If you carry any responsibility for managing a law firm these days you might find yourself waking up in cold sweats (or not sleeping at all) thinking to yourself: "How am I supposed to manage the firm when I don't even know what is going on out there until AFTER it's happened!"
If it helps, you should know you aren't alone...but it probably doesn't help.
Industry forces such as rate compression, profitability decay, value-driven service delivery, globalization and many more are accelerating at increasing velocity.
The problem is, law firm management's ability to not just see, but AFFECT change through timely adjustments has not come even close to keeping pace in most firms.
And so there you are, lying awake in bed at night wondering how on earth you can catch up to the speed of change you are tasked with 'managing'.
Maybe some of these common questions are spinning around in your mind:
- Who is out there in our firm entering Alternative Fee Arrangements that may be putting firm profits at risk?
- Is everyone prioritizing collections like they should to accelerate cash flow?
- Are the right retainer amounts getting requested as new matters are being brought in?
- Are client rate exceptions getting examined properly to ensure consistency across offices in our key client base?
- Is our loss prevention good enough to protect our profits?
- How much more bandwidth could we get from our employees if we got more efficient?
- What can help us get deeper penetration into our existing customer base faster and more effectively?
So what's the answer to getting a handle on the things that are the most important? Well, the fact is, there isn't just one answer. The industry forces are complex and shifting, so the answer to combating them can't, by definition, be some 'set it and forget it' solution. Just the opposite, in fact.
That said...there is one absolutely beautiful fact (I think you'll like it)...ALL of the answers can be found within your firm. How and where, you may ask? Inside your most valuable assets...the minds of your colleagues and the business systems that contain (or can contain) the information you and your colleagues need to make more timely and better strategic decisions.
"Ok," you make ask, "but if I already have the answers, why am I still sitting here with these questions?"
Think of it this way...just because you have all the tools you need to build a house, doesn't mean you can build a house. You need a blueprint, a plan and the expertise and knowledge of how and when to yield the right tool for the right job. And because you have no idea how many and what kind of changes you may need or want to make in the future to your house, you must have a base platform (foundation) capable of evolving to support your shifting needs.
For enterprises, like law firms, in need of exceptional agility and visibility, a new 'orchestration' layer must be added on top of the people and systems (technology) that already exist. The role of this layer is three-fold:
1. To make sure the right people are doing the right work at the right time for increased efficiency, risk mitigation and loss prevention.
2. To arm the right people doing the right work at the right time with the right information so they can make better decisions faster. This information is pulled together (or 'aggregated') from your existing back-end business systems. But what's different from what you have today, is that now this information can be presented in ways that are meaningful to the EXACT decision being made at the EXACT time and to the EXACT decision-makers that need it. In reality, much of this information is 'locked away' in your firm today, not accessible to the 'masses'. So the trick is to 'unlock' it in a secure way to provide the visibility needed for enterprise agility.
3. To codify key firm policies, procedures and business rules to ensure consistency, effective oversight when needed and enhanced efficiency all leading to greater profitability.
Enter the dragon: Cradle-to-Grave Client/Matter Management
Cradle-to-Grave client/matter management means systematizing your firm’s core business processes to be as efficient as possible while at the same time enhancing your loss prevention effectiveness. It requires coordinating and facilitating the involvement of your people and the information you have in your key business systems with the work being performed in accordance with your established strategies and policies. By managing from inception to close you gain a whole new kind of visibility and control over the daily operations of your firm, while at the same time getting more leverage from the creativity and innovations of your firm’s most valuable assets.
And this isn’t a ‘set it and forget it’ solution. It’s an EVOLVING one. This means that the rules you inject into the processes today can (and SHOULD) be morphed, added to or removed based on CHANGES as they occur in your organization. You MUST maintain the ability to AFFECT CHANGE, today and tomorrow, to be successful in adapting your firm to the constant changes that will definitely be occurring in the marketplace.
1. You can see what is happening throughout the entire lifecycle of the client and matter, from prospecting through closure.
2. You can be sure that YOUR strategies, objectives, and policies are followed consistently with ultimate flexibility to account for necessary nuances (e.g., if you want clients and matters for European offices to go through extra checks to account for enhanced anti-money laundering legislation or other geographically-driven differences).
3. You get enhanced value from your existing employees as their bandwidth increases to do high-value 'brain' work.
4. You get immediate add-on leverage out of your existing technology investments, and in fact, see increased return-on-investment from them, even if you haven't 'touched' them for several years.
This is not nirvana or utopia...these are real, obtainable results. And you can start getting them RIGHT NOW. Immediate change is possible. Of course, you don’t, can’t and shouldn’t tackle every process at the same time! That is NOT feasible, or recommended. You approach strategically to get the biggest value from each investment you make.
This blog has only scratched the surface on this subject.
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Whatever you do, do something. Inertia is the ultimate enemy in today's law firm marketplace!