Archive | June, 2016


12 Jun

Have you ever observed groups as they move through amusement parks?

  • Some clusters stay tightly together. They talk as they walk along.  Slide1All the adults share some responsibility for keeping track of the children.  It looks like a cohesive group.  Opposing traffic break upon this cluster like waves against a rock.
  • Some families patrol the park. The leader sets the course.  The rest of the family Slide2assume their position at three to seven yard intervals.  A rearguard watches the children and catches any stragglers.  Get to the goal: this ride, that character, some restaurant, the monorail, a particular event.  Acquire the goal, then interact, set the next goal, and move out.  They slither among the others enjoying the park.
  • Some organizations consist of random individuals. Each establishes his or her own path toward a destination.  They wander amoeba-like.  Slide3Separately; yet together. Each locked in his or her own thoughts.  This seems to be the body that produces the terrified five-year-old that has lost touch with the family group.  Typically the separation exists for less than a minute, but the terrified look in the child’s eyes lets you know that the world is not good. The group is consistently invaded as others pass through.

What kind of group do you belong to?

Dowee, Cheatem, and How

2 Jun

Dowee, Cheatem, and How has been around for a long time providing legal services.  Until the mid-1970s, it functioned as a general partnership.  Today, the firm holds itself out to the public as a professional corporation.  There’s a listing with the Secretary of State that indicates the firm is a corporation in good standing.  The firm maintains the appropriate ledgers to satisfy corporate formalities.  The auto-attendant announces the name of the firm when the phone is answered and then provides the extensions for the attorneys and support staff.  It’s on the letterhead.  The Martindale Hubbell listing emphasizes it as well as the firm’s website.  Even the sign on the building proclaims it.  Contracts for representation stress that the agreement exists between the firm and the client while specifying that any attorney employed by the firm can perform the work.

Behind closed doors it is a very different story.

  • Each attorney, without consultation with the other attorneys, assembles his own team of support staff.
  • Each attorney establishes his own, unwritten policies, i.e., working hours, holidays, comp time, bonuses, etc.
  • Each attorney has his own system for checking for conflicts of interest. Amazingly, there has only been one conflict of interest among the attorneys. (The client with the most money, who was the second client to retain the firm, was kept.)
  • Each attorney bills separately for his own time, expenses, and mileage on the firm’s letterhead; and receivables come to the billing attorney to be posted to his accounts.
  • Each attorney writes a check to the firm for the expenses generated by his practice and one-third of the common expenses like the utilities, property insurance, and the loan on the building as well as professional liability insurance.
  • Each attorney receives a K-1 from the informational tax return filed with the IRS indicating how much money he earned during the year and an allocation of the expenses paid so that this information can be transferred to the attorney’s individual tax return.  There is never any income sharing among the firm’s attorneys nor does the firm distribute bonuses.

Is this really a firm or just three individual attorneys sharing office space?