Lawyers spend years studying the law and its many intricacies. From torts and contracts to constitutional law and civil procedures, it’s a heavy curriculum that prepares them to meet the legal needs of the clients — their first priority.
So, it’s not surprising that while many lawyers are experts on these aspects, many don’t have an eye forward on developing and expanding their business. Offit Kurman, a nationwide firm that represents privately held businesses and families of wealth, understands that a fixed mindset can mean missed opportunities for reaching new markets and better serving clients. Timothy Lynch is the President of Offit Kurman and says the firm's commitment to a growth mindset has helped it double in size since 2017 through expansions from New York City through the Carolinas.
“There are a lot of benefits to growth, and we are not growing for growth’s sake,” Lynch says. “That said, [professional service firms] are not what most pundits consider a growth industry. So if you are not growing, you are probably shrinking.”
Offit Kurman began in 1987 as a boutique law firm in Baltimore County, Maryland, with a focus on clients in the privately held marketplace of owner managed businesses, entrepreneurs and families of wealth. In 2001, founders Maurice Offit, Ted Offit and Howard Kurman expanded their firm from 8 to 12 lawyers by bringing on a four-lawyer group from another firm.
The result was a type of growth that has influenced the firm’s philosophy in the years since: Firm leadership saw that growth didn’t come just from adding new clients, but also from adding new attorneys with different skill sets. Offit Kurman began to grow their practice by better meeting the increasing needs of their existing clients.
About Offit Kurman
Offit Kurman began as an eight-attorney firm in 1987 based out of Baltimore, Maryland. In 2021, it's expanded to 250 attorneys in 15 offices nationwide. In 2019, the National Law Journal listed the firm as the second fastest growing firm in the United States
About Timothy Lynch
Timothy Lynch is the President of Offit Kurman and serves on the firm’s Executive Committee. He is responsible for all of the lawyer operations at the firm and is heavily involved in the daily operations and strategic planning for the firm. Lynch is the host of the playbook event, How Successful Law Firms Develop a Growth Mindset, on Tuesday October 19 at 12 noon.
“What we saw was growth from adding lawyers that were focused on serving the same marketplace by having a skillset that was translatable across our platform,” says Lynch. “We also realized that the marketplace we were serving was underserved because our sophisticated clients had sophisticated needs that often went beyond what their day-to-day practitioner could offer. Those clients were forced to hire two to four different law firms or go to a larger firm that wasn’t designed or particularly interested in serving that marketplace.”
There was a gap in the marketplace, and Offit Kurman seized that opportunity by adapting their practice to fill the comprehensive needs of their clients. In 2007, firm leadership — along with outside advisers — worked to develop a strategic plan centered on finding lawyers who wanted to serve in the marketplace of dynamic businesses, individuals and families.
Since the development and implementation of that plan, Offit Kurman has seen an average revenue increase of 14% per year and has grown to 15 offices with 250 lawyers serving clients nationwide from South Carolina to New York. The firm is ranked on American Lawyer’s Am Law 200 list and counted among Law360’s Top Law Firms.
“When we were making decisions and asking, ‘What are we doing?’ and ‘Why are we doing it?’ we went back to the plan and said, ‘Is this consistent with our plan, and if it isn’t, why are we doing it?’” Lynch says. “Having a plan, having a team that buys into it, and then doing what you need to do to make that plan a reality is important. At times, what that required was a huge investment of time and also a financial investment, too. Ownership and leadership were committed to doing those things.”
SUCCESSFUL FIRMS GROW BY INVESTING TIME AND RESOURCES
Growth means different things to firms of different sizes and practice areas. But the following growth principals, each used by Offit Kurman, can be applied to growth minded firms of any size and in any marketplace.
1. Begin Your Growth Plan by Addressing Client Needs
Who do you want to represent? What do you want to do for them? How can you show them that you are the best option for them? These three questions can help develop firm missions and lead to defined growth plans.
“It is very difficult to develop a growth mindset if your growth plan is that you are going to represent anybody and everybody for whatever their legal needs are,” Lynch says. Survey your marketplace and niche down to illustrate how your firm can meet new or existing client needs better than your competitors.
2. Embrace the Value of Non-Lawyer Managers
The addition of non-lawyer professional managers to law firms allows attorneys to spend their time serving client needs, as well as finding new clients to serve.
“Time is the most precious commodity we have, but client needs come in fast and furiously. The only way to address those needs is to have not just the skillset to handle the need, but the capability,” Lynch says. “Part of our commitment and our success was to be less reliant on lawyers for high-level management and leadership by bringing in professional managers to take over some of the day-to-day management obligations of the firm.”
Non-lawyer managers who are given the authority to make decisions are key to helping firms build a stronger practice management foundation.
3. Attract Growth-Minded Attorneys by Incentivizing Growth
It’s not a cliché: Growth-minded firms will attract growth-minded attorneys. Well-defined compensation plans that incentivize lawyers to bill more hours and find more clients will attract lawyers who are eager to invest in your firm because they see that your firm is committed to investing in them.
“The lawyers that are attracted to Offit Kurman are generally ones that are interested in growing because our compensation plan incentivizes it. Knowing your client base and having a compensation plan that is aligned with the ultimate goals of the firm is very important,” Lynch says.
By embracing a growth mindset and following a deliberate plan of growth, successful firms diversify their revenue streams, something of particular importance over the previous 18-months of economic uncertainty. Increased revenue means increased visibility, which can lead to firms being able to attract a higher caliber of professional talent.
“There’s only 100 cents on the dollar, and every firm is going to allocate a certain amount of that revenue to marketing or professional management or leases or IT — or whatever it is they allocate money to,” says Lynch. “When you’re bigger, there are simply more dollars that you can use to allocate to those things.We simply could not have afforded the professional management team that we have today when we were half the size because we just didn’t have the revenue base that could support it. So, it is a big benefit that helps in running a better operation, which really is designed to allow the lawyers to spend their time on serving the client needs.”
For more ideas on How Successful Law Firms Develop a Growth Mindset, join Timothy Lynch on Tuesday, October 19, at 12 noon for an hour-long playbook event. Register here.
Community Manager, The Successful Firm Project
Carolyn is the Community Manager for the Successful Firm Project. In this role, Carolyn provides article and video content to the Successful Firm website, produces huddle and playbook events, and coordinates outreach and speaker preparations with SFP subject matter coaches. To share how your successful firm is moving forward from now to next, contact Carolyn at email@example.com to be considered for a future article or huddle event.