When I was 11 years old, I decided to become an efficiency expert when I grew up. I lost that thought for many years but regained it later. Instead I became a successful capital markets lawyer at a large firm. Though I didn't realize it at the time, I'd lost all connection to performing efficiently, at least from the client's perspective. Decades later I reconnected with my interest in efficiency and became a consultant to large firms on improving efficiency and productivity. For one large client I was presented with the challenge of how to create widespread lawyer adoption of legal project management principles. Many other firms were struggling to get lawyer uptake. I drew on my experience as a lawyer and my more recent study of efficiency to create a simplified version of LPM that was well-received by the lawyers. This blog post describes that simplified process.
How a practice management technique called knowledge strategy can help law firm leaders achieve strategic goals – ideas from a former AmLaw 20 senior partner.
The Executive Committee learned to their surprise that a huge number of documents was being stored by lawyers outside the document management system. This created heightened security risks for the firm in the event of a network virus, liability risks in the event of malpractice claims or requests for complete client files, and loss of efficiency and quality through inability to share prior work product. There were multiple reasons identified through lawyer interviews, and the solution involved a corresponding multi-pronged approach. The effort would extend for 6 months and involve a significant internal publicity and education campaign, as well as changes to the configuration of the DMS itself and a manpower commitment for analysis and follow-up. The pending security audit required by an important financial services client placed additional pressure on firm leadership to address the problem promptly.
This joint post by Blaqwell and KMJD Consulting (Part 3 of a 3-part series) provides 20 additional examples of productivity improvements in the areas of revenue/profit management, service delivery changes, people management, knowledge management, process management, and technology solutions.
This joint post by Blaqwell and KMJD Consulting (Part 2 of a 3-part series) provides four examples of easy yet very effective productivity improvements that a law firm may consider.
This joint post by Blaqwell and KMJD Consulting (Part 1 of a 3-part series) explains what we mean by productivity in the law firm context, why improving productivity is essential for most firms’ survival and the importance of metrics for productivity improvements.
The big picture revealed by 2016 results of the Am Law 100 – as explained in our American Lawyer article
This joint post by Blaqwell and KMJD Consulting describes an article authored by our partners in the American Lawyer on the subject of law trends revealed by the Am Law 100 results for 2016.
When the Am Law 100 results for 2016 are issued later this month, we believe they will confirm several key trends. A small group of approximately 20 firms is widening its lead over all other firms and concentrating its share of Am Law 100 profits. For now, there are a couple dozen firms in the mid-tier between the leaders and the lower tier. Each year, though, the mid-tier becomes emptier and a wider gap opens between leaders and the rest. Some mid-tier firms join the leaders and most fall into the lower tier. Many related trends are also described in this post.
This joint post by Blaqwell and KMJD Consulting describes a podcast interview of Blaqwell partner David Barnard by the American Lawyer on the subject of law firm compensation systems.
This joint post by Blaqwell and KMJD Consulting (Part 3 of a 3-part strategy series) explains how to flesh out a directional decision to grow deep into a detailed strategy.
This joint post by Blaqwell and KMJD Consulting describes a recent American Lawyer study showing a correlation between non-equity partners and declining profitability in Am Law 100 firms, concluding that firms with increasing NEP tiers are signaling weak underlying profits per equity partner. The blog post observes that an alternative hypothesis may be that large firms, which often opt for the stability of size in exchange for lower PPEP, are more advanced in their use of a non-equity partner tier, and that the correlation of NEP tier with declining PPEP may be a red herring. The blog post endorses, however, the concluding advice of the study that law firms should first adopt a good strategy to be distinctive and handle their NEP tier as part of an actively managed overall partner development program.
This joint post by Blaqwell and KMJD Consulting (Part 2 of a 3-part strategy series) explains the available directional choices dictated by the current market for legal services: grow broadly or grow deep.
This joint post by Blaqwell and KMJD Consulting (Part 1 of a 3-part strategy series) explains that a strategy enables a firm to distinguish itself from competitors and pull ahead. Preparing a strategy requires a tough-minded assessment of the firm's strengths and weaknesses, a disciplined approach, difficult decisions and often the help of an outsider. Implementing the strategy can be even more challenging. But the pay-off can be great, and the alternatives may be attrition and ultimately absorption by another firm.
