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Law firms make business intake decisions every day. Although these decisions are often considered routine, they have far-reaching consequences for the long-term viability and success of the enterprise. And at many firms, they have an impact on not only the operating results and risk management profile, but also the compensation of individual partners. Business intake practices vary widely. At some firms, intake decisions are left to individual partners, who are responsible for addressing conflicts of interest and other relevant issues. Independent approvals for either new clients or new matters for existing clients are not required. At other firms, the intake process has been institutionalized, with detailed written policies and mandatory independent approvals. ADVANTAGES OF INSTITUTIONAL CONTROL Most midsize and larger firms have institutionalized the business intake process by transferring intake decisions from the originating partner to the firm. While this practice affects partner independence, it has clear advantages for the firm as a business enterprise. These advantages include increased focus on business and strategic considerations and reduced exposure to risk of professional liability. Partners are often concerned that institutional controls will slow down the intake process to an unacceptable degree, but most firms that control the intake process have adopted measures to ensure that these decisions are made in a timely, fair and uniform manner. Partners at firms with institutional controls rarely complain that the process is too cumbersome or bureaucratic. Rather, they support a process that improves realization and profitability, reduces risk and strengthens the firm overall. INTAKE POLICY ELEMENTS Business intake policies should cover four fundamental elements:

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