Managing Partners Forum

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Robert R. Fafinski, Jr., Esq.
Fafinski Mark & Johnson - Eden Prairie, Minnesota


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  • Introduction to Behavioral Interviewing
    by Hinshaw & Culbertson LLC

  • How to Conduct a Great Performance Review
    by Frank V. Cespedes, Harvard Business School

  • 13 Things Your Firm Must Do
    Today to Attract and Retain Tomorrow's Lawyers

    by John Remsen, Jr., TheRemsenGroup

  • Law Firm Partner Compensation for Laterals 
    by Dan Binstock

    Everybody seems to be on the prowl for laterals these days, but how much to compensate them? Dan is a Washington, DC-based headhunter and was on the faculty of our most recent Fall Symposium. He is the former President of the National Association of Legal Search Consultants, and is one of the best in the business. In this article, Dan outlines key metrics, how compensation gets paid, transparency and other important factors to consider.

  • Ten Top Strategies
    For Retaining Tomorrow’s Talent 

    by Sharon M. Abrahams, Ph.D.

    In this two-page article, Sharon sets forth practical and effective initiatives that your firm can implement today to retain young lawyers and support staff. By communicating with your talent, providing the proper tools and giving opportunities to grow along the way, you are more likely to retain your attorneys so they will become the next generation of partners and leaders at your firm.

  • Being a Law Firm Partner Was Once a Job for Life.
    That Culture is All but Dead. 

    by Sara Randazzo, The Wall Street Journal

    Back in the day, a young lawyer made partner after working hard for seven to eight years. More often than not, that young lawyer remained at the same firm for a life-time, and the largest law firms at the time had 150 lawyers. What a difference we've seen in the last generation! Today, 29 US law firms have more than 1,000 lawyers with hourly rates soaring past $1,000, and top earners taking home well north of $10 million a year. This article looks at developments at several firms AmLaw 100 firm in recent years.

  • Is Cloud The Right Option for Your Law Firm? 
    Seven Common Myths and The Facts You Need to Know  

    by Morris Tabush, Tabush Group

    According to recent MPF surveys, two of three mid-size US law firms have moved some or all of their IT systems to the Cloud. And one of our most-read articles in many months discussed the ethical considerations of cloud computing for lawyers and law firms. Among the myths Morris addresses in the article: 

    • Cloud is way too unreliable.
    • Cloud applications are inferior to server-based applications.
    • Cloud is not secure.
    • Cloud is not accessible when Internet is down.
    • Cloud is mostly for solos and small firms.
    Morris is the founder of Tabush Group, and was on the faculty at our MPF Leadership Conference in May. 

  • How to Engage Your Millennials
    by Dr. Larry Richard, LawyerBrain, LLC

    Attracting and retaining young lawyers is a vexing issue for leaders of smaller and mid-size law firms. Let’s face it. Today’s young lawyers are quite different than their counterparts from 30 and 40 years ago. We hear it all the time. They want work/life balance, lots of attention and feedback, and state-of-the-art technology. Many will bounce around from job to job, and only half say they want to be an equity partner of a law firm.

    Larry suggests that law firms implement several institutional and individual practices to engage your young legal talent. Engagement leads to longer tenure, improved productivity and increased job satisfaction. These practices center around the concepts of:

    • Autonomy/Self-Determination
    • Meaning and Purpose
    • Social Connection
    • Competence, Mastery and Achievement
    • Respect and Gratitude
    This is a solid (and short) article with great ideas that your firm should take seriously.

  • Homework on Hires 
    by Hugh Simons and Michael Ellenhorn, The American Lawyer 

    We’ve all read about the disappointing results many firms have had with lateral hiring, with failure rates as high as 60-70% according to some reports. The cost and distraction associated with a bad deal can be devastating, especially for smaller and mid-size law firms. This article looks at what BigLaw is doing to improve its batting average in this area:

    • Sixty percent (60%) say they prepare formal business plans for lateral hires before they join. Another twenty percent (20%) say they prepare such a plan within 30 days.
    • Seventy-five percent (75%) have a formal performance review at least quarterly. 
    • Ninety percent (90%) cite “business development issues,” while two-thirds encounter issues around “cultural fit.”
    • Thirty-five percent (35%) of firms report a malpractice issue of some kind within five years.
    • Many firms admit to routinely by-passing credit, criminal and backgrounds checks on lateral hires.
    Our advice to leaders of smaller and mid-size firms? Conduct adequate due diligence on prospective lateral hires. In addition, develop an agreed upon written integration plan and check-in monthly to make sure it is being implemented.

