When Tom Wallerstein moved from Quinn Emanuel to a full-time business owner and partner with the successful litigation boutique firm Colt Wallerstein, LLP, balancing the firm’s workload and capacity with prudent hiring decisions became paramount to the firm’s success.
Tom’s recent article featured in his Above the Law column, “From BigLaw to Boutique,” Scaling Up And Down, discusses important and difficult hiring decisions, including creatively adding temporary and part-time lawyers to the team.
Tom notes that staying small may force a small firm to turn away work, or cause its attorneys to max out their billing capacities.
But growing too quickly may negatively affect the small firm culture, and the inability to predict future work makes expansion decisions especially risky – “sometimes the line between swamped and dead is razor thin.”
“As many firms found out the hard way, having more associates than are warranted by the amount of billable work is not good for the bottom line. For many smaller shops, having more associates than work could be financially devastating. On the other hand, if a firm finds itself routinely swamped because it doesn’t have enough lawyers for all the work it has, then the associates pay the price for that, too. In that case, the choice becomes turning down work or insisting that the associates work more. Neither option is ideal. At some point, every associate’s billing capacity is reached.”
So what are a small firm’s best options? Is it best to grow? Or is it better to delay work until it is truly necessary, which may result in leaving money on the table?
Hiring part-time associates may be a solution that works for some. But from an attorney perspective, the arrangement can become unattractive when the initial part-time arrangement transforms into full-time+ hours on a part-time salary.
Tom observes that temporary attorneys can be a solution, but recognizes some difficulties involved, such as awareness of office quirks, firm loyalty, and the danger that a temp lawyer may jump ship when they find full-time employment. These are among the common concerns in the temporary lawyer market, and ones that Montage Legal Group has strived to address and solve with our unique business model.
Click here to read Tom’s full article, Scaling Up and Down, on Above the Law.
Tom Wallerstein lives in San Francisco and is a partner with Colt Wallerstein, LLP, a Silicon Valley litigation boutique. The firm’s practice focuses on high tech trade secret, employment, and general complex-commercial litigation. He can be reached at email@example.com.