Managing Law Firms in Transition

Managing Law Firms in Transition

Category Archives: Law Firm Warning Signs

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Five Signs Your Law Firm Needs New Energy

Posted in Law Firm Crisis, Law Firm Repositioning/Turnaround/Restructuring, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
Law firms that lack energy dim their prospects for the future.  Too often law firms pass over the issue of their own vibrancy (whether by a failure of recognition or simple indifference) and plod along without taking corrective action.  A becalmed law firm, especially in these times of legal industry disruption, is flirting with danger.… Continue Reading

Scoping Out Future Law Firm Upheaval-Four Places to Look

Posted in Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Repositioning/Turnaround/Restructuring, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs, Uncategorized
Law firms perpetually are in transition. In our changing legal environment, transition can arise when business strategy requires adjustment, merger is considered, layoffs are implemented, lateral hiring is pursued, leadership succession is at hand (see Cultivating the Next Generation), crisis arises or firm wind-up is decided and implemented. In addressing any transitional event and the… Continue Reading

Four Signs Your Law Firm is Not Ready for Leadership Succession

Posted in Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Succession, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
At many law firms that recognize the need for succession planning, preparation for leadership succession receives too little attention. Succession planning can languish for various reasons. In some instances, the press of regular law firm business distracts existing leadership from the issue. In other cases, the topic is an uncomfortable one so discussions are avoided.… Continue Reading

Small Law Firms and Rough Seas-Navigating the Years Ahead

Posted in Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Repositioning/Turnaround/Restructuring, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
As December ends and January dawns, report cards on the legal profession are issued and crystal balls are studied. This year is no different with many articles offering assessments of the industry’s current state and its prospects. Two pieces recently written about the industry’s present and the future are worth review. Mark A. Cohen’s Something’s… Continue Reading

Avoiding the Unplanned Law Firm Closure-Five Steps Every Law Firm Should Take

Posted in Law Firm Crisis, Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Liquidation, Law Firm Succession, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
As the calendar year comes to a close, there is a lot to do at most law firms. Activities like collecting bills, distributing profits and casting next year’s budget can occupy many a leadership team. The tasks at hand can be time consuming and all engrossing. Given the importance of these short-term issues, thinking about… Continue Reading

Denial and Turning Around The Troubled Law Firm

Posted in Law Firm Crisis, Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Repositioning/Turnaround/Restructuring, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
Hope is the denial of reality – Margaret Weis       As a law firm in decline continues to struggle, there are two primary scenarios in which denial furthers the rate, or degree, of decline: undervaluing the risk associated with a significant undertaking; or disregarding mounting evidence of decline. Denying the Risk Associated With… Continue Reading

Is Your Law Firm Slipping Into Trouble

Posted in Law Firm Crisis, Law Firm Repositioning/Turnaround/Restructuring, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
One ought never to turn one’s back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half. Never run away from anything. Never! Winston Churchill   The first key… Continue Reading

Law Firm Capital Contributions-How Healthy an Investment?

Posted in Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Repositioning/Turnaround/Restructuring, Law Firm Warning Signs
Recent commentary on trends among law firms has highlighted the increasing popularity of requiring greater capital contributions from owners. As Law.com‘s Nell Gluckman notes, instead of capital requirements in the 20-25% range as was common for years, law firms more frequently are jacking up the owner capital requirements into the 30-35% level. In some cases,… Continue Reading

Kirkland’s Attrition is a Case Study for All Law Firms, Big and Small

Posted in Law Firm Crisis, Law Firm Growth, Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
The American Lawyer article about recent attrition at Kirkland & Ellis gained attention in no small part because Kirkland’s reputation for success runs counter to the idea that people want to leave. While departures from even the most successful firms is inevitable, the depth of attrition at Kirkland reported by The American Lawyer was surprising.… Continue Reading

Another Record Year for Law Firm Mergers-Reasons Your Law Firm Should Not Be Next

Posted in Law Firm Growth, Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Merger, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
In a newly posted piece, Casey Sullivan‘s Law Firm Mergers Reach Highest Point in Nearly a Decade reports that 2016 is to be yet another record year for law firm mergers.   As the cascade of announcements show (as well as the Altman Weil research compiled in its Mergerline), merger as a law firm strategy has gained… Continue Reading

No Muss No Fuss Law Firm Closure

Posted in Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Liquidation, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
Growth among law firms generates headlines. Legal publications report on a merger here, a planting of a law firm flag there and the lateral moves of significant practice groups. The thing about growth is that it is a planned exercise-an initiative that is a matter of choice based on strategy. The opposite of growth, a… Continue Reading

Food For Thought. 6 Keys To A Healthy Law Firm

Posted in Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Repositioning/Turnaround/Restructuring, Law Firm Warning Signs, Uncategorized
  For decades we’ve known two things about personal health: ‘We are what we eat’… and ‘We need to move more.’ Specifics admonitions and instructions change, but the theme is consistent. The human body needs a balance of nutrient rich foods with a compliment of vitamins and minerals. And there are the things to avoid… Continue Reading

Law Firms that Focus on Growth-Where is the Focus?

