I met Donna Hoffman a few months ago at a New York City Bar Association event and found her discussion of the Law Firm 2.0® model fascinating. She graciously agreed to the following interview.
Donna is a Partner at FisherBroyles, the country’s first, national, full-service, cloud-based law firm. After graduating from Syracuse University College of Law, she practiced for ten years at two Am Law 100 firms and in-house at The Travelers in Hartford, CT.
Let’s dig right in: What is the Law Firm 2.0® Model?
In general, there is BigLaw which we all know about, in-house counsel, and solo practitioners. Then there’s another model, Law Firm 2.0®. The Law Firm 2.0® model eliminates costly overhead such as bricks and mortar buildings, staff, and salaries and training of new attorneys. It also uses technology to work more efficiently and remotely. As a result, they are able to provide legal services to their clients at a reduced rate without any degradation of quality. That’s the Law Firm 2.0® model.
Tell me about your firm.
FisherBroyles is the first and largest, national, full-service, cloud-based law firm in the country. Our founders, James Fisher and Kevin Broyles, were senior attorneys in BigLaw in Atlanta when they had the idea to remove costly overhead associated with the traditional law firm model to respond to clients’ demands in a struggling economy. They stripped away the two most significant expenses of traditional law firms: exorbitant rent and salaried attorneys which allowed them to provide clients with affordable, top tier representation. That was in 2002. Today we have over 160 attorneys in 21 locations across the country.
What has been the response from clients?
Clients are delighted because they’re finally being heard and appreciated. We’re client-centric and not billable hours centric, like traditional law firms. Our rates are lower, we have no billable quotas, and yet we still provide BigLaw quality work product. Our firm emphasizes a long-term view with our client relationships rather than trying to maximize a given month’s billings.
Would you say that you have more alternative fee arrangements than billable hour arrangements?
We’re not tethered to the billable hour, so we’re much more flexible than traditional law firms. We meet clients’ needs as to how they want to arrange their fee structure. Whatever is best for the client. Because we are able to keep our hourly rates reasonable, most clients still want to be billed by the hour.
How large is your firm?
We have over 160 attorneys, all of whom are partners, assigned to 21 variable cost “offices” across the country and we’re growing rapidly. We’re always looking for seasoned attorneys with BigLaw training and experience. All of our partners embrace this model. They want to work remotely, leverage technology, and be client-centric, and they actively seek business and educate people about the firm and its benefits.
Are all FisherBroyles lawyers experienced and not right out of law school?
Yes. Because we’re providing our clients with top tier legal services and not charging them to train inexperienced attorneys like traditional firms, we require that our attorneys have a minimum of seven years experience with large firms or in-house positions. Most of our attorneys have been practicing law for 15 years or more.
Do you outsource paralegal and administrative work, such as secretarial, IT, human resources, and so on?
No, we have it in-house. We have paralegals and we take care of administrative functions in-house.
What does Law Firm 2.0® business development effort look like to get new clients?
Each partner of FisherBroyles is actively seeking clients through networking, social media, and generally, letting people know what we do, how we do it, how our firm is different, and what our value propositions are. Partners are compensated for business they bring in whether they work on the matter or whether another colleague within the firm works on the matter.
What if clients want to meet you in an office?
We have variable cost offices wherever we may need to be.
What are the firm’s primary practice areas?
Like traditional BigLaw, we are a national full service law firm. Our practice areas include corporate, litigation, intellectual property, regulatory, and real estate to name a few. We don’t provide services that typical smaller, local law firms handle, like DWIs or family law.
What are some of the tools you use?
We use a variety of cloud-based software, services, and technologies to manage our Law Firm 2.0® infrastructure. Exactly what we use is proprietary and it changes as new and innovative technologies are created. It is important for us to stay on the cutting edge to remain competitive in the long run.
How do you nurture relationships within a distributed law firm?
Everyone keeps in touch and shares victories, knowledge, including tips and strategies, how they brought in clients, and so on. We’ve fostered a culture of sharing and support and our compensation formula directly rewards our partners for doing same. We hold weekly lunches, office specific and firm-wide monthly calls and an annual retreat. We work together like any traditional law firm partnership, only better.