Remembering TCPaul, 2016-2019

Signs of a firm going downhill

Recently lateraled from Midland insurance defense to a much tombrady1202/21/19
5. Senior leadership is always gone (i.e. at his house in Co brokelawyer02/22/19
Regarding No. 5, our senior management was constantly at "de tombrady1202/23/19
8. Sr. Associates becoming "non-equity partners" with no boo jd4hire02/22/19
14. partners hoard the existing work and don't give assignme williamdrayton02/22/19
Checks bounce. Clients constantly calling to complain about cranky02/22/19
This, too. We constantly had "cash flow problems." Mediators tombrady1202/23/19
1. Declining overall caseload #s. 2. Rise in # of crap catwoman33302/22/19
High staff turnover is never good dingbat02/23/19
A lot of these could apply to any failing small business. A flharfh02/25/19
My best indicators... An effort to reduce or eliminate an qdllc03/01/19
tombrady12 (Feb 21, 2019 - 11:50 pm)

Recently lateraled from Midland insurance defense to a much bigger defense firm. The day after I got my offer to go, my former firm basically collapsed as several partners left and took their business with them, leaving some of the older, winding-down partners out in the cold. Now that I'm in a more well-run shop, I can see the signs that my old firm was really sort of haphazardly sputtering along. Some red flags I should have seen were

1. Lots of older partners and very very few associates.

2. Too many varied practice groups. One lady did coverage issues, one dude did plaintiffs work, one girl did abuse and neglect. Firms with their act together know what their bread and butter is and dont tolerate a hodgepodge of stuff that leaves the firm without an identity.

3. Dogs running around. Taking bad cases because of favors, taking a flyer, or just plain bad evaluation. Good firms make a serious effort to take on cases and clients that make money.

4. No non-attorney presence assisting in running the firm. I know not every place has the money to hire additional staff, but a well-run HR department was a huge difference between my old firm and where I work now. Those people may not bill a single hour but keep the ship running tight.

What are some other signs of a firm going downhill?

Reply
brokelawyer (Feb 22, 2019 - 1:48 am)

5. Senior leadership is always gone (i.e. at his house in Costa Rica)

6. Website is a joke

7. Secretaries are ghetto (you know what I’m talking about)

Reply
tombrady12 (Feb 23, 2019 - 7:17 am)

Regarding No. 5, our senior management was constantly at "defense trial conferences" that took place all over the country. Even when it was clear we were struggling financially, they were constantly jet setting off for "conferences" on the firm's dime. That's basically stealing the firm's money for your vacation.

Reply
jd4hire (Feb 22, 2019 - 11:09 am)

8. Sr. Associates becoming "non-equity partners" with no book of business.

9. Aging partners who are either losing business or are not arranging for the business to be passed down.

10. Partners not assisting associates obtain new business (whether by taking them along to conferences, giving them leads or just not caring).

11. Any downsizing.

12. No willingness to fund marketing efforts at all (even if treating referral sources to random lunches, being listed in AM Best, etc). Not talking about billboards and TV commercials.

13. Reliance on Sr. Partners who had a strong career with no similar characters in middle management.

Firms can have a quick collapse, but they also can be a long drawn out die.

Reply
williamdrayton (Feb 22, 2019 - 11:55 am)

14. partners hoard the existing work and don't give assignments to associates

Reply
cranky (Feb 22, 2019 - 12:01 pm)

Checks bounce. Clients constantly calling to complain about lack of communication and nothing being done on their cases. Partner(s) are depressed or have other personal issues. Cost cutting measures like no more free snacks.

Reply
tombrady12 (Feb 23, 2019 - 7:14 am)

This, too. We constantly had "cash flow problems." Mediators and court reporters for depos for constantly getting stiffed. We even had one show up at our office demanding payment on a bill that was way outstanding. Management found a way to scare up the money to make it go away.

Reply
catwoman333 (Feb 22, 2019 - 11:41 pm)

1. Declining overall caseload #s.

2. Rise in # of crap cases.

3. Declining case win rates.

4. Mgmt. vague responses to Qs about reasons for #1-3 or Qs about firm's future plans.

2. Growing staff panic, turnover as attys get wise to #1, #2, #3 #4,and jump ship.

Reply
dingbat (Feb 23, 2019 - 2:13 pm)

High staff turnover is never good

Reply
flharfh (Feb 25, 2019 - 1:35 pm)

A lot of these could apply to any failing small business. A few more:

1. No mid level attorneys between the senior partners in their 60s or older and the junior associates in their 20s or 30s

2. Vacant positions being eliminated or going unfilled for a lengthy period of time (either because there isn't enough work or the firm can't afford competent replacements). Alternatively, inexperienced or incompetent staff being hired because that's all the firm can afford.

3. Many firms, especially in areas like ID, will have 80% of their business come from one or two clients - if these clients decide to go elsewhere for whatever reason, there's big trouble

4. Obviously, having partners with large books of business leave for other firms

Reply
qdllc (Mar 1, 2019 - 9:18 am)

My best indicators...

An effort to reduce or eliminate annual bonuses when metrics are met or exceeded.

Issues with paying bills (cultivate relationships with people who do accounts payable). This can be from mismanagement, but it can also result from a lack of loss of billable work.

Reply
Post a message in this thread