I met with the managing partner of an 80-lawyer firm on Monday, and was somewhat surprised to hear that the firm has not laid off anyone, not lawyers, not staff. Later the same day, I met with the executive director of a 110-lawyer firm who told me the same thing. What was even more amazing, the latter firm is actually in a hiring mode for lawyers, not because they have too much work for their current staffing level, but because they realize they can pick up some really good talent right now from those BIgLaw firms that are busily shedding terrific talent. With the firm’s reputation for security (they have never laid off lawyers in their nearly hundred year history), they figure they won’t lose this talent when things turn around. Furthermore, the firm is looking to add to their marketing staff also.
Yet, both firms realize their clients are hurting in this current economy, and although these firms are not cutting people, both are cutting the clients some slack in terms of their invoices, mostly by setting up payment schedules that the clients can live with.
That appears to be the consensus of a number of smaller firms (which by definition have more flexibility than large firms) mentioned in an article in the The Connecticut Law Tribune and in Small Firm Business about the need for flexibility and patience in collecting fees these days.
Obviously, law firms need to be very attentive to collections, especially if they are to avoid having to lay off lawyers and staff. BUT, being flexible and working with clients when it comes to collections in a down economy is very smart marketing, because it will increase the chances for more solid long term relationships.