Back when I was an associate, I listened to the partners arguing about an automatic door closer. They spent nearly an hour on the discussion. There were six of them in the room. They could have billed more than $1,500 during that hour. The door closer they decided to buy cost $300.
They weren’t rowing in the same direction.
Why aren’t all the partners in your firm rowing in the same direction? Why is your boat going round and round in circles instead of making forward progress?
I’m all for sharing the burdens of running a law practice.
I love the idea of having an open collaboration between peers who have diverse skill sets and interests. In an ideal world, partners complement one another and achieve more together than they would alone.
Unfortunately, that’s not the way most family law practices function.
In most family law practices, partners resist one another and argue over lots of small issues. They distract one another from moving forward, and they get mired in trivia.
Most small firms have a collection of partners with rigid ideas about how “it” should be done. They spend gobs of time arguing for their approach.
When the partners argue about trivia, they lack the time required to make real progress (and it’s nearly all trivia: don’t kid yourself).
They spend hours discussing whether to add a new paralegal or whether to fire the existing paralegal. They spend little, if any, time figuring out how to finance and execute on a plan to generate 100 referrals in 100 days.
They spend days arguing over who gets credit for which revenues and how to split a declining pool of profits. They spend little, if any, time figuring out how to automate their practice and document management systems so they can assist more clients (growing revenues) without adding support staff (reducing costs).
They spend days debating whether the firm should reimburse for a particular expense rather than figuring out how to expand into a new market or practice area.
Every partner is a “leader.” No partner is a “follower.” Chaos is the norm: no one is rowing in the same direction.
What’s the solution?
Stop trying to cooperate. You weren’t able to do it before, and you’re not likely to do it now. Stop dreaming.
Here’s what you do:
Option 1: Separate your practices. Split up. Divorce. Leave. Get away from one another.
Option 2: Stop being a leader. Let the other lawyer be the decision maker. Shut your mouth and follow. Why you? Why not the other lawyer? Exactly! You should probably refer to Option 1 above.
As usual, I’m fatalistic about our chances of cooperating (I like to think of myself as realistic).
Sure, there are lots of reasons to work with other lawyers. However, working with other lawyers doesn’t require you to be partners and share all decision making. With a partnership, you can still have leaders and followers. You’ll find that most successful practices have figured out a way to grant someone authority regardless of the ownership structure.
If you’re tired of arguing, if you’re tired of rowing in circles, then choose from the options above and get moving. Soon you’ll be moving the boat forward. There may be fewer oarsmen on board, but you’ll be headed where you want to go. You’ll eventually reach your destination, and you’ll stop going in circles.