The Big Myth of “Owning” a Law Firm

Guest post by Rjon Robins

Who actually “Owns” your law firm? The answer may surprise you.

Every day lawyers get hired by law firms and dream of “making partner” so they can have an equity stake in the practice. But is it really a good idea to be a partner in a law firm? I know I’m going to shock a few of my readers with this revelation but for too many lawyers the answer is “No!”

Here's What I Mean:

Before we can talk rationally about whether or not it’s good to own an equity stake in a law firm we should probably define what we’re talking about right?

So what exactly do the partners of a law firm “own”? A lease? Furnishings and equipment? Some accounts receivable?

You can’t “own” the staff. You can’t “own” the clients. You can’t “own” the other attorneys. So what exactly do you get to own?

“Owning” a law firm is one of the biggest lies the equity partners of law firms tell themselves.

When your most valuable assets are free to walk out the door, take your best sources of revenue with them and leave you holding the bag with a long-term lease and expensive overhead you don't “own” the firm, the firm owns you!

Here's What to Do

Harsh reality, I know.

Here's what to do about it: cultivate relationships between your firm and its clients. Offer clients something they couldn't get if they went somewhere else. Be a 21st Century Law Firm Manager and give your associates, and support staff too for that matter, something no-one else is smart enough to do for them by taking a realistic look at the balance of power and adapt the job to so perfectly fit their needs that they couldn't possibly go anywhere else.

And don't hire losers just because you need to get the work done. Losers may never steal your clients. They'll do worse . . . They'll drive your clients into the waiting arms of your competition. This advice applies equally to support staff. I know of several support staff that have a bigger book of business than some fairly successful lawyers out there. There's just no good reason your secretary shouldn't be able to steal your clients too!

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