Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog

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September 2009

Sep 28, 2009

The Primary Financial Problem For Most Small Law Firms

Question: Our firm, a seven attorney personal injury firm in the southwest, seems like we can never get to the next level financially. Do you find that excessive overhead (expense) is the major problem for law firms?


Not really. In fact, in many cases I find that law firms should be making larger investments in their future and spending more money. Often investments in marketing, talent, and technology are insufficent in many firms. The problem in most firms is insufficient leveraged fee revenue. In other words – many small firms practitioners – only think in terms of whether they have adequate work to keep themselves busy – they do not think in terms of being a net exporter of work so they can keep themselves busy plus two or three other attorneys and or paralegals. A well leveraged practice is what takes you financially to the next level. In reality – more marketing is needed – to create a sufficient volume of work to support this leverage. Once this is accomplished – attorneys must learn how to manage and supervise others – and the compensation system must shift emphasis from personal working collections to responsible (billing attorney) collections.

John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Sep 02, 2009

Is There a Number One Tip For Improving Client Service?

Question: We recently completed an informal client survey and were surprised at some of the feedback. Our scores were lower than anticipated. Clients believe that our services took longer than expected and fees were also higher than expected. We work as dilligently as we can for our clients and I don't see how we can improve turnaround or reduce legal fees. Suggestions?

Response: Based upon client surveys that we do for law firms we find that one of the biggest problems is that the attorneys are doing a poor job of managing client expectations. The key is to under promise and over deliver. I suspect that upon the initial client meeting you are under estimating the timeline and low balling the fee range. Increase the promise – timeline and fee range and then shoot to deliver under that range. This will do wonders for improving the client relationship.

John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Sep 01, 2009

Staying Ahead on Retainers


I do a good job of collecting initial retainers before doing work for my family law and criminal clients. But then I fall behind on retainer replenishments. Do you have any thoughts or ideas?


This is a common problem I hear from clients in all practice areas. Here are a few suggestions:

The key here is assigning someone the daily responsibility of monitoring retainers, having a good time and billing system, and using the managment reports from the system to stay on top of retainer useage.

John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

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