This joint post by Blaqwell and KMJD Consulting describes the five key considerations in assessing a firm's readiness for change and the urgency of the need for change. It builds on the prior joint post outlining the 5 issues a law firm leader should understand about their firms, which may cause the leader to pursue opportunities for change. Before pursuing change, the leader should address the five considerations outlined in this post, which may change or limit the direction a firm's leader decides to take. But the first step is educating the partners. By educating partners, assessing their appetite for change and cataloging the more financially significant changes that are needed, a firm leader will understand the gap between what needs to be done and what realistically can be done. The firm leader can map out a plan for the firm to change in its own way before external forces compel possibly undesirable changes.
This joint post by Blaqwell and KMJD Consulting contains a checklist of the five most important issues a firm leader should be addressing, intended to assist law firm leaders in focusing on the big picture.
Three recent reports suggest that AmLaw 200 firms' results may be in for trouble: (1) Billable hours softened in Q2, (2) Most law firms are still stuck in the past, according to general counsels, and (3) Top transactional firms may face a drop-off in work. Whether or not it happens in 2016, a downturn will occur at some point. Regardless of what they believe will happen in the near-term, firms should be working now to position themselves to survive and possibly thrive when the downturn occurs. These actions include developing a specific and actionable strategic plan, executing it with discipline and becoming more efficient.
Keith Mayfield, chairman of an AmLaw 200 firm, is reflecting on a white paper about law firm change recently issued by the Association of Corporate Counsel. He has an idea about how to turn this new pressure from ACC into a business development project. In the white paper the ACC recommends that law departments partner with their law firms on a matter that involves developing a process improvement for the law firm that benefits the client and the firm and is, at least partially, paid for by the client. Keith and a group of his partners to develop six partnering ideas that will improve the firm's efficiency and a plan to speak to six clients about them.
During this 30-minute free webinar on July 28, 2016 learn from two behaviorists why lawyers are difficult to manage. The webinar will also offer practice guidance about how to overcome lawyer resistance driven by their special personality traits.
Keith Mayfield, Chairman of an AmLaw 100 firm, is reflecting on the state of his firm. He feels pleased that his practice groups are performing well financially. In the past few years he has de-emphasized the less profitable ones and built-up the financially successful groups. Yet it turns out, as he learns from a visit by several lateral partners, that his practice group lawyers do not collaborate well and are preventing the firm from realizing the full benefits of Keith's strategy. He learns the details of what is wrong and engages a consultant to help address the problems. The results are dramatic.
The June 30 free ABA 30-minute webinar explains how a practice group can readily create a system - without new software - to make it much easier for colleagues to find relevant documents.
Advantages of checklists for large firms - Roadmaps for leveraging junior talent and quality control
Keith Mayfield, chairman of an AmLaw 100 firm, is reading about a free ABA webinar on May 26 called Checklists for Lawyers: Roadmaps for accuracy and completeness. This webinar features an M&A partner from Skadden Arps talking about use of checklists throughout the firm's practice areas. Keith thinks about his own firm's checklists initiative.
In this Part 2 of the two-part series, the chairman of an AmLaw 100 firm is presented with a step-by-step approach to introduce LPM without scaring the practitioners. That approach is based on the notion that only two LPM elements should be introduced at first. These should require only minimal changes to the way practitioners currently work and should be perceived as bringing them immediate value. This Part 2 describes these elements, how to roll them out and why practitioners will respond favorably.
This is Part 1 of a two-part series. In this part, the chairman of an AmLaw 100 firm considers the disappointing results of other firms attempting to apply legal project management techniques. He receives an overview in pragmatic terms of the key elements of LPM and learns why the other firms’ approaches have not worked.
Learn how to get busy practitioners to make the time for practice group improvement projects at large and medium sized firms. My ABA group is sponsoring a free webinar this Thursday at 12:00 Noon, Eastern (30 minutes) featuring a case study by a practice group leader at Chapman & Cutler and the leader of the practice innovation program at 700-lawyer Baker Donelson.
The next webinar in the free ABA Practice Smarter webinar series is March 24. It will address practical tips for becoming more efficient, including checklists, managing e-mail and contacts, reinvigorating practice group intranet content and improving practice group meetings.
How to persuade practicing lawyers to become more efficient - Share this free ABA webinar series with them
One of the challenges to implementing efficiency changes in a law firm is getting buy-in from the practicing lawyers. Practice group leadership may be on board because they more readily "get it" (or at least some do). The question is, how does one reach the practicing lawyers? The Practice Smarter webinar series produced by the ABA's Knowledge Strategy Group addresses this question. The next webinar is Thurs., Feb. 25 at 12:00 Noon, Eastern (30 minutes).