Lawyer and reports that mid-level associates at AmLaw 200 firms are not happy campers these days. Stagnant salaries, reduced benefits, heavier workloads and poor career development programs are to blame. The article reports that the number looking for new jobs has doubled in the past year, with half seeking a better "work/life balance."

I don't know about you but I, personally, don't have too much sympathy for first-year associates having to squeak by on $115,000 per year in today's economy.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

In-house Counsel Reveal Growing and Slowing Practice Areas

In the aforementioned article entitled "What's Really On In Today's Legal Departments," in-house counsel say that the following practice areas grew most in volume in 2009-10:

1. Corporate Governance
2. Labor and Employment
3. Litigation
4. Regulatory and Administrative Law
5. Intellectual Property

The practice areas that are slowing down?

1. Antitrust
2. Environmental
3. Securities and Corporate Finance
4. Mergers and Acquisitions
5. International Law

Click here to see the full article.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Some Really Good News for Smaller and Mid-sized Law Firms

Inside Counsel, a glossy magazine that provides "business insights for law department leaders," recently published an article entitled "What's Really Going On In Today's Legal Departments." It highlights results of the magazine's 2010 survey of in-house counsel, and I'm pleased to report that it contains good news for smaller and mid-size law firms.

According to the survey of some 550 in-house lawyers, 65% say they have given more work to smaller firms in 2010 than 2009. The reason, in most cases, is price as over 90% say they are feeling pressure to reduce legal fees.

But there is even better news. Many in-house counsel want to stick with smaller firms, even after economy improves. Why? Quality and service.

Finally, a legitimate survey suggesting that smaller law firms provide better quality, better service and better value than than big law firms.

Click here for the article.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Announcing The Managing Partner Forum for Northeastern Law Firms - Nov 4th in Boston

We're pleased to announce that we are partnering with Law Practice Consultants to present the inaugural Managing Partner Forum for Northeastern Law Firms on Thursday, November 4th at the Harvard Club of Boston.

This will be our 17th law firm leadership conference and our first in the northeastern part of the country. This particular full-day event is designed especially for law firm leaders in this region of the US.

Keynote presentations will be provided by Darryl Cross, VP of Client Profitability of LexisNexis; and Susan Hackett, Esq., SVP and General Counsel of the Association of Corporate Counsel. Click here to see the complete agenda.

Our first press release about the conference will be distributed later today. Click here for an advance copy.

Monday, August 16, 2010

MPF E-Newsletter - August 2010

We just published our August Newsletter. Click here for a copy.

Also, be sure to visit the MPF Website to see these and many other articles on timely leadership and management topics.

Monday, August 9, 2010

When Does the Role of Managing Partner Become Full-Time?

Of course, the answer is: "It depends."

Survey data we collected at the 2010 Managing Partner Forum - where firms ranged in size from 10-300 lawyers, with 62% in the 10-50 lawyer range - provides the following information:


What percentage of your time do you spend in your role as Managing Partner?


  • 17% said it was full-time role.
  • 21% said they spend more than 50% of their time in the role.
  • 19% said they spend 26-50% of their time in the role.
  • 38% said they spend 10-25% of their time in the role.
  • 6% said they spend less than 10% of their time in the role.
Of course, the larger the firm the more time required....generally speaking.

I was having this very conversation last night with my friend David Constantine, former President of the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA). David's a sharp guy and thinks a lot about law firm management stuff.

I asked him at what firm size he believes the role of Managing Partner becomes full-time. He came up with 300 lawyers. A high number, I thought to myself. At that firm size, it's "almost impossible not to be a full-time CEO," said David. At 25 lawyers, David says the MP should spend no more than a few hours a week in the role. Of course, David assumes that a very competent and trusted COO is on the scene.

By contrast, the Managing Partner at one of my clients - a 45-lawyer firm with one office location - estimates that he invests about 90% of his time in the role.

So just how much time should a Managing Partner spend in the role?

