Knowsley Management Services
Legal Practice Management Consultants
|I trust this December 2019 edition of KMS “Robservations” finds you very well…having almost locked down another good year, ready for the Festive Season and hopefully a very well-deserved holiday.
Here’s to a wonderful Festive Season and restful holiday break, and a superb year in 2020…The Year of the Rat! (The “White Metal Rat” at that)!
Rob Knowsley LLB.
March 31, 2020 marks the end of 32 superb years since the start-up of KMS. Many thanks to everyone who has supported us through that time in us seeking to support you in small-medium legal practices in multiple jurisdictions.
A particular ‘Robservation’ at this time is that too many Principals are still far too bogged down in churning out client file work, to the detriment of the firm as a whole, and of course, thereby to their own detriment.
Leading from the front is indeed a great quality in a leader, but these days leading needs to be far more nuanced than being top-gun in the billing numbers.
Most Principals have acquired skills that would be more powerfully applied a bit more off the files, focussing and limiting their inputs for better outcomes on the file work they do handle personally, and invested the saved time more wisely at key impact points in the practice.
It’s a good time for a reminder that while sweat is an important element in success, however you define it, effort directed in the main at the right things is far more powerful and rewarding than putting in big hours when far too much of them are not a good return for your skill sets, for one or more of the many critical profit-wrecking reasons.
I suggest for 2020 a re-visit of all aspects of pricing, a re-invigoration of marketing that you can prove to yourself does work to provide a superb ROI, and a re-engagement with team members who need further training to lift their productivity and improve their career prospects.
For most Principals a 2020 spent more on key leverage aspects of the practice, having more people doing the right things more of the time they are paid for, and charging and collecting significantly better, will deliver rewards many find inconceivable. The rewards will be thousands of times better than what can be achieved putting the hours into their bottom-end matters, or the bottom end of their better matters.
2020…we may well be heading again into the Year of the Rat, to billions around the globe signalling wealth and surplus, but I firmly believe that a Year of Improved, Well-Supervised, Delegation… in the best interests of clients, the Principals, and the firm as a whole, is fully within the earthly, feet-on-the-ground, control of most Principals!
The opening of a KMS operation on the Gold Coast is a big step closer, putting me within even easier reach of firms in South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales. More information in next “Robservations”.
Next issue…the central place for paid initial consultations in various fields of law…
KMS Common Sense Law Firm Marketing…more short sharp real-world thoughts from the trenches, where small-medium law firms can genuinely prosper if they do enough of the right things all of the time…
A tip for LinkedIn buffs…I maintain a database of membership numbers in LI groups I’m a member of.
Currently at 125,000 members. Of course there will be overlaps…after all, I’m a member of 18 groups, but the numbers are still impressive in terms of pretty immediate reach of relevant, helpful, content to members who have indicated their interest in the topic areas by joining the groups and remaining in them.
It’s important to get good bang for your buck with LI posts…understanding how to share published content with your groups and “the LI public”.
Monitor views, comments and visits to your profile, and be active in responding.
While we’re on the subject of LinkedIn…what follows continues the recently introduced element of “curation” into “Robservations”…
Brendan Kelso of LegalSites is always good for practical tips…Here are his suggestions for you for this issue…
You might be wondering, ‘What should I post on LinkedIn?’
Here’s the thing –
Yes, it performs better than Facebook for B2B lead generation and conversions.
That’s why I suggest lawyers use LinkedIn to demonstrate expertise to other businesses.
What types of businesses?
Anyone who operates in your network. Yes, this includes other lawyers.
Referrals and SEO.
Non-B2B clients (e.g. Family Law) are more likely to check out your online reviews and Facebook presence.
Of course, if you specialise in business/commercial law, LinkedIn can be very effective in targeting clients.
So, what should you post?
Incorporate a mix of the available post types (e.g. write an article, text post, image or video).
This will keep your profile more fresh and engaging.
Sure, you can post updates about what’s happening in the firm, new team members, awards, etc.
But, if you want to stand out from the pack, have a go at writing authoritative long-form articles.
As already mentioned, it will demonstrate your expertise to other people in your network.
