The Evolution of the Scope of Our Practice
We focus on all aspects of the law of estates and trusts. In other words, we conduct a broad practice within a narrow niche.
This approach developed from the early experience of the founding member of the firm. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Fred was a sole practitioner who operated like many other lawyers with a small-town practice: taking on a little of this and a little of that, spanning divorce, personal injury, criminal defense, and of course, estates and trusts.
Two seemingly conflicting ideas about the practice of law became apparent from that experience. On the one hand, in an increasingly complex and specialized world, the importance of the in-depth understanding that comes from having a specific focus became clear. It is difficult to be all things to all people. On the other hand, a great strength of the generalist is that such a lawyer brings to each client matter what he or she learns from a wide range of practice experience. It is easy to be blind to the broader picture if your perspective and experience is too narrow. These two concepts play an important part in how we see the firm today.
Today, in keeping with its general practice roots, the firm continues to engage in a broad-ranging practice within its focused niche. Our approach allows us to incorporate the strengths of both perspectives: (1) We are an estates and trusts firm. The law of estates and trusts is largely a world unto itself with its own rules and practices. It requires a concentrated focus, and (2) We keep a broad perspective while practicing in a specialized practice niche. We “do it all” – estate planning, administration, and fiduciary litigation. By handling all facets of the estates and trusts practice, the quality of each lawyer’s advice is strengthened.
Of course, there are other lawyers and law firms that have an estates and trusts focus. Many of those lawyers and firms, however, concentrate on one, or perhaps only a few aspects of a broader estates and trusts practice. We find that there is an important relationship among all facets of a broader practice that includes planning, administration, and fiduciary litigation. Our firm strikes a balance between a broad practice experience while maintaining a relatively narrow niche.
Our Firm Culture and Why It Is Important to Clients
What we do is supercharged by how we do it. There are two defining attributes embedded in the DNA of our firm culture: (1) We work as a team. We do not just give lip-service to intra-firm collaboration, but we follow a business model to achieve it and make it a habit. (2) Our culture fosters a deep understanding of our practice focus. The practice of law, like medicine, engineering, and other professions, is a learned profession. Our lawyers regularly research, write law articles and teach courses for lawyers and judges. These activities keep the firm at the forefront of legal developments.
Our baseline is teamwork and collaboration. Our firm follows a “one-firm” system where the client is treated as a client of the firm, not of any individual attorney. Some firms operate as a collection of individual lawyers who each have separate clients while sharing staff and space. Other firms, particularly the very large firms, may be organized by separate practice areas but the lawyers tend to become isolated from the other practice areas. Our approach discourages siloing and territorial disputes and keeps the focus where it belongs: on the client.
The firm encourages writing for professional journals and presenting continuing education courses for lawyers. These are not merely extracurricular activities; they are a fundamental characteristic of our firm. These activities deepen and expand the firm’s collective understanding of the law of estates and trusts. Similarly, our fiduciary litigation practice requires research and briefing of topics for trial or appeals. Although these activities are designed to advance a specific position, it too deepens our understanding of the law of estates and trusts and keeps us current on developments in the field.
Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow
The Firm has grown to 4 partners and 2 associates. Collectively, our lawyers have been in private practice for over 100 years. We are protective of our business model and our core cultural values. Those attributes have served us well in the past and prepare the Firm for the challenges and opportunities going forward.
Our response to the Covid pandemic shows the importance of teamwork and collaboration to us and our clients. Baked into our business model are weekly “all-hands” meetings to spot potential problems and propose improvement of Firm processes. This collaboration extends beyond formal meetings to informal brainstorming on an ad hoc basis. Covid provided an extreme test for our resilience as a Firm. We were able to continue servicing, and servicing well, clients by pivoting to the delivery of remote legal services. We were able to do this because of our technological platforms in place. But our agility in creating a “virtual” law firm in response to the pandemic was not based on our technological platforms. It was based on our habit of discussing problems and implementing solutions as a team. Our resilience in the face of an unprecedented threat to us and our clients was due to our Firm culture. Regardless of lockdowns or social distancing, we continued to effectively serve our clients and we continued meaningful intra-firm collaboration despite shifting to remote communication.
Our “one-firm firm” model is a short-hand way of describing not just that our clients are clients of the whole firm but that the whole firm operates together as a team. This approach enhances the quality of services that our clients receive and creates an environment where we, as a Firm, can meet whatever challenges come in the future.