Below are highlights from my blog posts that illustrate how to improve efficiency and quality in the delivery of legal services. Greater efficiency leads to increased revenues and profits per partner, even using an hourly billing model. Each title below links to the original blog post.
See the sidebar for links to the most recent posts. Click here for my main blog page that lists the most recent posts, as well as all past posts.
How to get lawyers to practice more efficiently
Start at the practice group level. Ask the lawyers what improvements would help them, in order to create buy-in for change. Prioritize their ideas based on ease and value to the group. Involve the lawyers to maintain buy-in but rely on them for as little as possible for actually getting it done. Conduct pilots. Run it like a project, with scope, success metrics and milestones. Allow good word of mouth to generate interest in other practice groups. Expand the effort to those other groups. This is a three-part post.
Realization rate vs. profitability - what's the better metric at the matter level?
Introducing to partners the metric of profitability of a matter rather than realization rate can be useful if done properly. Realization rate gives only part of the picture and doesn't permit comparisons across practice groups because it measures only the revenue side. Profitability also takes into account expenses attributable to the matter, driven principally by the lawyer resources used, and can therefore be used to compare matters with differing associate leverage. To avoid divisiveness and misunderstandings, the new metric should be introduced in stages: first, an educational program to explain the new metric and the limitations of the old one; second, informational reporting for a year or two until the metric is accepted; and third, after the metric has been accepted, give a year's notice that it will be used in partner compensation.
Should we measure profitability? Let us count the ways
In this three-part post, Part 1 discusses why it may be a good idea to consider profitability at a more granular level than the firm as a whole, such as by client, matter, practice area or even partner. It also discusses how to allocate some types of expenses at the matter level. Part 2 discusses allocating general expenses to matters and issues arising in calculating profitability by other sub-units, such as by client, practice area, office and lawyer. Part 3 describes cautions to be considered in taking action based on profitability data and sharing this sensitive data more widely within the firm.
Finding our work product should be as easy as shopping on Amazon.com
Lawyers ask for their internal searches to work like Google. Instead, they should have a tool that works like Amazon.com: allowing relevant filters to be applied to narrow results of the word search to highly relevant documents. Existing enterprise search software can do this. Work is required to develop the filter index and manually tag documents. The results, though, are very powerful.
What's the fuss about after-action reviews?
In this two-part post, Part 1 describes the purpose and key benefit of after-action reviews: to enable a practice group to learn by considering what went right and what went wrong, so they will do it better next time. That leads to greater efficiency, better financial results for the firm, greater client satisfaction and improved lawyer morale. Part 2 discusses other benefits the reviews can bring, as well as when and how they should be conducted.
Using psychology to improve practice efficiency
In this three-part series, Part 1 describes special lawyer personality traits that get in the way of internal law firm management initiatives, and illustrates how to apply an understanding of personalities to a legal project management pilot. Part 2 describes how to apply this understanding to a program to collect better data about matter experience. Part 3 explains how to use an understanding of personalities to advance two other projects: an effort to revitalize management of an important practice group and a project to revamp internal “adult education” CLE programs for senior associates and partners.
What good is a checklist in a law firm?
A checklist that outlines the anatomy of an agreement, and that is enhanced by the inclusion of relevant precedents, can produce 80% of the benefits of a standard form with 20% of the effort, and can be more quickly created and updated. It will not only help junior lawyers prepare drafts, but also prevent senior lawyers from overlooking what's been left out. It will help all lawyers review drafts prepared by third parties. A process checklist can aid junior lawyers in performing a particular type of task for a matter, and can also serve as a master roadmap for the matter. More elaborate process checklists can assign responsibility for tasks and track status.
How checklists for legal opinions can improve quality and reduce costs
This post explains how a process checklist for the work to back up transactional legal opinions can prevent important steps from being delayed or missed, can confirm who's responsible for what, and can require each step to be completed early enough to enable any required remedial actions (such as adopting supplemental board resolutions) to be undertaken in a timely manner. Checklists are viewed favorably by malpractice insurers.