  • The Path to Partnership in Small to Mid-Sized Firms  
    by David Cruickshank

    BigLaw, with their highly paid recruiting and professional development staffs, is doing a pretty fair job articulating and enforcing the criteria to become an equity partner. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many smaller and mid-sized firms. In this brief article, David does a nice job outlining some of the best practices in this critically important area. Here are four of them:

    • Clearly Articulate the Criteria for Partnership in Writing,
    • Develop an Effective Annual Evaluation Process,
    • Start Leadership and Business Development Training Early, and
    • Have a Plan for Those Who Won’t Make It.
    How is your firm doing at grooming its future owners?

  • 13 Things Your Firm Must Do Today
    to Attract and Retain Tomorrow’s Lawyers 

    by John Remsen, Jr.

    This short article (about 1,200 words) sets out what I’ve learned over the years about what law firms must do to attract and retain younger lawyers. Like it or not, today’s younger lawyers tend to want different things from their legal careers than their senior counterparts. Here are four of the things we recommend that law firms do:

    • Establish and Communicate Clear Expectations
    • Set Forth a Clear Path to Partnership
    • Reward Performance, not Seniority
    • Be Selective in Hiring – Use Psychological Assessments
    Check out the article to read all 13 of them.

  • Onboarding
    10 Tips for Successfully Integrating Laterals into Your Law Firm

    by Mary Kate Sheridan

    After months of meetings and due diligence, your firm has just landed a five-star recruit - a young hot-shot lateral hire with an oh-so-attracive book of business. Now what? Too often, we find that firms don’t do a particularly good job of fully integrating their new super-stars into the firm. With proper planning, you can make sure your firm’s laterals hit the ground running and get off to a great start. In this four-page article Mary Kate provides some terrific ideas from a young lawyer’s perspective. Here are five of her suggestions:

    • Host an Orientation Session
    • Develop an Individual Marketing Plan
    • Establish Clear Expectations
    • Determine and Monitor Key Metrics
    • Be Ready to Integrate New Clients
    These ideas may seem like common sense (and they are), but it’s surprising how many law firms do not have an effective and consistent onboarding process in place.

  • The Millennials Are Here to Stay…
    But Will They Be Staying at Your Law Firm? 

    by Jennifer Colwell, MBA, CLM

    According to research by Cushman & Wakefield and published in its annual report called Bright Insight, these are the top six factors today’s young lawyers look for in a law firm:

    • Work/Life Balance
    • Collegial Workplace
    • Mentoring/Training by Senior Lawyers
    • Compensation
    • Exposure to Clients
    • Business Development Opportunities
    Yet, according to MPF surveys, many firms are doing little, if anything, to adapt to the next generation of lawyers. For example, less than a third of mid-size firms provide leadership and/or business development training for their associate attorneys.

    As the administrator of a mid-size firm, Jennifer finds herself in the trenches and offers solid advice if your firm wants to attract and retain young talent.

  • Volatility Abounds in Large Law Firm Growth
    by Katelyn Polantz, The National law Journal

    Despite BigLaw’s obsession with growth and firm size over the past ten years, many of the largest US firms are taking more measured and strategic approaches to growth, according to the 2016 NLJ 500 Survey of the Nation’s Largest Law Firms. Others are intentionally down-sizing to improve their competitive positions.

    In Katelyn’s short article, she observes some interesting trends in today’s evolving legal market. Here are a few findings:

    Click here to purchase the complete 2016 NLJ 500 Survey.

  • The Disappearing Act:
    Why Millennials Leave Companies –
    and How L&D Can Entice Them to Stay  

    by Grovo

    Millennials have now surpassed GenXers as the largest generation in the US workforce and will soon constitute the highest percentage of lawyers in private practice. Yet, many law firm leaders and their firms remain vexed by the challenges associated with attracting and retaining tomorrow’s legal talent. This great article was brought to our attention by Dr. Sharon Meit Abrahams, and it says that Millennials seek the following attributes in their work environments:

    • Development
    • Meaning
    • Autonomy
    • Efficiency
    • Transparency
    According to Cushman & Wakefield’s 2015 National Legal Sector Benchmark Survey Results, mentoring, collaboration, diversity of work and partnership opportunities are key factors in keeping young lawyers from leaving your firm. What’s your firm doing to build and maintain an environment that attracts and retains your top young lawyers?

