Partner rates increased an average of 3.5% each year during the 3 years ended June 30, 2014, according to a report recently issued by Lexis-Nexis CounselLink, an e-billing service used by corporate law departments. The report focuses on rates, not total cost of matters. A law firm that undertakes serious improvements in matter matter management may be able to change the dialogue with clients from rates to value. To overcome client skepticism, the firm will likely need to be transparent with clients about the specific improvements it has made.
How a practice management technique called knowledge strategy can help law firm leaders achieve strategic goals – ideas from a former AmLaw 20 senior partner.
Here are six strategies for improving collaboration and efficiency within a firm: (1) introducing profitability of matters rather than realization rate as the financial metric for evaluating partners, (2) apply methods to overcome lawyer resistance to organizing work product for more efficient re-use, (3) institute checklists to guide practitioners, (4) create a search system that adds subject matter and other filters to full-text search to bring the efficiency of on-line shopping sites to law firm work product retrieval, (5) institute a system to identify on a timely basis when a matter has been completed in order to trigger information collection for marketing and fee benchmarking, enable league table submissions, schedule after-action reviews and improve lawyer utilization, and (6) begin conducting after-action reviews.
The after-action review meeting also presents a unique opportunity to collect other valuable information that otherwise may be unavailable. These include: capturing key substantive issues addressed, recording the main factors affecting the fee, and verifying matter parameters and description. After-action review meetings also serve a training and morale-building purpose for associates. This meeting may be the only time during the matter where some associates get a sense of the scope of the entire matter and how the part on which they worked contributed to the whole. Also, merely participating in an after-action review meeting and being treated as an equal team member will contribute to more positive morale among associates.
“Why are people talking about after-action reviews?” wonders Keith Mayfield, chairman of an AmLaw 100 firm. The topic has been coming from many directions recently. One of his lateral partners has just left his office after suggesting the firm begin after-action reviews for all matters, as they did at the partner's previous firm. Last week Keith lunched with the general counsel of a prospective litigation client, who asked whether the firm regularly conducts after-action reviews. Last month Keith attended a managing partner leadership meeting, where he now remembers the subject came up briefly during a breakout session. Keith's now curious to learn more. Keith calls the consultant who ran the breakout session, who has law firm experience, to ask why after-action reviews are being talked about.