Three points in a law firm’s development will demonstrate the degree to which law firm owners share common values and aspirations:

  • when the compensation system is under scrutiny,
  • when it is time to commit to a new lease, and
  • in an hour of crisis.

Typically, when a firm is formed, two, three or maybe a handful of individuals gravitate to one another, and realize they share some combination of values, dreams, and aspirations, and decide to partner in pursuit of the future they envision. 

Time brings changes — in market and working conditions, and in individuals. Priorities shift. What was once important becomes less critical. The greater the divide, the more the relationship is stressed. 

The emergence of a crisis will inevitably highlight the shift, and often test the viability of the current partnership.

When shifts that come somewhat naturally with time are exacerbated by something unforeseen — like COVID 19 — the challenges related to stability compound. 

What is the keys to managing through crisis?

Immediate Actions

As part of managing crisis, a firm must first develop a liquidity plan. This is to ensure the economic flexibility necessary to survive the short-term. Along the way it will become increasingly clear what direction the firm should take in the longer-term.

Though no one really enjoys conversations that focus on disagreements and differences, a conversation today will help with one of two eventualities: it will facilitate a discussion around clarifying shared aspirations; or, it will expedite a conclusion that dissolution or restructuring is a better answer for the majority of those involved.

To the extent members of a firm conclude that their aspirations have shifted to a point that it no longer makes sense to practice together, it is prudent to execute the separation in a way that causes the least pain and disruption.

An impartial third party can shape a process that is collegial and effective.

What is the degree to which you and your partners are still on the same page? Does your firm have the experience to really test the degree of continuing shared aspirations?