Litchfield Cavo is Shaking Up the Law Firm Experience
Flexibility is the name of the game for Chicago-based firm, Litchfield Cavo. In 1998, Litchfield Cavo was formed by a group of attorneys who were frustrated by the structures and policies of the typical American law firm. The founding partners felt some firms of the time lacked synergy and true ambition for the future. They sought to create a firm focused solely on client service in the areas of defense litigation, business litigation, and insurance coverage on behalf of the insurers which streamlined the legal process. They soon realized they had created a firm culture which was highly desired in the legal community.
The firm soon grew from a small group of attorneys with a dream to the National Law Journal ranked firm of today. The members of the firm grew their ranks by networking with attorneys they believed would thrive in their culture and business model. Alan Becker, the firm’s Managing Partner, recently told Nancy Grimes, a legal recruiter for GLI, “the type of professional who is often interested in the firm is an up and coming partner in another firm who has begun to develop business but whose firm bases compensation on seniority.” In situations such as these, attorneys feel undervalued and feel less obligated to perform excellent work. Often attorneys in situations like this thrive in a business model such as Litchfield Cavo’s because they are able to perform superb work for their clients while they are compensated accordingly.
Litchfield Cavo operates as a meritocracy. The leaders of the firm value contributions more than the age or reputation of an attorney because they want to see results. In this firm where partners outweigh associates, the youngest partner can be the highest earning. Compensation is transparent and determined based on contributions to the firm. This approach allows the firm to be effectively entrepreneurial and appealing to potential attorneys.
Another characteristic of Litchfield Cavo which goes with their flexibility is their agility and lightning speed reaction time when special circumstances dictate it. Becker takes pride in the firm’s terrific support staff, which is able to provide quick turn-around. Just last year, the firm was able to add a team member and provide them with their own email address, office and support staff in just a matter of days. Becker attributes much of the firm’s flexibility to the office staff who makes it all possible. Becker says that he is focused on recruiting and developing the best office support possible for his firm.
Apart from the firm’s flexibility, the firm also enjoys stability. The firm does not try to tempt fate by adding new offices; they simply open new offices as they are needed. The offices are then built up through networking. Typically, a chain reaction begins with a new hire: the attorney becomes a part of the firm, is impressed with the firm’s management and culture, calls other attorneys they know to tell them about the firm, and the firm makes another new hire through the networking process.
An additional stabilizing factor is the firm’s lack of debt. The firm is completely self-capitalized, apart from office lease obligations. This lack of debt allows its members to have comfort in knowing there is a Litchfield Cavo office today and there will be tomorrow.
Unlike so many other firms where the Managing Partners seem to be viewed as the “Great and Powerful Oz,” Becker ensures he is personally involved in the decision making for all new employees. If the recruit is in Chicago, Becker personally does the first interview. He also participates in a teleconference interview for those who are not local. Since Becker’s implementation of an electronic voting and partner nomination system, the firm can guarantee quick firm-wide decisions. The firm’s flexibility also expands into their two-tiered partnership. The firm is able to quickly bring new members on board who will be participating partners. Qualified candidates may also come aboard as capital partners, although the interviewing process is more extended.
Becker believes the most challenging part of being a managing partner is maintaining the firm’s overall profitability. He understands the more the firm makes, the more the firm’s partners will make. Alan Becker has been the Managing Partner of the firm since its inception in 1998. On top of managing the firm, Becker also maintains a full case load. He believes that no matter what other responsibilities he has, his clients always deserve his best service.