Plus, the SEO benefits can provide a substantial boost in website traffic.
Why is this?
Google loves websites that demonstrate authority.
Plus, ‘social shares’ are a Google ranking factor. In other words, your ranking on Google will improve when more people share your blog posts.
Ask yourself –
Is your website the best information resource (in your geographical locations) for your chosen practice areas?
If not, here are some quick tips to get there:
Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics…
As regular readers will be very aware, in each issue I look to introduce comment about a management issue that revolves around “The numbers”.
Here’s a quick thought or two on bonuses, definitely a topic that involves, “The numbers”!
I have prepared some thoughts on my experience with bonuses…
Often through poor planning of the resources through WorkPlan™ a firm ends up paying a bonus for what should have been normal work in the Rob Knowsley (45 years-plus) view of things.
My preference is to set good WorkPlans™ and pay a strong market salary without any planned bonus…to me, a planned bonus assumes the WorkPlan™ is too loose in the first place.
If someone goes way over and beyond, I prefer to pay surprise ad hoc bonuses for the significant extra value delivered…firm and employee both benefitting from the unexpected upside actually generated.
Some bonus systems can lead to people not delegating appropriately…which can also have implications for the fee firm might feel it needs to charge.
Far too often, failure to achieve bonus KPI’s leads to negative and morale-harming discussions about the causes…with employee casting blame for failure at the firm and the firm tending to see it almost exactly opposite.
Regular discussions about expectations and performance can generally be more productive and better preserve good relationships.
If a firm improves some things which impact positively the ability of an employee to hit some of their KPI’s without doing anything extra themselves they often find it nigh on impossible to see that that is the reality!
For example, if the firm’s marketing brings in a type of work that delivers a better fee return for no extra work, or if the firm does things which improve Realisation Rates per se, or R/Rates on higher base rates, such as being prepared to accept a greater percentage of deferred work at higher than standard rates…fees eventually generated can be higher without the employee doing anything exceptional themselves.
There are many other issues too…only one being that sometimes if one team member is on a bonus arrangement others get to hear about it one way or another, and get their proverbials in a knot over perceived favouritism or inequity or whatever.
Personal effectiveness note…
Inherent in the concept of doing the hardest stuff early in the day, so you feel satisfied and energised (“Eating the frog”), is the assumption that you have one or more particularly difficult or unpleasant things to do that are distracting you, reducing your effectiveness.
In my experience pressure can also build through sheer volume of work, with nothing particularly difficult, challenging or unpleasant about any of it at a given time.
What can happen is that you prioritise each day and knock plenty off, but there is still a lot of very easy stuff that nevertheless builds up, often over-filling your email In-Box.
Even without major concerns to deal with, the other less important stuff never seems to have enough priority to get the ‘squeaky wheel oil’.
To deal with this, I no longer attack it Saturday mornings, preferring to get up an hour or two earlier for a day or three, making the very simple, but voluminous, stuff the priority for first couple of hours, then returning to a more normal day’s routine at about the time I normally would have started.
Am sure readers would be interested in any personal effectiveness tips anyone wishes to share, so please don’t hesitate to drop me an email and I’ll work those I can into a future edition.
Tips on recording inputs…
Whether you charge based on time or not, here are some thoughts about how to improve your recording of inputs.
Obviously the real key is to both fully understand, and then “live”, the importance of planning and monitoring where you invest your available time, that minimum 1755-1940 hours a year as per your WorkPlan™.
All your available time (FirmTime™ and ClientTime™) costs the firm the same, so what you do with it all is critical.
Note that if you allow just two hours a day on average for FirmTime™, and your target hourly rate is as low as $345, you have allocated around $160,000 in resource annually.
Most of the year’s effort goes into breaking even, where losses stop and profit has finally got itself down onto the starting blocks…nothing yet achieved in profit, we’ve just prevented losses.
It’s what happens in the remainder of the day/week/month/year that generates profit… if done right!
Being 100% at 80% of the race, or a game, is meaningless from a business perspective…it might be sad but it’s true.
