Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP at 35 Years of Age
By Kathryn Kretschmer Weyland
June 13, 2011
When people think of a law firm, and especially one that is in the business of collecting delinquent government receivables, they typically wouldn’t think of that law firm as being responsible for giving a group of five-year-old children a start to their education, but a closer look suggests that it is really the sort of thing that Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP does day in and day out. It is the case of the Crystal Chandelier that Beth Weller, a partner at Linebarger Goggan, remembers as one of her proudest moments at the firm.
After 35 years in business, the people who make up this Texas-based law firm have scores of stories to tell about how their work was responsible for providing a direct and tangible community benefit. But those stories and the events behind them would not have come about without the guiding principles that have helped this firm grow from one small law office and client in 1976 to a national powerhouse with more than 2,000 clients in 2011.
One of the founding partners, Dale Linebarger, who is now retired from the firm, believes you have to be trusted by the people to whom you offer your services. “If the prospective client believes and trusts you, and is confident you will do what you say you will do, he or she will tout your services to others,” Linebarger said. And, even though the firm’s clients put almost everything out to bid, Linebarger truly believes that you cannot win over the long term by simply offering the lowest cost. “We’re not selling used cars.”
When Linebarger and some friends started the law firm they focused on convincing local governments in Texas that they needed help collecting their delinquent property taxes. Over the next 20 years, the business steadily grew within that particular niche, “because we worked harder than our competitors,” according to Linebarger.
In the late 90’s, a new opportunity presented itself. “A longtime tax client asked if the law firm could help them collect a backlog of delinquent court fees and fines,” said partner Scott Wylie. Initially some of the firm’s partners resisted, fearing that diverting any resources away from the firm’s core competency might hurt their business. But, in the end, the decision was ultimately made to give it a try. Looking back, it proved to be a very good decision. One contract led to another and yet another and eventually led the firm to further diversify the types of accounts receivables it would collect for its public'sector clientele, which allowed the firm to quickly expand throughout the country.
It’s a repudiation of the old phrase “don’t sweat the small stuff,” says firm partner Kent Rider, who joined the Linebarger law firm in 1989. In fact, when it comes down to it, it is very much about sweating the small stuff. “I handle a lot of complex litigation that often results in a relatively small recovery for the client. Other times there are millions in revenue at stake. At the end of the day, when there is a client with a problem, we work hard to successfully resolve the client’s case and often with little regard for the fee we will ultimately receive.”
At the end of the day, whether the client is as small as Starr County (TX) or as large as Chicago or the Miami-Dade County Clerk of the Courts, a law firm like Linebarger Goggan is only successful if it can do a better overall job than the competition. Having started in the era when some agencies hadn’t even graduated to electric typewriters, Linebarger Goggan proved to be a technological innovator and computerization made all the difference.
The firm developed systems and proprietary software that are the backbone of its operation. While the firm’s human assets drive the business, it is its IT capabilities that provide the boost the firm needs to be efficient and effective at what it does on behalf of its clients, which are literally located coast-to-coast.
The good thing is there is no forgetting that what the firm does truly impacts all of us. “What we do makes a difference in people’s lives,” said partner Mike Vallandingham. Whether it is putting more police and firemen on the street, or teachers in the classroom, or making sure there is money to pave the streets. “We are funding essential public services,” adds Vallandingham. Which brings us back to the case of the Crystal Chandelier.
“It was a honky-tonk in Lancaster,” said Weller. “Lancaster had been hit hard by a tornado a couple of years before and was still struggling financially. Our litigation team had been trying to collect on this account for years, but they kept flipping owners.” Eventually the firm was successful in getting a significant amount of taxes paid. But what made it so satisfying for Weller and her colleagues was a newspaper article that came out shortly after the case was closed. The article stated that, “The recovery of those taxes allowed Lancaster ISD to fund kindergarten for the following year. Without that collection there would have been no kindergarten.” “That reminded all of us why we can be proud of what we do at Linebarger Goggan,” concluded Weller.
Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP. Their next 35 years are shaping up to be even better than their first 35.
To learn more about how Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson can help your city, please contact Kathryn Kretschmer-Weyland at 301-460-5251 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or Jeannie Fanning at 240-393-9672 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.