Changing law firms as an attorney, and especially as a partner, can be a scary next move. Your clients associate you with your firm, conflicts of interest may prevent you from joining another firm, each firm has different fee arrangements and software systems, and law firms incentivize you to stay with those end of year bonuses even though you never know exactly how much they’ll pay out. The reality is NOT making the transition to a law firm that better supports you as an attorney can cost you so much more in the long run.
We launched Practus back in 2018 with 11 attorneys and 5 professional staff. Today, our modern law firm has 45+ attorneys and 20 professional staff members across 20 states, 2 countries, and 23 practice areas. So… it’s safe to say we’ve seen our fair share of lateral transitions, especially among attorneys leaving behind the traditional law firm model.
Throughout this time, we’ve helped lawyers find the joy of practicing law again. While many enjoy the work and their clients, they start to lose that passion for the practice of law due to bureaucracy, emphasis on profitability over good work, and overall burnout. Of course, the virtual law firm model isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely for partners that have an entrepreneurial mindset, provide top-tier legal services for their clients, want to reclaim their work-life balance, and are excited by the idea of having control over how they practice law.
After helping dozens of attorneys learn more about the virtual law firm model and make the switch to Practus, there is a common trend of questions we receive – all of which are extremely important to consider before leaving your law firm. And, all of which can be easily answered with the right law firm. So… let’s dive right in with six questions and answers most lawyers have when making a lateral transition.
1. Will I be able to bring my clients with me to the new law firm?
It’s critical attorneys have a good sense of their relationship with clients and the confidence of knowing which clients are willing to leave your previous law firm, following you to a new firm. Some attorneys have deep-seeded attorney-client relationships that are completely tied to the individuals while other times, clients have a deep-seeded relationship with the law firm as a whole. Knowing where you stand with your client will help you determine whether or not you believe they’ll come with you.
Many of our attorneys’ clients follow them to Practus not only because of their attorney-client relationships, but also because we offer alternative fee arrangements. Practus doesn’t have minimum billable hour requirements because we know that type of invoicing doesn’t work for all clients. Practus partners work with their clients to create a fee structure that works best for them, whether that’s flat rate, hourly, contingency, or a combination of all.
2. I need a seamless transition so that my clients aren’t negatively impacted. What is involved with onboarding and how quickly can I be up and running?
If you’re making a lateral transition for the first time, this question is one you should ask any new law firm you’re considering. This is especially true if you have ongoing client matters that need immediate attention. The reality is if you’re unable to make a seamless transition, that could affect your client portability.
One of the best aspects of a virtual, tech-forward law firm is that our development team has created a self-paced Onboarding System that includes an intuitive portal that works on your timeline. This system in conjunction with our onboarding team ensures a seamless transition for you and your clients. At the end of the day, how quickly you can make this lateral transition is really up to one person: you. We’re here to remove any roadblocks and make sure you can hit the ground running from your very first day at Practus.
3. How will the infrastructure support me and what kind of assistance will I get for my legal practice?
Our co-Founders came from BigLaw with the goal of bringing the best parts of it with them and leaving the worst parts behind. One of the best aspects of BigLaw is the infrastructure and support that comes with it. The support you receive at any law firm will vary, and our goal is that we provide support that allows our attorneys to focus on what they like most about the legal profession: practicing law.
There are four areas of support that we consider to be the most instrumental for a successful legal practice and they are:
- Firm administration
- Tools to run your practice
You can dive deeper into exactly what we provide when it comes to Practice Support in this article.
4. What is your compensation structure? Will I get a paycheck?
When making a lateral transition, you’ll want to carefully compare your current compensation structure to what you can expect to receive at your new firm.
Traditional law firms usually keep 40-60% of origination fees due to their high overhead. A virtual law firm model allows us to be nimble and efficient, meaning you keep more of what you earn. Attorneys usually opt to pass some of those savings on to their clients, creating a win-win solution for everyone involved. That being said, origination fee percentages aren’t the only part of getting paid you should focus on when considering a shift. Each firm is slightly different in the expenses you incur, timing of invoicing, and how you get paid.
At Practus, you keep 80% of what you originate minus a small amount for expenses you incur like office supplies, CLEs, and health insurance. We bill all month long, and attorneys send out finalized invoices to clients based on their unique fee arrangements (a benefit of our firm is the ability to determine whichever fee arrangements work for you and your client). Attorneys receive payment by the 15th of the month following collection of their invoice. So, when you get paid is determined by when you invoice and collect. We understand invoicing is an important part of the attorney-client relationship, which is why we are as transparent as possible before you make the switch.
5. Is there an opportunity to collaborate with other attorneys? If so, how skilled are the attorneys and would we be able to refer work to each other or work together in joint engagements?
Any partner knows a huge aspect of providing top-tier legal services to their clients is the ability to offer referrals you can trust, enter into joint engagements, and collaborate with other experienced attorneys.
At Practus, you’ll be working with partners at the top of their field, many of which come from AmLaw 100 firms (you can learn more about the caliber of our attorneys on their individual bio pages or in this blog).
Our attorneys support each other, and our compensation model incentivizes attorneys to keep work in house. Partners at Practus receive 52% of the work referred to them and 28% of the work referred to others. This is a huge benefit for attorneys and clients alike. We work with each potential hire to make sure they’re a good fit for the firm as we strategically grow practice areas to support our attorneys’ and clients’ needs. The strategic growth and financial incentives ensure our clients receive the full-service legal experience that they expect from the firm.
Practus partner, Molly Aspan, described the collaboration aspect of Practus best:“Practus is designed to allow employees to work and socialize together in the virtual environment. In short, it’s designed for the collaboration needed for the practice of law but avoids a lot of the BS that happens when you put a bunch of attorneys together in a big downtown office building.”
6. I don’t want to leave my firm before my end-of-year bonus. So… I might just need to wait until next year. What timing do you recommend?
Before you postpone a lateral transition with the hopes of a big bonus, ask yourself if you know exactly what you’ll be getting at the end of the year. Most bonuses are subjective and depend on many variables within the landscape of a law firm. We’ve seen so many partners hold off on making the transition for these bonuses but end up facing burnout, chronic stress, and missing out on critical holiday memories with the family squeezing in those last billable hours before the end of the year.
The reality is many attorneys could be making more than what you’d receive as a bonus by making the switch to a new law firm with a more favorable compensation structure now. AND they can enjoy the holiday season with loved ones while being fully prepared for the year ahead.
The legal profession is unique in its pay structure, but some of the logic from other salary-based jobs still applies. The average raise when staying at the same company is 3.1%. Keeping that number in mind, 49% of Americans receive a pay increase when changing jobs. Of those people receiving an increase, most receive a raise of 10-20% while 29% of them received a pay increase of more than 30%.
Although your compensation structure will look different than a salaried employee, consider the same effect. If you stay for your bonus but you have the ability to make exponentially more at a firm by leaving now, is it worth it? Will it be worth the stress, pressure, office politics, commute, etc. for several more months?
These questions can really only be answered by you. We’d never ask you to leave a substantial bonus on the table, but we do ask that you consider if it really is substantial before drawing that hard line.
Making a lateral transition is challenging for any attorney. Most of the time, it ends up bringing so many more benefits to the lawyer, their clients, and their loved ones. We understand how daunting this process can be, which is why we want to offer as much transparency as possible into this process. I hope this blog gave insights you need when considering a change in law firm.
If you have more questions, I’m happy to help! Please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out our website for more information on what it’s like to work at Practus.