I am a new recently elected managing partner of our 14 attorney firm in Orlando, Florida. For the last three years our financial performance has been stagnant and my partners are asking me to cut all the overhead expenses possible in order to improve profitability? Suggestions?
I am often asked to help law firms design and implement profitability improvement programs. In most of my engagements, 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.
Many law firms waste considerable time trying to find ways to cut a pie that is too small up differently by implementation of new compensation systems or increasing the size of the pie by decreasing costs. 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.
The lesson here – certainly get control of run away expenses – but focus on revenue generation.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC