How a law firm remains successful for 85 years

April 17, 2019

Charlton H. Carpenter

The practice of law has many different approaches accommodating the propensities and strengths of the people comprising the practice. There are “eat what you kill” practices, contingent fee practices, formulaic practices, firms with varying relationships and ratios of partners and associates, “whatever works for you” practices and “team approach” practices.

In a “team approach” practice there is a realization that “we are all in it together.” What is good for one person in the practice is good for all. Open office doors create open minds and the exchange of new ideas. The law is ever-changing and a “jealous mistress,” as is often said. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once said “A new and valid idea is worth more than a regiment and fewer men furnish the former than command the latter.”

Attending and speaking at outside CLE programs, as well as inside firm programs, is important for both speakers and listeners. Legal and practical knowledge should be passed from senior attorneys to junior attorneys on an ongoing basis. The broader the pool of knowledge, the greater the enhancement of the firm. Lawyers sharing their knowledge helps them, and those they share their knowledge with, to lead balanced lives. Balanced lives enhance longevity, lead to healthy family relationships and create a sense of achievement by giving back to the community in which they live.

Lawyers probably know how to accomplish a myriad of different tasks better than most professionals. Performing civic duties and assisting with the passage of cogent and constructive laws represent time well spent. Despite certain examples to the contrary, the practice of law remains a noble profession, and the men and women who participate have a unique opportunity to shape society in meaningful ways.

A successful law firm needs good, strong leadership. It must be led by attorneys who are fair and equitable, who enjoy the practice of law, who are capable of dealing with the ever-challenging panoply of business and administrative matters, and who are willing to work long and hard to engage new clients while serving the best interests of all their clients. As leaders, their example will spread to their fellow practitioners. Together they will form a team that creates a firm culture to be passed down through the ages.  This culture, if properly tended, will be tweaked and fine-tuned to accommodate the changing times and circumstances, but certain core values should remain. Such core values encompass honesty by firm members with each other and their clients, cooperation to accomplish the best client representation possible and preservations of the good name of the firm for the benefit of all firm members and their clients.


Author, Chuck Carpenter, celebrates 54 years practicing as a lawyer at Fairfield and Woods this year.