We invite you to hear directly from some of our partners as they respond to questions that we often hear from candidates who are looking at Culhane Meadows and want to better understand how it offers a great alternative career path to the traditional law firm. We are very excited about what we are doing and trust you will find Culhane Meadows an intriguing 21st-century law firm model.
What’s it like generally practicing law at Culhane Meadows?
Practicing law at Culhane Meadows is much different than traditional law firms in a number of very positive ways. We are among the largest cloud-based full-service law firms in the US with attorneys in seven major US cities. Because we are cloud-based, we keenly understand how important it is to communicate and collaborate regularly with each other and to maintain the high standards of practice that we developed over many years of practice. We further understand that such communication and collaboration allows us to function much like a traditional law firm. So while we may not share physical office space with each other, we do share our experiences and knowledge every day in many other ways–and we even have fun getting to know each other better by socializing at our own Google Groups virtual water cooler.
Our partners have an average of about 18 yrs of legal experience (and everyone you work with has at least 9 years) at a large Am Law 200 firm or large corporate department and they know what they are doing. We don’t hire or train associates on our client’s dime. Partners frequently say the best part of joining Culhane Meadows is that they get to use our innovative platform to develop and build their practice on their own terms–how they want, where they want, and when they want.
Do sophisticated clients really trust cloud-based firms with their complex legal needs?
We can’t speak for other cloud-based firms who focus mostly on headcount and hire anyone with a law degree. At Culhane Meadows, however, sophisticated clients absolutely trust us for their legal services. That’s because they know we work hard on attracting the best lawyers with the best credentials and experience, right on par with the caliber of lawyers found in traditional Big Law firms. There is a misconception that “virtual firms” like us only perform repetitive, unsophisticated legal services or low-level commodity work. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, we are proud to serve more than 20 Fortune-ranked corporate clients who trust us with their complex legal work because they know our partner-only roster is comprised of experienced Big Law talent–but at a fraction of the Big Law rates! We are called on multiple times a year to guide clients through $100 million-plus deals and our partners all come together to work collaboratively on matters and form client service teams, just like in BigLaw.
Can you tell me about the compensation system and how I get credit for work I originate and/or get paid for work that I perform on other attorneys’ matters?
Our origination credit, working credit and compensation system are designed to foster collaboration and differ substantially from traditional law firm systems. By way of example, it is possible at Culhane Meadows for you to earn (take home) up to 80% of the revenue you generate by originating and working on a client matter. By comparison, according to a recent ALM survey, most traditional law firms operate at margins which provide that partners share in profits at much lower thresholds (30-50%) and under a system where your actual compensation is often determined subjectively by others.
Your ability to take home more of what you earn hinges in large part on our efficient business model which eliminates two huge budget line items: rent and wages — this occurs because we have no office space and pay no salaries for associates and paralegals. Those savings are passed on to your clients in the form of lower rates and also to you in more take-home compensation — a win/win for everyone.
Everything here is objectively determined and open – you are rewarded under the formulas for doing your own work, originating work for others, doing work for others, and recruiting others. Your draw is determined by those factors, and there is no need to write a memo (or for us to read a memo) where you “demonstrate your worth.” There are no “year-end bonuses” or percentages determined by closed-door meetings. You’ll be able to sit down and calculate your income yourself – just based on our formulas. This leads to ease of working with your partners, as we “hunt and work” in packs. At Culhane Meadows we recognize that sometimes the toughest part of law practice is getting your foot in the door with a new client. So while some partners lean primarily on their own client’s for billable hours and some of our partners make lots of rain for others, the majority of of us function somewhere in-between. When you originate work that one of your partners actually produces, you can keep a very nice chunk of the fee (about 30%). And with our talent and our very reasonable rates, which are really resonating with clients, selling the Culhane Meadows to your clients can be much easier than you may think.
While we’re talking about origination credit, can you explain how conflicts are addressed?
We’ve all been there…conflicted out of almost every client you want to bring in by the extensive big firm client list. And we probably all can remember a few times when we lost credit to that certain senior partner who carries all the political clout in the world. We do things differently at Culhane Meadows. Although we have a traditional conflict check system and a Business Acceptance Committee, conflict checks are never decided by politics and client credit is determined by a predetermined formula that is fair to all parties. Welcome to a real democracy.
How do home offices really work for practicing law?
Many of us work out of home offices, although a few people choose to lease office space. Either type of office arrangement works—it’s really a personal choice. However, in the event that you need an office for a meeting, deposition, client presentation or other reasons, we have arranged to use Regus offices in each of the cities where we practice. The cost for renting a Regus office for a few hours or even a few days is something that you will have to pay, but in each case you should be in a position to weigh the cost and benefit of doing so and make the right decision. While working in a home office has certain advantages such as eliminating rent and saving time and cost of commuting, it may not be for everyone. On the other hand, you may find having a more traditional office arrangement is a better alternative to avoid distractions at home or just to be closer to courts and business offices of others. Again, it’s your choice.
Can you tell me about marketing and business development at Culhane Meadows?
As a cloud-based law firm we use technology to service our clients but also use that same knowledge and resources to market and develop business. By way of example, the firm recently updated its entire website to present a cleaner and better focused picture of the firm. We also organized our practices into four primary categories: technology, corporate and business services, intellectual property and litigation – all in an effort to make it easier to identify the right general area of interest. In addition, each practice group is updating and adding content to the website to provide more detail about the wide and deep experience that we offer to our clients. Finally, we have created a blog to share information and thoughts about recent developments in the law or other areas of interest.
Your marketing budget can be as large or as small as you like – because it’s all funded by you. We pass through this expense to our partners so those that want to wine and dine can— and those that don’t choose to market won’t have to bear the expense of the others. Since our originators are well compensated under our system, you are very well rewarded for your marketing efforts – so it just makes sense that you set and spend your budget yourself.
While marketing and business development is in large part an individual process, the firm supplies technology tools to maximize results and other attorneys often pitch in to work as teams to promote a new client opportunity. By the way, we love to hear success stories about getting new clients because they inspire us to do the same. Our High Five Friday is one way we share our success stories and thank each other for helping.
Is there a minimum billable hour requirement?
No billing quotas, period. Our firm consists of self-starting/entrepreneurial partners and we trust that our partners are committed to building their legal careers. That said, we recognize that at times you may be spending more time generating new client business than grinding out billable work. We also know that many excellent attorneys choose to join Culhane Meadows because they may want to spend more time with family or have other priorities at certain times. So we value and respect each other’s judgment to do the right thing for themselves, the firm and clients, as long as your legal work is your primary revenue generator.
What about administrative or committee duties required of attorneys?
We wouldn’t be totally honest if we didn’t tell you that we actually enjoy each other. So working on different committees at the firm is not mandatory, but it does often end up being fun–plus it gives each partner a voice to help make Culhane Meadows an even better place in the future. We think and hope you’ll want be part of the team and volunteer to do something to contribute to the overall success and improvement of the firm. Every partner plays an important role in making Culhane Meadows the best firm possible for those who call this their professional home.
How much business and financial transparency is there to the attorneys? What information is available?
Want to know the financial state of the firm, practice groups, or compensation formula? No problem. We believe in putting it all out there for all our partners to see, understand, and comment. This is a true partnership. There are no “year- end bonuses” or percentages determined by closed door meetings. You’ll be able to sit down and calculate your income yourself – just based on our objective and transparent formulas. Every partner at the firm has full access to our quarterly financial reports.
Is there any support for billing, collections, technology and other similar matters?
The firm provides back office support for all attorneys so your billing, collections and other basic administrative matters are handled for you–a cost which is funded by the firm’s share of revenue it receives on client collections. But if you are used to having individual secretarial support and need it for your practice, that option is available to you on your dime. The firm’s email system, instant messaging platform, document sharing platform, document management system, and billing system are all provided to you from your percentage paid to the firm.
What if I have a technology problem? Is there an IT department I can call?
While technically we have no technology department we do have a partner who acts as our chief technology officer and many partners are fairly tech savvy and willing to lend a helping hand. So a quick email or distress call generally brings more responses and answers than you can reasonably respond to. Our systems operate most effectively in a Windows-based operating system and the bottom line is that you should expect it will take you some time to set up your office, including hardware and software. Having access to something like Best Buy’s Geek Squad or another on-call tech support vendor will prove extremely helpful and is recommended. Although we do not have a dedicated IT department, we do, however, have a ton of training videos available to all our partners on how to use all of our IT systems. In addition, we have a weekly 15-minute “tech talk” where we get short, digestible training sessions on our various IT systems, and if you miss a session, you can always watch it later on the recorded videos.
How would you describe the firm's culture?
It is incredibly fun being part of the leading edge of change in the legal profession…you’ll enjoy your time with your partners, feeling like you are making change in the world. We are a great group, all from BigLaw or equivalent backgrounds, with a collaborative and collegial partner-like relation to one another. We are being very picky about who we make offers to because we’re determined to keep our cool culture where we have fun asking Can we do this better? Faster? More efficiently?