As a general rule, I think that at 100 lawyers, a law firm should consider having a full-time Managing Partner. At 50-75 lawyers, about 50% of the MP's time should be dedicated to management. At 25-50 lawyers, 25% seems about right.

Clearly, there is no right or wrong answer to this important question. It's all over the map...and depends on a myriad of factors.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Moving is a Pain!

We apologize for the long delay between posts, but we were neck deep with two client projects last week and relocated our offices this past week. Still in Atlanta, but at a new location. I sit here surrounded by boxes, but wanted to come up for air!

Citing the same survey mentioned in our previous post, we also asked 70 managing partners where they spend most of their non-billable time in the role and here is what they said:
  • Managing day-to-day administrative affairs of the firm
  • Building and maintaining consensus among partners
  • Initating change to ensure long-term success of the firm
For most managing partners, dealing with the day-to-day stuff absorbs way too much of their time. All the more reason for law firms to employ competent, experienced firm administrators. As CEOs of their firms, managing partners should focus their time and attention toward more strategic issues.

Stay tuned!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Law Firm Managing Partners Reveal Their Most Important Contributions

Our next few posts will examine the role of law firm managing partner.

In April 2010, we asked 70 managing partners of mid-sized law firms to tell us what they believe to be their most important contributions in their roles as firm leaders. Here what they said:

1) Initiating change to ensure long-term success
2) Managing day-to-day administrative affairs
3) Building and maintaining consensus among shareholders
4) Maximizing partner income

"Managing day-to-day administrative affairs" at #2? As CEOs, managing partners should not get bogged down in the day-to-day administration. We believe that function is better left to a competent and trusted firm administrator.

Monday, July 19, 2010

It's a Great Time to Be Shopping for a Law Firm COO

Now is a fantastic time to go to market if your firm seeks to hire a new firm administrator.

We're currently working with a South Carolina law firm to help them recruit and hire a Chief Operating Officer. This is the fourth such assignment we've had in the past year. All four firms wanted an MBA and/or CPA with a minimum of ten years experience in law firm administration. The salaries ranged from $125-195K per year.

In each case, over 60 qualified candidates submitted resumes for the position, and all four firms made great hires. There are lots of talented folks out there right now, and savvy law firms are taking advantage of this exceptional opportunity.

Please e-mail us, or call us at 404.885.9100, if you'd like more information.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

MPF Web Seminar on Law Firm Strategic Planning - July 22nd

The facts are in: 60% of mid-size law firms DO NOT have a Firm-wide strategic plan. Yet, 90% of managing partners of firms that do have and follow a plan report improved performance and profitability.

Why then, don’t more law firms have a plan? Because it’s not easy getting there. It takes time. It takes money. And it takes leadership to act on potentially divisive and difficult issues.

We’ll be presenting a 90-minute Web seminar - Ten Keys to Develop and Implement Your Firm’s Dreaded Strategic Plan - on Thursday, July 22nd. We invite you to register. Click here to learn more.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Law Firm Strategic Planning and the Role of the Managing Partner

As promised in our initial post, click here to download a complimentary copy of our MPF White Paper, a comprehensive report highlighting the results of polling questions presented at The MPF 2010 Annual Conference held in late April.

The report synthesizes the responses of more than 65 managing partners to a series of questions we asked about the impact of strategic planning (and implementation, of course) on a law firm's performance, and the challenging role of today's law firm managing partner.

We'll discuss many of its major findings in future posts, and I'll start by suggesting that they sure don't teach this stuff in law school!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Welcome to The Managing Partner Forum's Blog

We are pleased to introduce The Managing Partner Forum Blog. Its purpose is to provide timely and objective information to help managing partners and law firm leaders be more effective in their increasingly challenging roles.

On April 29th, we presented The MPF 2010 Annual Conference in Atlanta. Over 90 firm leaders and top consultants to the legal industry participated in what has grown to become one of the premiere events of its kind in the US. Stay tuned for our next post which will include our comprehensive White Paper about the conference.

If you have not already done so, we invite you to visit our website, which features some of the very best articles and resources on law firm management.