Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog
Jan 04, 2018
Our firm is an eighteen attorney insurance defense firm located in Los Angeles, California. We have six partners and twelve associates. We represent insurance companies in personal injury and property claims. Over the last five years our growth and our profitability has been flat. We feel that we have enough work to reach our goals but we just don’t think our people are energized. We have a billing requirement of 2000 billable hours but few of our attorneys are hitting them. The partners met a few weeks ago and set for the first time set some goals for 2018. The firm does not have a business or strategic Plan. Do you have any thoughts on 2018 goals and how best we can implement?
Since you do not have a strategic plan I assume that you have not done any formal planning in the past. Even firms that do have strategic plans often fail to engage and energize their team. Here are a few thoughts regarding your 2018 goals and initiatives:
- Most law firms are not run like a business. They haphazardly go through the motions without a plan, without structure, and with no order. The first thing I would suggest is for the firm to make a commitment this year to begin running your firm more like a business with more structure, order, and accountability from your lawyers and staff.
- If the firm does not have a budget develop a budget this year before the end of January and review the firm’s performance against the budget monthly. The revenue section is particularly important. Build it from the ground up timekeeper by timekeeper. Advise each lawyer and other timekeepers of their revenue and or hours targets for the upcoming year.
- Consider a new year kickoff meeting, possibly breakfast or lunch, to jump start the new year that would include attorneys and staff. During this meeting you can accomplish the following:
- Recognize team members that performed well the past year.
- Provide information about the firm’s past year performance, where the firm is and where it is headed in the upcoming year.
- Review the firm’s mission and purpose and specific firm and individual goals for the upcoming year.
- The firm kickoff meeting sets the tone for the upcoming year, communicates firm and individuals goals, and energizes team members and solicits commitment.
- During the year consider the following meeting schedule:
- Kickoff meeting – attorneys and staff – early January.
- Attorney meeting – weekly
- Staff meeting – monthly
- Partner meeting – monthly
- Midyear meeting – attorneys and staff – early July
- Budget and Planning meeting – Partners or Management Committee – early December.
- Review your attorney compensation system to ensure that it is rewarding the performance you are seeking.
- Review your attorney hiring protocols to ensure that you are getting the right people on the bus.
- Dig deeper and look into why attorneys are not meeting billable hours requirements. Possible reasons might be:
- Not enough work.
- Attorney not putting in the hours.
- Attorney has poor time management habits.
- Attorney has poor timekeeping habits.
- A combination of all of the above.
- Implement solutions to above.
- Take a tougher approach to those attorneys that are not meeting performance targets.
- Conduct formal performance reviews with each attorney and staff member annually.
- Commit to starting to work on a strategic plan no later than the third quarter of this year.
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John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC