I am a new administrator in a 17 attorney law firm in the greater Boston area. I am the firm's first administrator and this is the first law firm that I have worked for as a firm administrator. I been on the job for six months and I am struggling. I don't know whether I am living up to the expectations of the partners and I feel like I am lost. I would appreciate your thoughts.
While administrators have made great strides in terms of role and acceptance during the past decade, administrators in firms of all sizes still remain frustrated with:
– Poor, slow, and ineffective decision making
– Ineffective firm leadership and governance
– Internal politics and infighting
– Management by committee
– Lack of influence and ability to effect change
Being the first administrator for a law firm is tough. In additional to proving yourself to your partners you will have the additional task of justifying the position itself. After a few months when the honeymoon is over some partners will start questioning whether the position is necessary and worth the expense. Don't assume that the partners really thought through what their expectations were for the position prior to hiring you. Don't wait for them to manage you – you must take a proactive role – initiate discussions regarding expectations and identify priorities, projects, etc. Look for low hanging fruit when you can enhance revenue or reduce costs in the short term and track any results achieved.
Few things are as important to an administrator’s future as that person’s ability to influence the decision-making process and effect change. Skills and competencies are important but so are results. In order to transcend to the next level and enhance their value to their law firms, administrators must help their firms actually effect positive changes and improvements and improve performance. This requires selling ideas to partners in the firm and having them accept and actually implemented. To succeed administrators must achieve three outcomes:
- Provide new solutions or methods
– The firm must achieve measurable improvement in its results by adopting the solutions
– The firm must be able to sustain the improvements over time.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC
I am the owner of a five attorney personal plaintiff firm in Wheaton, Illinois. Our practice is in its 25th year of practice and we are 100 percent concentrated in personal injury. Over the years we have been very successful but over the last three years we have been struggling and revenues and profits have been flat. It is getting harder to get good cases and harder to settle and move the cases that we have. We need to approach our business differently. I would appreciate your ideas and thoughts:
We are hearing this question quite often and have provided some thoughts in past blogs and articles.
The majority of our PI law firm clients are advising that they are having to work much harder at getting clients and investing more heavily in marketing – both time and money. PI firms were feeling the most of these challenges before the recession. However, the recession may accelerate the pace with which law firms reevaluate existing processes and consider new business models. PI firms may want to begin by:
1. Develop a firm strategic plan and individual attorney marketing plans which include aggressive network/contact plans for past clients, attorney referral sources (non PI attorneys), attorney referral sources (other PI attorneys), and other referral sources.
2. Evaluate the feasibility of adding an additional practice segment to reduce the level of risk in the case portfolio and reduce cash flow variability.
3. Reduce case portfolio risk and improve case profitability by implementing a case intake system whereby all new cases over a specified level of projected case value are reviewed and approved by the partnership (or a client intake committee) in order for the case to be accepted by the firm. In other words – don't let one attorney expose the entire firm to either excessive levels of case risk or case investment (time and client cost advances) without other partners having a say on the matter.
4. Analyze the profitability and return on each case and ascertain what can be done differently on future cases. Metrics might include effective rate, return on LOADSTAR, dollar case profit after allocation of all appropriate firm overhead, etc.
5. Review and measure present marketing investments (time and money) and determine what is working and what is not. Reallocate resources if appropriate.
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John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC