ILNews

Mid-sized firms work connections

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Chicago attorney Jay Frank had a client with a major problem very far away a couple of decades ago. The client needed legal help in California and turned to Frank for assistance.

Frank checked Martindale-Hubbell to look for qualified attorneys in the jurisdiction where the matter occurred, and he referred his client to someone he thought would be a good match.

“The case went south,” Frank recalled. As a result, the displeased client severed ties not just with the firm that Frank had referred, but also with Frank’s firm.

frank Frank

“I decided there had to be a better way of doing this,” said Frank, a member of the 44-lawyer Chicago firm Aronberg Goldgehn Davis & Garmisa, and president and founding member of the Legal Netlink Alliance.

In the early 1990s, a handful of lawyers from mid-sized firms who knew one another and had referred work among themselves sat down to come up with a solution to problems like the one Frank described. Ed Volk, a partner at Newby Lewis Kaminski & Jones LLP in LaPorte, was one of them.

“It was an effort to solve a problem every lawyer has had over the years,” Volk recalled. “What do you do when you have a good client with a big problem halfway across the country?”

Larger firms with offices and networks around the country had the resources to easily make those sorts of referrals, but firms such as Volk’s – now with 13 lawyers – were at a disadvantage.

Volk recalled that the seven attorneys who came together for that first meeting at the Standard Club in Chicago agreed to each come back with one more new member they knew and trusted.

“These are firms we have relationships with,” he said.

And that’s the difference that members of Legal Netlink Alliance point out when comparing the affiliation to other similar legal networking organizations.

Since it was founded more than 20 years ago, Legal Netlink Alliance has grown from a handful of firms to about 150 across the country and in 41 nations.

“It really does level the playing field,” said managing partner Marc Fine of Rudolph Fine Porter & Johnson LLP, which has offices in Evansville and Crawfordsville, and has been affiliated with the network for many years.

Firms must meet a few key criteria: they must be small or mid-sized firms in their markets with a range of practice capabilities, must have attorneys with AV ratings from Martindale-Hubbell, and must come from the recommendation of an alliance member who’s had good business dealings with the firm.

“You don’t just fill out an application and join this organization,” Volk said. It remains very much a word-of-mouth system of referral.

Frank said that’s important, too, because it makes firms answering inquiries more responsive. He said his office prioritizes matters referred through the alliance, and he believes other firms do, too.

volk Volk

It’s who you know

Volk said the alliance is a nonprofit and manages to keep its dues minimal compared with other networks. But it also asks a bit more of its member firms than other networking organizations might.

“The important thing is members of firms attend meetings on a semi-regular basis so they get to know each other,” he said. “That’s important. … That personal aspect is very high on our priority list.”

“What this allows us to do is a couple of things,” said Arend Abel, a partner at Cohen & Malad LLP in Indianapolis who’s on the alliance’s executive committee. “It allows us to help out our clients whenever they have a problem in another jurisdiction, and it allows us to know they will be placed in good hands with firms we know.”

Abel gave a quick overview of the kinds of client assistance Cohen & Malad has provided that’s been facilitated through the alliance. The firm had clients with matters in Kentucky with respect to estate planning and family law, and commercial litigation. The firm has used an Ohio firm with respect to some health care matters and used the alliance on behalf of clients in Michigan on a banking matter.

Locally, the firm has assisted alliance members from Minnesota and California, among others.

“It happens at least several times a year,” he said. “I even had occasion to assist a firm in the UK with respect to a matter where they needed service on an Indiana resident.”

Abel said a key for membership in the alliance is firms need to show an ability to handle transactional work and business litigation well, which allows the mid-sized members to compete with larger firms.

abel Abel

“We look for firms that are responsive and responsible,” he said.

Volk said when the founding partners sat down to discuss what is now the alliance, the idea was to build a national network. As time passed and practices went global, so did the vision for the alliance.

“We’ve had situations literally all over the world,” Volk said. “I’ve talked to people in Beijing, Romania, Germany.”

But an examination of the alliance’s member firms shows very little overlap in geographic regions. “That’s by design,” said Volk, who like Abel also is a member of the executive committee. “We’re looking for a good firm that can handle the work when it’s there.”

Indiana is representative of that, he said. Just three Hoosier firms are members – Cohen & Malad, Newby Lewis, and Rudolph Fine.

Side benefits

Frank and other attorneys said the alliance has produced some unanticipated results.

He chatted at a recent alliance conference with an attorney from Turkey, and they got to know each other over a drink and swapped stories about their families. “I know if I call him, he’s going to be there for me and take care of my clients,” Frank said.

There won’t be a referral fee, nor would there be for the Turkish lawyer if he needed Frank’s help with something in Chicago. “We run kind of a low-key organization, and economics doesn’t play a role in what we do,” Frank said.

“But we have the ability to refer our clients anywhere in the world, and to my clients, that makes me look like a hero,” he said.

fine Fine

“They literally treat our clients as their own clients,” Fine said, “putting them in line as if they were their best clientele.” That kind of treatment ensures reciprocal treatment when other matters arise from member firms, he said.

“When you are welcomed it really does create a nice feeling for the referring lawyer, and I think the client experience is enhanced,” Fine said.

Members of the executive committee teleconference monthly, and the alliance hosts twice-annual conferences in the spring and winter that Volk and others said are well-attended.

“The opportunity to establish really fine, personal relationships with good people has been an unexpected byproduct but a very welcome one with this organization,” Volk said.

“Back when we started this, there weren’t a lot of legal networks around,” Frank recalled. “We grew not just to make sure we had someone in Tulsa, Okla., but a very good firm in Tulsa, Okla.

“We have some darned fine lawyers involved in this organization, and it’s sort of morphed into this situation where we’re not only professional colleagues but personal friends,” he said.•
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. November, 2014, I was charged with OWI/Endangering a person. I was not given a Breathalyzer test and the arresting officer did not believe that alcohol was in any way involved. I was self-overmedicated with prescription medications. I was taken to local hospital for blood draw to be sent to State Tox Lab. My attorney gave me a cookie-cutter plea which amounts to an ALCOHOL-related charge. Totally unacceptable!! HOW can I get my TOX report from the state lab???

  2. My mother got temporary guardianship of my children in 2012. my husband and I got divorced 2015 the judge ordered me to have full custody of all my children. Does this mean the temporary guardianship is over? I'm confused because my divorce papers say I have custody and he gets visits and i get to claim the kids every year on my taxes. So just wondered since I have in black and white that I have custody if I can go get my kids from my moms and not go to jail?

  3. Someone off their meds? C'mon John, it is called the politics of Empire. Get with the program, will ya? How can we build one world under secularist ideals without breaking a few eggs? Of course, once it is fully built, is the American public who will feel the deadly grip of the velvet glove. One cannot lay down with dogs without getting fleas. The cup of wrath is nearly full, John Smith, nearly full. Oops, there I go, almost sounding as alarmist as Smith. Guess he and I both need to listen to this again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnQ65J02XA

  4. Charles Rice was one of the greatest of the so-called great generation in America. I was privileged to count him among my mentors. He stood firm for Christ and Christ's Church in the Spirit of Thomas More, always quick to be a good servant of the King, but always God's first. I had Rice come speak to 700 in Fort Wayne as Obama took office. Rice was concerned that this rise of aggressive secularism and militant Islam were dual threats to Christendom,er, please forgive, I meant to say "Western Civilization". RIP Charlie. You are safe at home.

  5. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

ADVERTISEMENT