However then being 80% or better on the remaining 20% doesn’t guarantee a win in a race or a game, but it does, happily, guarantee a reasonable profit in a business.
Observing 1350 firms in the last 45 years has consolidated my clear awareness that knowing where your time goes is the fundamental building block to getting it right…those that don’t, in the main struggle badly.
Once the underlying vital reasons for activity capture are understood, “owned” and “lived”, the issue becomes each team member having a sustainable, rock-solid, technique.
IT helps a lot…back in the day we thought the manual timesheet was hard but got used to it…good software is much better!
Just one key tip at this stage…and that is to start the clock on each file or FirmTime™ activity when you start doing it…as that will also signal and capture the end of the previous activity.
When you take a break, or address a private call or email, head out to lunch etc, visualise starting that as new private activity, and although you don’t record it in your PMS, act as if you do, and close or pause the open time slip that is representing the immediately prior activity, whether that be ClientTime™ or FirmTime™.
After a bit of repetition, that approach will guarantee full capture of time invested.
BTW…As an example, an 8-hour day invested and accurately recorded in six minute units will never be less than 80 units and usually more.
Run a little progress check during the day to see what you have recorded as compared to elapsed time in hours…as an example, your start time through to a first tea/coffee break.
If you are under, it makes it a lot easier to locate significant lost time invested(hopefully not merely wasted) if you do it over a manageable short-ish period. Those who do it at day’s end (or worse week’s end/month end), are doomed to fail.
(On that note the Latest Legal Trends Report from CLIO again shows that lawyers in the US are averaging recovered ClientTime™ of around 2 hours/day out of 8 hours invested)!!
On the other hand if you are over, it is in my experience quite a lift, very satisfying.
If you don’t record time invested at all, or think you only record ClientTime™ and do that well, I would be happy to review your numbers at no cost and provide you with an assessment of what opportunities are being left on the table.
Every firm has them, and in many cases they represent lost Principal profit returns 100% or more above current returns.
No hyperlink here!…if you’re still reading, and if you’re serious about discovering what’s being left on the table, you’ll of course be able to work out how to be in touch via telephone, email or LinkedIn message.
*** “The Business of Law”…In-house training for Australian firms…
Please email to indicate your interest and set-up a chat about topics, duration, my availability, your team members’ CPD credits, your investment etc.
These Australian sessions are delivered by me directly…rather than through an intermediary commercial provider.
Rob’s been up to What?!!!
This little section is to keep regular readers aware in just seconds of your valuable time what aspects of assistance to small-medium firms interest me most, and occupy me most, these days…without providing lists!
Succession issues are still keeping me busy in firms across Australia and New Zealand…getting succession planning right to ensure happy, well-informed and well-prepared, “winders-down” and “winders-up”…is a vital aspect of practice health.
I’ve also been assisting further with Marketing training, and Productivity improvement, including assisting numerous individuals with structuring of more appropriate WorkPlans™, and assisting with better time management.
I have been writing a regular column for the Australasian Law Management Journal, and delivering CPD workshops, including for the College of Law in Sydney.
Dozens of hours every month are invested in assessing the performance of individual team members in client firms, providing focussed feedback comments in their monthly KMSFeedBack Reports. This ability to assist each individual progress with getting the best out of themselves within the scope of KMSRetainers is one of the most satisfying aspects of my various roles.
Again, dozens of hours each month are invested in reviewing draft content provided to me by individual team members in firms, acting as a mentor, trainer and editor, and regularly making suggestions on other targeting opportunities for content.
If some of this content has been of interest and value for you in your practice, you will find other related content here…
My LinkedIn articles…I’m delighted that even when I post non-public, and non-Group, my LI posts are now going to over 7250 Connections, with excellent, much-appreciated, feedback.
KMSWebsite LawFirmProfit.com includes an archive of all earlier newsletters…including all issues of “Robservations” (and the earlier “KMSProfitPower Tips™”) back to 1996.
My LinkedIn Discussion Group… Excellent Management In The Small Law Firm
Rob Knowsley LLB. Managing Director-Principal
KNOWSLEY MANAGEMENT SERVICES (KMS)
Monday 16 December, 2019