Knowsley Management Services
Legal Practice Management Consultants
I trust this February 2019 edition of KMS “Robservations” finds you very well…
Rob Knowsley LLB.
The strongest thread from my consulting in the past month has been in relation to lawyer productivity.
There is a very wide range of views on what ‘lawyer productivity’ actually means, but most have a central idea that revolves around efficiency in converting all the relevant inputs into useful outputs.
Regular readers will be aware that I have for many years been concerned that despite all the fantastic technology available the productivity of many lawyers has not increased much, and is often still quite dismal.
Readers may already have noted the Clio 2018 Legal Trends Report, based on extremely broad data and interviews, demonstrating that the average small firm lawyer in the US actually recovers fees for much less than 2 hours/day! That is very poor productivity indeed. When fees recovered in the limited time are lower than reasonable the productivity is even less useful. The evidence tracks along with data from the two previous Clio Legal Trends reports. Report Here
On this note I had great pleasure in accepting an invitation from Roni Millard, General Manager-Sales & Marketing at LEAP, and the CEO of LEAP, Brendan Smart, to be one of two participants in a roundtable discussion on productivity to be facilitated by him in Sydney in late February. Interested readers may wish to keep eyes open for the resulting white paper/e-book.
See below information on the Small Law Industry Summit in Sydney in March. If any reader would like a complimentary pass please email me.
I can’t let this month go by without congratulating the team at Rainey Collins in Wellington on achieving the 100 years milestone!
Mr. R. Collins commenced practice in early 1919, shortly after returning from war service, and was joined in partnership shortly thereafter by Mr. W. Rainey.
The firm is a very good example of how small firms can survive and prosper, adapting to the plethora of changes and challenges in the Profession, growing strongly, and avoiding the urge to merge so prevalent among smaller firms in recent decades.
The four current Principals have an excellent spread of experience and ages, with all being parents or grand-parents, and two currently flexibly and successfully combining their careers with parenting responsibilities for a number of young children.
With a superb team of 11 other legal members, and the valued support team, the firm is well-placed to continue to grow and thrive beyond this “RC100 Year” for a very long time to come.
I’m sure all readers join with me in wishing the whole RC team a superb year of suitable celebrations with clients and other supporters alike, and many a year of rewarding, enjoyable, practice to come.
Often when I talk Marketing with lawyers in small firms the conversation gets quickly to a point where they confess they just don’t know where to start.
I suggest they focus on two areas:
The next step is to develop the habit of providing a flow of that relevant, helpful, information on a consistent basis, using tools that work for the lawyer and the recipients.
Most of the ideas for suitable content will come from the lawyer’s experiences with current matters, important changes in legislation, or significant case decisions.
It is hard to find any lawyer, looking regularly, who will not have a deep pool of potential content to work with.
Now it’s important not to procrastinate…just do it…like voting, ‘early and often’.
It will only be considered an irritation by recipients if it is not relevant to them…and you will not be sending ‘junk’, so warmly accept unsubscribes and press on.
The effort invested in helping people is worth it of itself, and it will also pay off in a very healthy flow of enquiry in the fullness of time.
In each issue I look to introduce comment about a management issue that revolves around “the numbers”.
A key area of “the numbers” is averages. What relevance does “average” have for you?
“Average” has numerous meanings, particularly because it can be used as a noun, adjective, or verb.
The meaning I want to address here is often used in the context of a pronouncement, by a Principal of a small legal firm, of this ilk…”But we’re doing better than the average small firm”.
Close examination of the firm’s financials usually reveals that in terms of real profit, the firm isn’t doing very well at all.
In fact, very often it is not long into my relationship with the firm that the Principal(s) willingly confess that they think the firm could be doing a lot better.
Apologies that, despite a good bit of research on the Web, I have not been able to dig up who it was who first said, “Average represents the cream of the crap”.
This quote is simply dripping with perception.
When an extraordinarily low percentage of small legal firms generate a decent profit after allowance for a proper Principal’s salary, taking an average of the profitability of all small legal firms in any particular “set” does not generate much of a number!
To be better than that number is not necessarily a particularly great place to be, especially if it is way below where you have invested in the current resources to be, operating well.
Investing strongly, working hard, and earning in total less than some employees is not optimal, not reflective of smart management, and not rewarding.
Nor is it necessary, a situation that is structural and unavoidable, for small law firms.
Quite minor, common sense, easily do-able, changes in operating produce dramatic changes in profitability.
It goes without saying that the necessary changes need to be identified, and led, from the top. The Principal is the captain of the ship!
For private practice lawyers a never-ending major challenge is getting the relationship right between FirmTime, ClientTime and private time.
My advice is always to prepare a WorkPlan™ that documents the coming year in terms of available days after all planned holidays, and sets out an average day in your own circumstances, with division between investing time in existing work, and investing time in ensuring desirable future work/administration.
Most lawyers allow more FirmTime than they actually spend, and because so many do not bother to track that important investment they do not know its real scope or real nature. In my experience far too much available time assumed to be FirmTime is actually wasted or valueless time.
For most full-time lawyers in small law firms there will be about 220 working days in a year. As an example, a lawyer investing an average 8 hours a day will have 1760 hours to work with.
If a maximum of 2 hours/day is allocated to FirmTime, or 440/year, the remaining 6 hours is available for ClientTime, 1320 hours.
At, say, $385/hour average the six hours has potential around $500,000, and the two hours an “opportunity cost” of around $170,000.
You can acquire a lot of assistance for $85,000 if you can identify things you are doing for 50% of current FirmTime, say an hour a day, that don’t make a lot of sense for you to be doing! If nobody should be doing them at all that’s different again!
Prioritise the FirmTime and the ClientTime so the genuinely important FirmTime investments do get made before you are too tired to feel you can be bothered. In particular, if you do not much like Business Development, you will be less likely to throw yourself into it, or be effective, if you are tired.
Beyond LinkedIn, in which I invest an average of ten minutes a day first thing, I find it easiest to attack Business Development mid-morning after a number of high priority ClientTime investments have been made and there is a sense of achievement to power me forward!
Writing articles, preparing for seminars/workshops, ‘building’ elements of the next issue of “Robservations”, making phone calls, emailing gatekeepers, designing service offerings…all aspects of Business Development are easier while you are close to the top of each day’s energy curve.
Readers without a WorkPlan™ who would like a template to work with…feel free to email me… firstname.lastname@example.org
Inaugural Small Law Industry Summit: Sofitel Wentworth Sydney, Thursday 14 March, 2019.
I’m very privileged to be asked to join an impressive list of 14 other speakers at the inaugural Small Law Industry Summit in Sydney on Thursday 14 March, 2019. Registrations are already heading towards the 400 mark!
Full day Agenda can be found HERE
Incredible value, with 6 CPD points available, and 50% of ticket sales go to a very worthy charity.
I can access some free passes thanks to the generosity of the hosts, LEAP…please email me if interested in attending what promises to be a very thought-provoking day!
Quote from the Summit webpage…
“The Small Law Industry Summit will convene some of the legal community’s most prominent thought-leaders to discuss key issues of leadership, risk mitigation, practice management and innovation, high-performance cultures, and the fundamental role of technology in shaping the future of the legal profession.
Take-aways and extensive networking opportunities from each session can be applied to the challenges and opportunities you face within your team, your firm and the industry”.
Clients who are members of KMSManagementSupport™ and wanting to tee up dates for visits in the first half of the year, at your heavily discounted member rates, now is the time to jump on that as we have now locked down all visit dates until late December 2019 with our KMSRetainer™ clients.
Dates can be locked away for general site visits to deal with particular challenges or team member training, or for planning sessions.
Every day I get feedback from lawyers in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK that they are concerned about where the Profession is heading, and what they need to do to best respond and avoid severe loss of income, or worse…
“Disruption” and “Innovation” are words heavily bandied about…but, beneath the voluminous verbiage, what are the practical realities?
