There may be a time when a law firm chooses to split into smaller firms to allow more focus on specialized areas of law, or a partner may strike out as an independent rather than part of a large organization. If this happens, it’s important to handle the split correctly from the beginning, and law management software is an essential tool in the process.
Law Management Software Considerations Law Office of Seth C. Weston, PLC
Only one office will keep the license for the legal practice software. The other will probably choose to keep using the same familiar application, but will need to purchase another user license. Will this cost be shared by both offices or will the burden be on only one practice?
In addition to the software, who owns the information? Case and client databases are valuable components of your business. Will the database be retained by only one firm, copied to both, or split according to each firm’s respective client lists? Regardless of the division, information from before the split should be separated from new client information. Many legal practice software applications allow you to create multiple databases and switch between old and new databases easily.
Legal And Financial Issues
A written agreement should clearly spell out not only the law management software concerns above, but include details such as how clients will be divided and how to handle new conflicts of interest. Rather than handling this agreement yourself, consult an outside firm specializing in business agreements.
Practice finances can become complicated, since income and expenses aren’t always neatly paid by the date of the separation. Expect a transition period where there will be a separate account to handle joint earnings and costs incurred before the split. Legal practice software will be essential in keeping these joint assets separate from each firm’s individual assets.
Communicating With Clients And Employees
Separating a firm creates anxiety. Employees fear for their jobs while clients worry they may not have the help they need in the future. The best way to eliminate everyone’s fears is to keep the lines of communication open.
Assure employees of job security after the split. If layoffs are necessary, hire a recruitment firm to find them other positions. This is not only the professional thing to do as a business owner; it also protects your firm from liability and raises the morale of the remaining employees.
Inform clients of the split well in advance so they don’t hear about it from anyone else. Define the roles of each new practice, and tell clients who future contacts will be. Maintain uninterrupted service throughout the transition. Use your law management software to produce complete and accurate client lists to ensure you notify everyone, including clients who haven’t been in the office for a while.