Managing Law Firms in Transition

Managing Law Firms in Transition

Category Archives: Law Firm Warning Signs

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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

The Challenged Law Firm in 2014–The Bank Workout of the Troubled Law Firm Loan (Part Three-Implementing the Strategy)

Posted in Law Firm Crisis, Law Firm Repositioning/Turnaround/Restructuring, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
Last month, a large bankruptcy law firm in Michigan filed chapter 11, citing the fallout from the dissolution of another law firm. The irony of a bankruptcy law firm filing bankruptcy aside, its struggles show that any firm is susceptible to financial stress. In many instances, law firm stress leads to or follows a loan… Continue Reading

The Challenged Law Firm in 2014–The Bank Workout of the Troubled Law Firm Loan–(Part Two–Devising a Strategy)

Posted in Law Firm Crisis, Law Firm Repositioning/Turnaround/Restructuring, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
Like a lot of things, the workout of a troubled law firm loan is neither mechanical nor predictable. Facts unique to the situation guide a bank’s approach, and finding the correct strategy is as much art as it is science. But because the problem loan is not likely to resolve itself, the smart banker seizes… Continue Reading

The Challenged Law Firm in 2014–The Bank Workout of the Troubled Law Firm Loan (Part One-Preliminary Steps)

Posted in Law Firm Crisis, Law Firm Repositioning/Turnaround/Restructuring, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
What successes or challenges can we expect for law firms in 2014?  Writers like Dimitra Kessenides and Jennifer Smith recently have written that 2014 may be a challenging year for law firms.  But as reported just this week, including by Jennifer Smith, the 2014 Outlook from Citi Private Bank and Hildebrandt Consulting projects law firm profits… Continue Reading

At the Edge–Avoiding the Fall (Part Two)

Posted in Law Firm Crisis, Law Firm Growth, Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Repositioning/Turnaround/Restructuring, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
Note:  This is Part Two of a blog that was originally published as a guest blog on Kevin McKeown‘s Blog Leadership Close Up.  We wrote At the Edge–Avoiding the Fall to revisit a success story of a law firm dealing with transition and emerging stronger from a near crisis and how the lessons learned then… Continue Reading

At the Edge–Avoiding the Fall (Part One)

Posted in Law Firm Crisis, Law Firm Growth, Law Firm Leadership, Law Firm Repositioning/Turnaround/Restructuring, Law Firm Transition, Law Firm Warning Signs
We originally posted this blog on Kevin McKeown‘s blog Leadership Close Up.  Kevin has been a tremendous resource for us and has guided us greatly as we work at delivering meaningful content about the legal industry and the significant changes it faces. Some words simply lose impact over time. Change is such a word. But… Continue Reading

Thinking About a Law Firm Merger? If These Six Signs Exist, Give it Another Thought

Posted in Law Firm Growth, Law Firm Merger, Law Firm Warning Signs
Law firm growth through merger has been popular in recent years and does not appear to be abating.  Each consummated marriage had its reasons, ranging from client centered, substantively compelling or geographically helpful. Some combinations proved quite successful, others moderately so, while a few could be judged as failures. Deciding whether to combine law firms… Continue Reading

Law Firm Layoffs-Brace for the Aftershocks

Posted in Law Firm Repositioning/Turnaround/Restructuring, Law Firm Warning Signs
  The reality for law firms is that layoffs, of both staff and lawyers, can become a necessity.  Many law firms facing transition arrive at the layoff decision early and for those firms the decision to part ways with certain personnel may represent an adjustment or fine-tuning. Other firms only resort to layoffs much later… Continue Reading

Signs Your Law Firm is in Need of a Repositioning

Posted in Law Firm Growth, Law Firm Repositioning/Turnaround/Restructuring, Law Firm Warning Signs
Law firms can be in different stages of transition, ranging from facing a business altering decision all the way to requiring an orderly liquidation. One of the stages of transition frequently observed is when a law firm requires a repositioning. Such a law firm is not in trouble, is not staring down the threat of… Continue Reading
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