Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog

« May 2015 | Main | July 2015 »

June 2015

Jun 23, 2015


Law Firm Management -New Firm Administrator – Implementation of Ideas

Question:

I am a new and a first law firm administrator for a 16 attorney firm in Chicago. This is my firm law firm and after attending a few partner meetings I am concerned about how and where to start getting some ideas and projects implemented. I have lots of ideas. I would appreciate your suggestions.

Response:

Lack of focus and accountability is one of the major problems facing law firms. Many times, the problem is having too many ideas, alternatives and options. The result, often, is no decision or action at all. Ideas, recommendations, suggestions, etc., are of no value unless implemented.

Look for ways to insure that your, and your partners, time spent on management is spent wisely. At first identify a few (maybe three) management initiatives that you can move forward fairly quickly and get implemented. Then build upon these successes.

Don’t hide behind strategy, planning, and endless debate. Attorneys love to postpone implementation. Find ways to focus the firm and foster accountability from all.

Don't attempt to initially, in the short term, take on management projects that the firm is unwilling or unable to implement.

Click here for articles on other topics

Click here for our blog postings on partnership and governance

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

Jun 16, 2015


Law Firm FInancial Management – Metrics for a Small Firm

Question:

I am a partner in a three attorney litigation firm in Boston. Two of us are partners. We are in our fourth year in practice after leaving a very large firm. We are concerned that we could be doing better financially. We are haphazard in our record keeping, have no goals, and are even sure what number matter. What are your thoughts are to the key number (metrics) for a small firm like ours?

Response:

Goals should be established for each attorney with monthly reporting showing performance against goals. Key metrics should include:

  1. Fees collected – working attorney 
  2. Fees collected – originating attorney 
  3. Fees collected – responsible attorney
  4. Billable hours – working attorney 
  5. Non-billable hours – working attorney
  6. Billing, collection, and overall realization – working attorney 
  7. Other goals – financial and non-financial 
  8. Summary dashboard report should be developed. 
  9. Attorneys should consider keeping timesheets for all worked time – billable and non-billable with specific goals for non-billable activities. 

Firm management contribution is important. If both partners do not share in the firm management responsibilities then the partner committing non-billable time to firm management should be compensated in the form of an agreement to amount or a fee credit that is run through the compensation system. If both partners participate in firm management, implement and document a management structure that clarifies management roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities for the partners, the office manager, etc. Respect the boundaries and avoid stepping over each other.

Click here for our financial management topic blog

Click here for articles on other topics

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

 

Jun 09, 2015


Improving Law Firm Profitability

Question:

I am the sole owner of a three attorney firm in San Francisco. I started the firm seven years ago. We are an estate planning firm. Everyone is working hard and putting in the hours but we are not making any money. I am only making around $110,000 net income/earnings after overhead. Should I take a meat ax to my expenses?

Response:

Surely you should examine your expenses to insure that you are not wasting money and resources. However, I find that in more cases than not the real problem is insufficient gross income and lack of sufficient investment (spending and time) on marketing and initiatives designed to stimulate client and revenue growth. For most firms increasing revenues is the most effective way of impacting the bottom line.

While unnecessary expenses should be reduced – once they are reduced a repeated effort to slash costs proves fruitless as a strategy to increase the firm pie. The vast majority of law firm expenses are fixed or production-related. The percentage of costs that are discretionary is low, typically in the 20-30 percent range, and the number of dollars available for savings is small. The available dollars available for reduction disappear after a year or two of cost-cutting, leaving the firm with dealing with the effects of further cuts on production capacity.

Click here for our financial management topic blog

Click here for articles on other topics

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

Jun 02, 2015


Law Firm Partner Compensation and Client Origination Credit

Question:

Our firm is an 8 attorney general practice law firm located in Kansas City, Missouri. Five of the attorneys are equity partners and the other three are associates. The two founding partners are the only ones in the firm that bring in clients – the other partners are just workers. Currently the partners are paid based upon their collections for cases/matters to which they are assigned. They are also credited for work that others do on their assigned matters as well. We are concerned that in a general practice firm such as ours, everyone must be bringing in clients and we are considering changing our compensation system to factor in credit for client origination – bringing in clients. I would appreciate your thoughts.

Response:

All law firms need a mix of finders, minders, and grinders. Finders (client originators) are needed to provide sufficient work to keep the workers busy. Minders (responsible matter attorneys) are needed to manage the portfolio of client work. Grinders (working attorneys) are needed to service and produce client services.  While there are exceptions, in most firms partners must hit on all three of these cylinders. In other words, most of the partners must do well at finding, minding, and grinding. Partners may perform some of these roles better than others, however overall they should be competently performing each of the roles. Very few firms can afford the luxury of having several senior partners only bringing in business without being required to maintain personal production levels as well. Partner compensation research concludes that the most a law firm can afford to pay a rainmaker – over and above his or her own billable hours (fee collections) is the marginal profit derived from the associates the rainmaker can keep busy, regardless of how many partners he or she occupies. The most valuable partners are those who offer a balance of skills: worker, delegator, supervisor, and rainmaker.

Since origination of new clients is the lifeblood of any firm it is a key factor that should be recognized in any compensation system. The exact weight that it is given will depend upon the firm and how dependent it is upon constant client replacement, only a few institutional clients, turnover of clients, leverage ratio, etc. A firm that has a well diversified base of institutional long time clients will typically weigh client origination much lower than a firm that has to constantly replace individual clients.

Click here for our blog on compensation

Click here for our published articles

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

 

    Subscribe to our Blog