Abrams: Do You Really Want To Manage The Firm?

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jeff abrams ibaIt was 1998 when David Kleiman and Phil Pecar, two senior partners and mentors posed the question, “Will you take over management of the firm?” I had been practicing 17 years, had developed a nice book of business and felt like my career was starting to progress nicely. I had developed many friends who were clients, and I enjoyed practicing law with all of my clients. The firm had been incredibly successful through the 80’s and the 90’s with little management oversight as a result of the significant work that was being generated by the lawyers. Profits continued to increase and everybody was relatively happy. I told them that I was truly honored that they had chosen me for this position and to succeed Phil Pecar who had managed the firm for many, many years. I also told them I really needed to talk with my wife (always a smart move any time a major decision is being considered) and I would let them know in the next couple of days.

I went home and spoke to my wife who was very excited about me taking on this responsibility. She felt it was an honor to have been selected by the senior partners and that I should absolutely take on the challenge. I told her that it could require more time at the office and she was perfectly willing to accept that (and I think may have even been happy with it).

A couple of days later I told them that I appreciated the opportunity and welcomed the responsibility. I then started reading articles about managing a firm since I had never been trained to do it nor did I really have any idea how to do it. One thing I did know was how to treat people. Be kind and respectful at all times. I learned that with kindness, you would receive a strong work ethic. I tried to occasionally meet with lawyers and staff to understand how things were going and if there was anything I could do to help. I encouraged young associates to get out in the community, meet people and try to enjoy the practice of law as I had been able to do.

During the late 90’s and early 2000’s, the firm continued to prosper and managing it had very few setbacks. One challenge I vividly recall was that one of the senior partners who was a brilliant attorney and an outstanding writer would never let go of administrative work. He never delegated any administrative responsibilities, always wanting to finalize whatever writings we were providing or discussions we were to have, but rarely finding the time. Unfortunately, after they asked me to be president of the firm, he continued his ways making my life much more difficult since he always wanted to review whatever I was doing. Out of deference and admiration, I would always provide him work product I was working on, whether it included press releases, ideas to improve operations or other similar ideas. However, things continued to sit unaddressed and I was reluctant to move forward without his blessings. Lawyers and staff were asking me why wasn’t something done or where are we with certain plans. It was very frustrating.

At that point in time, I went back to the two senior partners and told them that I really appreciated the confidence they had in me but since one of them was unwilling to let me do the job, I did not feel that I should continue as President. I reminded them that I never applied for the job, never asked for the job or even volunteered for it. They had asked me to do it, and I said I would, but they needed to let me do it.

Twenty-four hours later, they called me back into the office. One admitted that he still tried to do too many things the way he had done them, but I would not have that problem anymore. He was true to his word, and I was able to move things along in an orderly fashion and, most importantly, timely for the benefit of the Firm.

One of the biggest challenges that I encountered was in the fall of 2007. I was incoming President of the Indianapolis Bar Foundation for 2008, and began meeting with managing partners of other firms to solicit more financial support for the IBF. I was very fortunate to have a significant number of friends in management roles and they were always willing to assist me in response to my requests for stronger financial support. However, as one learns if you ask somebody for money and they acquiesce in your request, just be ready for their return request somewhere in the future—and in one person’s situation, continuing and continuing requests. I believe my law school professor called it Quid Pro Quo.

During a couple of those discussions, two local firms asked me if we would consider a merger. I had never really thought about it, the firm had continued to grow at a manageable rate, profits continued to increase and we were doing well overall. Nonetheless, I felt a responsibility to our partners and our young lawyers to pose the question among our executive committee and ultimately to the partners. There were some benefits of considering being larger, so we asked a consultant to evaluate both firms. Unfortunately, when you try to merge with a local firm and you have strong litigation departments, conflicts of interests in common cases are routine. These firms were no different, so we had to pass. On the heels of understanding those problems, we had a couple of out-of-state firms reach out to us but neither of which really made any sense. It was about that time that we learned of Benesch and the potential for an integration. We spent approximately six months evaluating the numbers and the clients to determine if two and two could make five and we concluded that it could. We spent another six months getting to know the people at each firm to be sure that our philosophies on client service, staff appreciation and life in general were consistent. We concluded they were and after almost one year of discussions and negotiations, we held a vote among our partners and while the vote was not unanimous, it was substantial to integrate with Benesch, and rest is history.

So for all of you reading this article, if at some point in time you are asked to take over the helm of your firm, please consider it carefully, understanding the increased responsibilities but cherishing the opportunity if it is right for you. I am glad that I was given the opportunity to take over the Presidency of our firm and welcomed the opportunity to partner with a great firm when we integrated with Benesch. If you should ever be placed in either positions, please do not hesitate to call me as I will be happy to answer any questions or mentor you in any way I can.•

Being on vacation, these words may not be the best.
I have skied each day needing lots more rest.
Does not provide much time to ponder great thoughts.
The good thing is that I am not sleeping on cots.
Cherish the opportunity to lead your firm.
Do your best and don’t let them see you squirm.
All your attorneys will give you respect and great praise.
But if it does not work, give everyone at the firm a big raise.


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  1. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.