Tim Lynch is the managing partner of Offit Kurman. The mid-Atlantic regional firm got started in Baltimore in 1987, and opened in Philadelphia in 2006.
How big is your firm, where is it located and what are its primary areas of practice and focus?
170-plus attorneys and growing. We have 12 offices in four regions: Washington, D.C., metro, Baltimore metro, Philadelphia metro and New York metro regions.
Our primary focus is to represent the privately held marketplace, from owner-managed businesses, to entrepreneurs and families of wealth, as well as to act as specialty counsel to institutional clients.
Please explain your firm’s governance structure and compensation model.
Governance: The firm has a governing board with eight shareholders and the firm’s COO. The board appoints a five-person management committee that runs the day-to-day operations of the firm. The firm also has principals that manage on a regional and practice group level. Those attorneys report to the managing principal. The firm also has a chief operating officer and a number of nonlawyer firm-level and regional-level managers.
Compensation model: Offit Kurman is a professional association. All of the attorneys have a salary and the opportunity to earn objective bonuses based [on] their billable production and their origination. The shareholders share in the profits of the firm as well.
What do you view as the biggest opportunities for your firm, and what are the biggest threats?
Opportunities: Expanding on a regional basis, leveraging our service platform with an affordable pricing structure.
Threats: Competition for lateral movement of attorneys.
After the recession hit, the prevailing theory was that midsize firms would start to see more work come their way from large clients who could no longer justify paying Big Law rates. What has been your experience?
Offit Kurman experienced growth in its institutional practice areas during the recession, as large clients pushed back on rates and large firms pushed out lawyers who could not meet the large firm metrics. Offit Kurman added a number of our current attorneys during this timeframe. As Offit Kurman has grown a deep full-service platform while maintain its pricing structure, it has become more attractive to large market clients.
Are your clients pushing for more alternative fee arrangements, and if so what types? Is your firm amenable to those requests?
As business owners, our clients are always looking for the best value they can realize from their legal services that we provide. Offit Kurman is flexible in terms of meeting those client needs when it comes to determining how to price its services.
There is much debate around how law firms can foster the next generation of legal talent. What advantages and disadvantages do midsize firms have in attracting and retaining young lawyers, particularly millennials?
I can’t speak for all midsize firms, but Offit Kurman provides all our attorneys an entrepreneurial path to growing their practice. The younger generation of lawyers want leadership opportunities and training. Offit Kurman provides support to lawyers at every level to help them reach their goals. In that regard, Offit Kurman has developed a multiyear training and support program for all associates as well as many of our junior level principals. The attorneys in these programs meet monthly with outside third-party professionals as well as our own leaders to help them develop as lawyers and leaders. Offit Kurman has had great success in attracting and retaining young talent.
Does your firm employ any nonlawyer professionals in high-level positions (e.g. COO, business development officer, chief strategy officer, etc.)? If so, why is it advantageous to have a nonlawyer in that role?
A key element of Offit Kurman’s growth plan and success is our nonlawyer professional management team. Our COO, Aaron Bukowitz, manages our team of professional managers. We have high-level managers who take the lead on our administrative, marketing, IT, business development, facilities, credit, accounting and finance, and human resource functions. Offit Kurman’s nonlawyer management allows our attorneys to focus on growing their business and servicing their clients without the burden of worrying about the administrative side of the business of law. We believe in letting our lawyers practice and our professional managers do the managing. That said, there will always need to be lawyers to participate in practice group management as well as high-level management of a law firm. At Offit Kurman we move as much of the management responsibility to our professional managers. They are an exceptional team.
What, if any, technology advancements have you made in your firm in recent years? What are the challenges in implementing tech changes?
We stay very current with regard to the implementation of technologies needed to protect our systems as well as our client data. We have also moved most of our applications to the cloud so that every professional can service their client needs from wherever they are, and to assist them in working collaboratively with the lawyers from region to region. Providing that type of access is crucial to improve efficiencies in client services as well as in providing the flexibility that our professionals desire. That said, providing this freedom requires our IT team to remain vigilant in protecting against the ever-growing third-party technology threats.
What would you say is the most innovative thing your firm has done recently, whether it be internal operations, how you work with clients, etc.?
We have won several awards and industry recognition for innovation from IT training to our creation of the medical cannabis practice group. Our newest innovation is the development of an origination culture program geared toward the structured training of associates and our newer principals to help them grow their practices and to foster the development [of] leadership in those who show potential.
Does your firm have a succession plan in place? If so, what challenges do you face in trying to execute that plan? If you don’t currently have a plan, is it an issue your firm is thinking about?
Management and client succession are very important issues for all firms to address. At Offit Kurman we are very proactive in regards to client succession. Firm management meets with all attorneys who have expressed a desire to retire or begin [to] wind down their practice in the next five years and management works with the attorney to develop a transition plan.
In terms of management transition, we have a plan in place that transitions management through the retirement of the founders Maurice Offit, Ted Offit and Howard Kurman. While we have a good group of younger leaders, as the firm grows both regionally and in overall size, we will need to expand our management team. Doing that while the founders are transitioning out the management team that has brought [u]s 30-plus years of success will be a challenge but that is why we developed a plan years ago that we are now executing on. We take comfort knowing that the current team will be available to provide counsel for years to come even though they have transitioned out of their current roles because they will remain active in the practice of law for several years after they leave management.