Compensation Twist – Featured in South Florida Business & WealthMarch 30, 2016
You won’t find Marshall Socarras Grant calling itself a “boutique” law firm. Instead, the 12 attorneys refer to themselves as a “growing” firm.
“We don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves in one specialty or practice area,” explains Adam Marshall, one of the firm’s founders. “We’re trying to give our clients the full experience. To do that, we need to grow.”
Marshall and partner Joe Grant founded the firm in 2011; but their sights never were set on becoming another large, institutional firm.
“One of the things I said was, ‘We’re blowing up the business model. If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it differently,’” Marshall says.
The core of this law firm is the word “collaboration,” and its compensation model encourages just that. “We pool the money and pay ourselves equally,” says Marshall. “It’s egalitarian. We’ve been criticized soundly by business consultants and our peers have been fascinated. But we don’t care, for compensation purposes, who originated the client. We don’t care who works on the client matter. All we care about is that the client is getting the best person at the best rate for their matter.”
Marshall adds that it’s the client who benefits from this unusual approach. “We’re always trying to match the client with the best substantive fit and the best personality fit,” he says. “When you break down the compensation barriers – and the attitude of ‘I can’t refer one of my partners in because that’s going to cost me money’ –
we remove the financial disincentives to collaboration.”
The downtown Boca Raton firm charges no consultation fees, which helps attorneys learn more about clients and their circumstances from the outset and allows clients to build a level of trust.
“We want to take the time to know them because it’s a two-way street,” Marshall says. “We may not be the best fit for a particular client… We’ve got to be comfortable, as the client does, that it’s going to be a mutually productive relationship, a mutually beneficial relationship. Our goal in those initial meetings is that a client walks out of the office and says, ‘Those are smart people, good people,’ and have them talk about us. It’s great for our brand, and we sleep well at night. And more times than not, we’re hired in some capacity, even if it’s not the matter we consulted on.”
That trust is built from what Marshall calls the firm’s “humane” culture, which is demonstrated in the firm’s hiring practices. Wanting to work with a team and placing value on their personal and family time are as important as law school performance and experience in the profession. The culture was obvious, too, on one Friday afternoon when the office closed for a group outing to Mizner Park to see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
“We believe that when our clients walk through here and see us talking to each other and smiling – or when we’re getting serious and really collaborating and listening to one another’s opinions and valuing them – it’s not hard to see that we get along and have a humane culture. We demonstrate it every day,” Marshall says.
“At the end of the day, what’s going to distinguish you from the rest of the marketplace?” he asks. “It’s not your brain. There’s nothing proprietary about what we do. There’s nothing unique about what we do. It’s the way we do it. And that’s going to draw clients to us. That’s going to make the practice of law more fun. And if the practice of law is more fun, then we have a passion for it.”