Posted in Law Firm Growth, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
Dentons and McKenna Long recently announced the intent to merge.  Media reporting of the merger was substantial, including an April 8, 2015 article written by Sara Randazzo in The Wall Street Journal.   In her Dentons, McKenna Long to Merge, Ms. Randazzo quoted Denton’s global chairman Joseph Andrew as stating, “[O]ur goal was not only to… Continue Reading

Law Firm in Crisis-Five Things to Know and Remember

Posted in Law Firm Crisis, Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Repositioning/Turnaround/Restructuring, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
Law firm crisis can pop up at anytime during the year, but if it had a “season” it would be early on in the calendar. As I wrote in Like Divorce, Law Firm Crisis is More Likely as the New Year Starts, the beginning of each year is when key lawyers cut and run, disappointed… Continue Reading

Like Divorce, Law Firm Crisis is More Likely as the New Year Starts

Posted in Law Firm Crisis, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
In his January Divorce Rush Dates Back to the Middle Ages, Frederik Pederson examines the annual spike in English divorces every January and traces the phenomenon back to the Middle Ages. His research into the records of medieval church courts is interesting and supports his thesis. Mr. Pederson’s article backs the view that whatever the… Continue Reading

Law Firm Succession Planning-The Unfunded Pension Plan

Posted in Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Repositioning/Turnaround/Restructuring, Law Firm Succession, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
For more than a few AmLaw 200 law firms, non-qualified retirement plans exist that are largely unfunded. Although “a good idea at the time” when established, the plans now can represent a significant burden. As James Cotterham wrote in his Retirement Basics for Law Firms a decade ago, the unfunded pension plans can be a… Continue Reading

The Troubled Law Firm-A Bold Move and the Five Truths

Posted in Law Firm Crisis, Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Repositioning/Turnaround/Restructuring, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
Recently, in Staring Down the Catastrophic Claim, Part One and Part Two, I wrote about the difficult issues presented to a firm when a claim of catastrophic dimensions is asserted or threatened. Those posts identified the characteristics that factor into the ability of a firm to survive such a claim. With strong leadership, a strong… Continue Reading

The Troubled Law Firm-How Much Time to Turn it Around?

Posted in Law Firm Crisis, Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Repositioning/Turnaround/Restructuring, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
Spectacular law firm failures like Dewey, Brobeck and Howrey (to name a few) provide many lessons. They also evidence leadership’s failure to timely recognize or act on problems so as to avoid disaster. Due to the fragile nature of law firms, it is imperative that prompt action be taken lest a troubled firm’s problems become unresolvable… Continue Reading

Closing the Troubled Law Firm: When is it Time to Say When?

Posted in Law Firm Crisis, Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Liquidation, Law Firm Repositioning/Turnaround/Restructuring, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
History is littered with failed law firms. Dewey, Howrey, Thelen and most recently, the Canadian law firm Heenan Blaikie, succumbed for various reasons. In the case of most of these failed law firms, the decision to cease as a going concern was largely reactive as they fell apart at the seams. While no troubled law… Continue Reading

Heenan Blaikie: How to Avoid the Same Fate

Posted in Law Firm Crisis, Law Firm Growth, Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Repositioning/Turnaround/Restructuring, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
History tells us that Heenan Blaikie’s failure was not an isolated event. It was preceded by more publicized failures, like Dewey, Howrey and Coudert Brothers, which failed due to a combination of their own unique reasons and maladies found in all law firms.  For good reason, many in Canada and the US note the challenges law… Continue Reading

Heenan Blaikie: “There but for the grace of God, go I” –John Bradford

Posted in Law Firm Crisis, Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Liquidation, Law Firm Repositioning/Turnaround/Restructuring, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
Last week’s decision by major Canadian law firm Heenan Blaikie to dissolve received a lot of coverage in the Canadian press as well as among legal commentators. Yet discounting its demise as being peculiarly Canadian is unwise. The market and competitive dynamics that contribute to a Canadian law firm’s success or failure are very similar… Continue Reading

Heenan Blaikie: The Latest Law Firm in Transition

Posted in Law Firm Crisis, Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Repositioning/Turnaround/Restructuring, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
The media reports about Canadian law firm Heenan Blaikie present a classic case of a law firm facing transition. The well-known and regarded Canadian law firm has seen its foundation shake as lawyers depart, reports of dropping business abound and speculation mounts about merger or dissolution. Without being on the inside it is difficult to… Continue Reading
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