The Lawyer Who Connected The Dots A Decade Before Anyone Else – Part 2

This is the second part to the The Lawyer Who Connected The Dots A Decade Before Anyone Else article.
To readpart 1, click here. 

Lawyer Business DevelopmentEarly ABS

From its inception, Marashlian built his firm more on a corporate model rather than the typical partnership. He says “I am more of a CEO than a managing partner.”

One benefit of such a management approach is that it allowed him to create an Alternative Billing Structure at a time when ABS meant “Anti-lock Braking System” to most lawyers.

So, for more complex matters that telecom companies must deal with on both federal and state levels, Marashlian did something else that was all-but unheard of at the time among lawyers: Fixed fee legal work. Not surprisingly, he put his own twist on the approach, and it marks another significant difference from other firms as they grapple with client demands for more certainty in their legal expenses.

“We set a reasonable estimate for what fees on a project will be,” he explains. “But we also tell clients that if something unexpected arises, we will go back to them at once to explain why the cost will exceed our original estimate.”

Clients like the tactic.

The chief operating officer of a leading virtual system company enthuses, “These … value added services go beyond pure legal advice and make me think of (Marashlian & Donahue) more as a partner.”

“Our approach is to partner with clients,” Marashlian claims. “This allows us to provide boutique firm expertise and small firm attention to consistently deliver big firm results without the big firm fees.”

Organic Growth

Marashlian differentiates his firm in another way: He does no lateral partner hiring, instead bringing in young lawyers he can train to deliver quality work and a high-level of service that has become the hallmark of the firm.

“From the beginning of their career, I want our lawyers to understand our cost structure and client service philosophy,” he maintains. “I don’t want someone coming out of a large firm who learned to see the world very differently, from billing practices to, especially, client service.”

There is a partnership track in the firm. Michael Donahue became a partner a few years ago and Marashlian says several attorneys are close to being what he calls “partner ready.”

And what enables an associate to reach that level? According to Marashlian, it is doing high quality work and delivering superior client service consistently.

The emphasis on client service is paying off. And both the legal and telecom worlds are starting to take notice, too.

The firm has been named the “Customer Service Law Firm of the Year” in the United States three times, received the 2013 ACQ Law Awards’ “Best Communications Law Firm,” and “Leading Customer Service Law Firm” of the year awards in 2013 and 2014, Lawyer’s World Magazine and InterContinental Finance Magazine’s “Leading Customer Service Law Firm of the Year,” multiple Lexology International “Law Office Client Choice Awards,” and the 2014 Corporate International Magazine Global Award naming it “Telecommunications Law Firm of the Year in Washington, DC.”

As a result, from three lawyers 10 years ago, the firm now has 16 attorneys serving clients in every sector of the industry:

  • Traditional landline service providers.
  • Providers of Cloud communications, Software as a Service (Saas), Communications as a Service (CaaS) and other software-based communications and collaboration services.
  • Broadcasters and Media Distributors.
  • Wireless service providers.
  • Information and other enhanced communications providers.
  • Broadband and Internet Access providers.
  • App services and developers.
  • All forms of internet-based services including VoIP and other hybrid and convergent service providers.
  • Communications equipment manufacturers.
  • Business consumers of communications services.

But Marashlian isn’t resting on his laurels, instead saying, “I keep trying to anticipate where the market is moving.”

He is silent on where he thinks that might be. But if history is any guide, whatever his next move chances are the rest of the profession will start thinking about the same issues around 2025.

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Jana Schilder

About Jana Schilder

Jana Schilder is a co-founding partner of, a full service marketing, branding, coaching, training, public relations, and social media agency for lawyers. We have small firm focus and big firm experience. Jana was a director of marketing and communications at McCarthy Tetrault, Canada’s largest law firm with 640 lawyers, from 1993 to 1995. She was a manager of change communication at KPMG in the early 2000s where she worked with partners to reduce the turnover of junior accountants. She is also managing partner of First Principles Communication, a public relations agency she started in February 2004 with like-minded, very seasoned associates. She writes for The Huffington Post on public relations and reputation issues in Canada and occasionally writes for The Law Times, The Lawyers Weekly, and on cyber-security, marketing and public relations.

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