  • Mergers Have Increased Substantially This Year, 
    But Pay Attention to the Red Flags

    by Robert Denney

    We met Bob Denney almost 30 years ago at a conference in Minneapolis, and we've been good friends ever since. He is a pioneer in law firm management and marketing. In his July 2015 Legal Communiqué, Bob lists 15 "red flags" that often arise as law firms consider a combination. Among them:

    • The New Firm Name
    • Unproductive Partners
    • Unfunded Pension Liabilities

  • To Merge or Not to Merge? That is the Question!
    by John Remsen, Jr.

    We've worked with numerous firms over the past several years on this question, and our advice is often the same:

    • Bigger is not always better.
    • The combination should be thoughtful and strategic.
    • The sum of the parts should be greater than before.
    • Cultural compatibility is paramount.
    • Think long and hard before you act, because undoing a bad deal is expensive and can get very ugly.

  • Law Firms Consolidating at Record Setting Pace
    by Neil Gluckman

    While the vast majority of managing partners of smaller and mid-size firms say their firms want to maintain independent, it’s interesting to note that merger activity among US law firms is at all-time high according to The American Lawyer. Citing Altman Weil’s latest merger report, Houston and Chicago are the hottest markets for law firm expansion, and most mergers involve larger firms acquiring smaller boutique firms to establish a new area of expertise.

  • Lateral Partner Integration:
    Getting One Plus One to Equal Three 

    by Andi Cullins and Steve Nelson

    Be very strategic and deliberate if your firm plans to grow through lateral hiring at the partner level, because you can’t afford to make mistakes! Consider these findings:

    • 75% of managing partners expect lateral hiring at the partner level to increase over the next five years, according to a recent LexisNexis/American Lawyer Media survey.
    • 28% of them say that lateral hiring has not been a very effective growth strategy for their firms, according to the same survey.
    • 40% of lateral hires don’t work out says another study conducted by the Citi Private Bank Firm Group. Smock Consultants says that 75% of laterals don’t work out.
    • $600,000 is the estimated direct and indirect expense associated with hiring a lateral partner.
    Our advice? Conduct thorough due diligence on the front end to make sure you’re bringing in the right people and, as you do, make sure they’re fully integrated into your firm and its culture. This article dispenses some great guidance.

  • The Future is Here:
    10 Trends and What Your Firm Should be Asking Itself

    by Susan Saltonstall Duncan

    No doubt, the legal profession has experienced tumultuous change over the past 20 years. Accelerated by the Great Recession, many of these developments are permanent and will forever change the business of law, the experts seem to agree.

    In her well-researched article, Susan discusses ten trends to which successful law firms must adapt. They include:

    • The growing oversupply of lawyers,
    • More savvy and demanding clients,
    • Exponential growth in legal process outsourcing, and
    • The disappearance of the traditional law firm model.
    At the end of the article she sets forth numerous questions that you, as managing partner, should be asking other leaders of your firm.

  • The Model Partner:
    Balancing a Mix of Positive Contributions  

    by John Sterling

    In July 2012, Sterling Strategies conducted some interesting research attempting to identify the characteristics of the "model partner" in a law firm. According to John's research, the characteristics, in order of importance, are:

    • Book of Business,
    • Working Attorney Collections, and
    • Teamwork / Sharing / Firm Citizenship.
    As we've written many times, owners of law firms should act and contribute like owners, not long-time employees. And that means, among other things, good citizenship, sharing, teamwork, and a book of business!

  • Guidelines for Equity Partners 
    by Selected Authors

    In far too many law firms, the path to partnership is unclear and unspoken. For many, it's a matter of time served, coupled with the fact that the would-be partner has done a reasonably good job meeting minimum billable hour and/or collections requirements (most of the time anyway) and hasn't pissed off too many partners along the way. We think there's much more to it than that. We also think that the path to partnership and the criteria to achieve (and maintain) status as an equity partner should be clear and in writing. Owners of law firms should act and contribute like owners, not loyal employees. And that means, among other things, mentoring younger lawyers, active participation in governance, and a book of business. These articles discuss the issue.

  • Two-Tiered Partnership Structures 
    by Selected Authors

    We like two-tiered partnership structures and, for most law firms, they make a lot of sense for a lot of reasons. Simply stated, owners of law firms should act and contribute like owners, not employees. And that means, among other things, mentoring younger lawyers, active participation in governance, and a book of business. There's more to it than time served. The two-tiered structure enables the firm to keep competent legal technicians who've been around awhile and have much to contribute – but don't bring what it takes to be an owner – on the payroll.

