In the News

From seed of law, he grew a business

Monday, December 9, 2002
by Julia Brunts

Law Bulletin

When Marc J. Lane was managing an insurance agency for doctors during law school, he still had his eye on searching out what he called “Perry Mason moments” as a litigator.

Little did he know that his services for physicians were laying the foundation for what would be his life’s work. He said several of his doctor clients, knowing he was a law student, called to inquire about the emerging rules allowing doctors to incorporate, so he started researching the issue and advising clients in that process.

As Marc J. Lane practice grew and he recognized his clients’ investment and financial planning needs in addition to the needs of their businesses, he decided to study financial planning and become more of a one-stop shop on financial issues. The Law Offices of Marc J. Lane now include an investment advisory, a broker-dealer and a merchant banking affiliate.

The attorney said he sees no division between the entrepreneur’s interest in financial planning for a business and his or her personal money matters. His firm has expanded to offer services such as business incorporation, capital formation, tax planning and intellectual property protection.

In addition, Marc J. Lane said, he works to coordinate the business plan with the owner’s personal tax and estate plans, compensation arrangements, financial investments, insurance, retirement planning and philanthropic donations to minimize taxes and maximize profit.

“All of these seemingly independent decision areas, where evaluated properly, are looked at in a cohesive, comprehensive way,” he said.

Marc J. Lane graduated from Northwestern University School of Law in 1971, still focused on litigation, and hung out his own shingle -- a move he said he wouldn’t recommend to anyone. Marc J. Lane said he soon realized his life would be less Perry Mason and more scrapping to find any case he could get to make ends meet.

Meanwhile, doctors were still calling to inquire about incorporation and the ensuing tax benefits. Within a year of earning his law license, Marc J. Lane said, he was invited to speak to medical groups about public corporations. Within a year after that, he’d written a book on the topic and had given up on litigation to pursue tax and business law full time.

Several years into his career, at the beginning of the 1980s, several clients brought tax-advantage investment proposals for his review, Marc J. Lane said. The deals he was seeing were very aggressive and not financially sound, he said, and he had to advise several clients to pass them up. At that point, however, he realized there was a market for tax-sheltered investments, and decided to try to put together something himself.

“I thought I could put together [a transaction] that did the job correctly,” Marc J. Lane said.

He found a way for clients to both save on taxes and make money, he said, and outside advisors started asking to put their clients into Marc J. Lane plans as well.

In 1985, Marc J. Lane put together a broker-dealer affiliate to manage his proprietary interest in the investment plans.

“By default, I ended up owning a broker-dealer firm with a lot of clients and a lot of cash,” he said. The company has since been elevated to a full-service general securities firm licensed in all 50 states, managing money for high-income, high net worth people, Marc J. Lane said.

Over time the practice has grown, and his professional employees include lawyers, accountants, certified financial planners, chartered financial analysts and business administrators. Marc J. Lane said all of those people work together to integrate legal and financial counseling.

He said the business is till focused around the law practice, which is the entity’s driving force. All development ideas come out of the law firm, which also develops them through legal strategies, he said.

The arrangement raises no concerns with violating rules against multidisciplinary practice, Marc J. Lane said, because all ancillary business owners are lawyers, avoiding the strictures against sharing income from legal work with non-attorneys.

An added benefit to the arrangement, according to Marc J. Lane, is that because the professionals are salaried rather than compensated on the basis of the money they bring in, they are more likely to do the right thing for the right reason. They are also bound by the lawyers’ code of professional responsibility, which has been a selling point recently.

“Given the environment of suspicion and conflict that the investment community finds itself in,” Marc J. Lane said, “we’re insulated from that here.”

The lawyer/financial advisor said he knows of no other law firm with a full financial services capability, and he has a theory on why that might be.

“Lawyers historically have been trained to shun risk,” he said, “whereas I believe ‘no risk, no reward.’ There are ways of mitigating risk, controlling risk, but making risk your friend. We’re pioneers, and it’s not a trait most lawyers share, by training or by disposition. I think over time this is a business model that is going to be replicated because it works exceptionally well, particularly for sophisticated clients who want integrated services.”

About 30 to 35 of those clients are lawyers, who bring both their business and personal financial matters to Marc J. Lane firm, he said.

“We complement what they do for themselves,” he said, “though we find that lawyers, as with most professionals, pay less attention to their own affairs than they do to their clients’.”

Not all of Marc J. Lane clients are in for the full-service treatment. Marc J. Lane said his firm will handle as much or as little of a person’s or a company’s finances as the client prefers. However, having the varied expertise in-house, he said, helps him and his employees be more effective in individual areas and consider how what they do works with plans developed by outside professionals.

As for giving up on his plan to become Perry Mason, Marc J. Lane said he’s pleased with his choice.

“I saw my future and it fit well,” he said.


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