There are special challenges for small-medium firms that do not have resources of larger firms that can be dedicated to doing the hard yards to come up with the answers, and to implement appropriate activities…
You know many of the issues, and no doubt have some special worries of your own within the large grab-bag…
Changing client expectations and demands…
Changes in competition, from multiple angles…
Increased sophistication in pricing (more fixed-price services certainly, but also way beyond that very limited offering)…
The impact of artificial intelligence…how to look beyond the negatives to the huge positives…
Apparently yet more to do…with the same amount of time to get it done…
Very high thresholds to meet in both mandatory and commercially-wise client disclosure…
New ways of delivering services…and unbundling of services…
Dealing with the necessity to change yourself to being very adaptable…like a start-up business owner learning on the run…
Changes in the way services are marketed (in all sensible channels, not just the Web)…
Meeting accelerating expectations from team members for agile working…
How to move forward with IT…lawyers are notoriously bad at keeping up to date with developments…
Avoiding all discrimination…
To specialise or not to specialise?
How to get proper, effective, performance from team members (including Principals)…
Maintaining and improving real profitability after Principals’ proper salaries…
Affording the sorts of resources you believe you may need to assist with strategy, planning, and implementation while you continue to try to generate appropriate revenue!
These are just examples…there’s a very long, and continuously-evolving, list!
Fortunately, I’m working closely with numerous small-medium firms that are clear market leaders, having responded smartly year after year for a long time, and continue to do so…and of course I get to observe lots of situations in which small firm lawyers are dropping the ball.
In March I will be running a number of discussion sessions in Australia for small groups of lawyers interested in better understanding what may need to be done, refreshing or changing focus, seeing the wood for the trees, and, in particular, what to deal with, how…and in what priority…
There will be plenty of time for in-depth discussion of areas of greatest interest or concern…and as an extra bonus for your investment, of your time and a modest attendance fee, I will be available for telephone discussion, gratis, for two sessions of up to an hour each to suit you during the first half of 2019.
The outcomes…you will go away stimulated, with clarity on what issues are priority for your action in your firm, how you may best attack them, and knowing you can touch base with me a number of times to discuss progress between the workshop and 30 June.
N.B. All sessions will be four hours plus a break, and will be at CBD venues to be confirmed…
Brisbane… Wednesday afternoon 27 March
Sydney… Tuesday afternoon 26 March
Melbourne… Monday afternoon 25 March
Good discounts apply for multiple attendees from one firm…see Registration form for details…
Payment by EFT only please…upon registration.
For Registration form to be sent by email, please click on relevant link above for your preferred location.
I’m delighted that another sole practitioner in New Zealand joined this exclusive program this month…leaving just one membership available.
This program involves membership of a small exclusive club, established by us at KMS in 1988, with a strict cap on memberships. The longest membership is currently 29 years and continuing! Opportunities don’t arise very often.
Broad, fast, access to undoubtedly the most experienced Legal Profession mentor available for small-medium law firms…whenever needed…by email, web or telephone…
Unlimited assistance with considering appropriate approaches to day-to-day practice management challenges.
Unlimited review of draft articles/other content submitted in Word, and suggested embedded/marked-up changes based on readability and genuine helpfulness to clients, referrers etc.
Massive discounts on standard rates for site visits…or special projects outside the scope of KMSMS membership benefits.
We now have one membership opportunity again available…on the ”first-in, best-dressed” basis…
Very affordable subscriptions can be paid quarterly, six-monthly or annually in advance, to suit member firms’ cash flows, with the largest discounts for annually. KMSLoyalty™ benefits apply to membership, and continuous membership guarantees that membership fees will not rise for at least three years!
Membership subscription is based on current practice size…please email details so we can advise terms specific to your practice.
Testimonials from your peers available at this link… https://www.linkedin.com/in/robknowsley/
With all the commentary about Legal Profession disruption even those Principals who would be prepared to make changes to adapt and prosper can find great difficulty deciding what things should be done in their particular circumstances, and with what priority.
Views within a firm can differ greatly, risking paralysis in taking important action promptly. In this market in particular, delay can be deadly.
The KMSPracticeHealth™ Report is a simple process that brings our great experience to your firm, quickly getting to understand where you’re at, and what you’re hoping to achieve, and giving you clear recommendations on what we would do, in what order, if it was our firm.
As usual, getting quality perspective from outside the firm can unlock logjams in ways that seemed impossible to achieve internally, and get the firm rolling forward strongly again.
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 my non-public LI posts are now going to over 7150 Followers, with excellent, much-appreciated, feedback.
KMSWebsite 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