  • Take Responsibility for Rising Stars 
    by Jeffrey M. Cohn, Rakesh Khurana and Laura Reeves

    This article contends that companies that are good at growing leaders do so in the trenches at the “line manager” level, not through their HR departments. That would equate to a department head and practice group leader in the context of a law firm. It includes a “Leadership Development Checklist” on how to grow great leaders.

  • Sustainability: How Values-driven Law Firms Are Surviving
    Tough Times and Prospering Over the Long Term 

    by William R. Blackburn

    This thought-provoking article was featured in Law Practice Today, the ABA's monthly online magazine. In it, William Blackburn reports on a growing number of law firms that have adopted new models of governance to help them survive, even thrive, in both good times and bad. He profiles numerous firms that have implemented broad-based sustainability initiatives -- cultural, social, economic, environmental, and financial -- to ensure their long-term prosperity and well-being. 

  • What's Really Going On In Today's Legal Departments 
    by Lauren Williamson

    Good news for smaller and mid-sized firms, according to this article which appears in the current issue of Inside Counsel magazine. According to a recent survey of over 550 in-house counsel, 65% say they have retained more smaller, regional firms over the past two years. The reason? Lower price tag for legal services. But there is even better news. They say they will continue using smaller firms, even after the economy improves.   

  • Success Stories:
    Eight Ways to Help Your Firm Survive - and Thrive 

    by Erin Brereton

    This article from ALA's Legal Management magazine provides numerous practical, common-sense ways a law firm can improve its profitability. Among its suggestions: Stay current on collections and invest in technology to improve efficiency.

  • Trends in Partner Compensation
    by Jane Sender

    Compensation is a hot-button topic for almost every managing partner. It is also a critical driver behind the lateral movement of equity partners. This article by placement specialist Jane Sender provides an overview of recent trends in law firm compensation systems, including open vs. closed, and formula vs. subjective systems.       

  • New Report Shows Signs of Life in Law Firm Merger Market
    by Karen Sloan

    The law firm merger market is starting to reawaken according to separate reports published by Hildebrandt International and Altman Weil. Although both reports show that firms aren’t ready to resume the highly aggressive growth strategies contemplated just 18 months ago, the market has started to heat up again. However, "it has turned from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market when it comes to acquiring small firms,” says Altman Weil consultant Bill Brennan.

  • Why More than 75% of Minority Female Lawyers Leave Law Firms Within 5 Years
    by Debra Cassens Weiss

    Research firm Catalyst conducted a survey of minority female lawyers and offers these insights into why most of these women are leaving law firms within the first five years.

  • Young Professionals: Cultivate the Habits of Friendship
    by David Maister

    Law firms often struggle with how to get associates and younger professionals involved in business development early in their careers. In this article, Maister offers the best piece of advice - they should start by cultivating the habits of friendship. Forward this must-read primer to your associates today!  

  • Diversity – The Two-Edged Sword
    by Peter A. Giuliani

    Diversity is on the minds of most managing partners and it's definitely important to your clients and prospective recruits. This article touches on the economics associated with creating a "family-friendly" workplace.

  • Facilitating Cross-Generational Dialogues within Work Teams
    by Phyllis Weiss Haserot

    How do you communicate with the younger professionals in your firm without sounding like an adult in a PEANUTS cartoon? "Wa-wah, wa-wah." Haserot specializes in helping firms get things done by understanding the different communications styles, work ethics and career goals across the generations. Take these tips into your next team meeting.

  • Generational Perspective of Online Networking
    by Phyllis Weiss Haserot

    This is a quick read. Peruse these perspectives on social networking from the different generations in the workplace.

  • Your Future: Is There a Merger There?
    by William C. Cobb

    This article starts off by asking "Are you going to follow the lemmings or set your own course?" The lemmings that Cobb refers to are firms that make merger and acquisition decisions based on practice trends or in order to keep up with the firm down the street. Learn the three key models that will help you determine whether merger is in your future and set your own course.

  • What You Need to Know about Mentoring the New Generations
    by Devon Scheef and Diane Thiefoldt

    At no other time in our nation's history have we had this many different generations - Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millenials - working side-by-side. See if you can identify with any of the characteristics for your generation and learn how to mentor the people from other age ranges inside your firm.