Knowsley Management Services
Legal Practice Management Consultants
|I trust this July 2019 edition of KMS “Robservations” finds you very well…
Assisting lawyers in Knowsley Management Services for more than thirty-one years has produced many particularly enjoyable situations, and some I certainly did not anticipate back at start-up in early 1988.
One of those is seeing the offspring of long-standing clients emerge in their own careers…some of course in law.
I am of recent times working with Brendan Kelso…whose Dad Peter and I worked together on his Newcastle law firm over many years.
Brendan’s business, LegalSites, is of particular interest to me, because there aren’t a large number of grounded, legally-qualified, web-savvy young people focussed on assisting law firms with both the technology and day to day practicality of modern Business Development.
Great to see someone providing Website Design, Search Engine Optimisation, Google Ads, Email Marketing and logos and branding, all specifically aimed at my own law firm client profile in Australia and New Zealand!
Brendan thinks the same way I do in terms of the value of content, and what he writes weekly for lawyers is very practical and helpful. It will be terrific to observe his deserved success.
I have penned a few thoughts below (under Marketing) in relation to an aspect of balance in relationship building and business development. It refreshes my long-standing awareness that there is a real need to treat people as you find them, as the individuals they are, without making sweeping assumptions about what they want, need, do or like. This applies as much to management of people in your team as it does to business contacts.
What got me thinking was that I had been reading a piece of business development advice that flatly stated that these days you can forget someone being prepared to meet you for a coffee.
My instinct is that this assumption is likely to be wrong in a considerable number of cases, particularly with a growing number of people starting to resist being pushed into a business approach and lifestyle they do not find particularly enjoyable…almost 100% online!
Meeting with a person and getting a proper sense of who they are and what they do, and can offer, should not be unfashionable.
Next time you’re planning to be in Sydney let’s know and I’d be delighted to meet over a coffee, or a drink!
This comment is really a blast back into the past. Sometimes no matter how much time passes thinking doesn’t change much…not much by way of developments!
I’m still seeing plenty of firms doing free initial consultations, which is something I recommended law firms not do as much as thirty years ago. Many firms listened and have reaped the rewards.
There are limited circumstances where testing it may be worthwhile, especially in some fields of law where the whole service is no-win-no-fee, but there are lots of firms wasting huge amounts of lawyers’ time on a majority of free initial consultations that will go nowhere.
Interestingly, many do not keep detailed statistics on conversion rates, and fees generated eventually from the free consultations.
My experience, over more than 30 years, is that all too often people thank the lawyer profusely for their time and promise to return, with this current matter or something else later, but never do, and never refer anyone else either.
I believe it is far better to have about a third of the volume of initial consults that were coming on the free basis, charge a reasonable fixed fee for them, and aim to convert about 50% of those prepared to pay for an initial consult into a “normal” fee-paying client.
Charging a reasonable fixed fee may well filter out two-thirds of the appointments, but monitor the appointments and conversions very carefully and I’m sure you’ll be delighted.
You will save a lot of time and angst, and be paid a fee for your marketing in this channel, which will overall deliver better returns than your time investment when they were free!
Your lawyers will also be a lot happier.
Anyone interested in how to set suitable fees, please email me to set up a chat (or a coffee)!
KMS Common Sense Law Firm Marketing…
more short sharp real-world thoughts from the trenches where small-medium law firms can genuinely prosper…
Simple reminder in context of the wonderful tools we all have at our disposal with email and social media.
These give us huge reach, speed, and efficiency that we simply could not achieve without them. We can get our relevant, generous, helpful information to where it can be of greatest benefit, very easily.
My reminder is just about not getting lazy and forgetting the continuing power of the face to face meeting in our business development efforts.
Saving huge amounts of time using one set of communication techniques doesn’t mean we ignore the rest, especially the best. Quite the reverse, the efficiencies in one method create/free up extra time for the other.
Look for opportunities to meet in ways that suit individual contacts.
Recently I’ve met in Sydney with contacts from New Zealand and a number of Australian states, as well as Sydney locals. Catch-ups included drinks after a conference contacts had been attending that I was not, dinner, multiple coffees, and a game of golf. I have set up a series of coffees through New Zealand on my travels later in August. On a real horses for courses basis I should be aiming to meet some future contacts at a Dressage event!
Ironic that in an age when we are all up to our necks in electronic communication the list looks very traditional indeed!
Balance is important. It’s not one channel to the exclusion of the others. It’s not, use social media or don’t use social media. I recently commenced a new KMSRetainer with an interstate firm whose Principal reached out to me on LinkedIn, leading to a brief exchange of “greeting and clarifying needs” messages and the setting up of a phone call.
Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics…
In each issue I look to introduce comment about a management issue that revolves around “the numbers”.
For those firms that record effort invested in client files, and allocate a Raw Work-In-Progress value to the effort, it is a given that the eventual invoice rendered can vary up or down from the Raw WIP, historically mostly down!
Many factors impact on invoicing, with confidence and skill in scoping matters interacting with client price sensitivity, fixed retainers, allowances for bulk work, to name just a few.
“Realisation Rate” becomes one useful measure in tracking invoicing against effort and cost…
Of recent times I’ve noticed that there are still plenty of lawyers who are tending to look in the wrong places for reasons for Realisation Rate fluctuating down or up.
Note that Realisation Rate can in most firms, with reasonable Practice Management Software well-utilised, be calculated and reported based on individual team members, teams, departments, matters, clients, work types, and by a specific period including calendar year or financial year to date.
The calculation itself is quite simple…
You look at the amount of recorded Work In Progress removed in a period, for sake of example, $40,000, and divide it into the professional fees component of the resulting Invoices.
If the Invoices above are $37,000, the Realisation Rate for that WIP removed/absorbed in that period is 92.5%.
Use actual numbers to manually check to make sure your PMS does this…incredibly, some don’t!
Points to remember:
At this point Realisation Rate does not take into account whether all of the $37,000 is ever recovered from the clients!
How much new work was done in the period will not, of itself, impact the Realisation Rate, and nor will the fact that a particular team member had significant leave in the period!
To be accurate in these important calculations, team members need to accurately record their involvement in matters, and the policy of the practice needs to direct that normally, invoices are allocated to team members pro-rata to the Raw value of the effort they recorded.
If you have a problem about what team members are doing or recording, best to address that at source, early.
For the purposes of this exercise we can leave aside the quite proper discussions about what represents value to clients, and whether billing by the hour has any substantial long-term future.
Personal effectiveness note…
While we’re talking emails here’s a tip you might consider when attacking your jam-packed In-Box…
Here’s a heads-up to set the scene, that I’m encountering every week lawyers who are not particularly busy, yet are often investing the first hour of every day “Perusing and organising emails”, as if there is no real value in this irritating and unavoidable process whatsoever.
I suggest that you quickly run through the items that are not client file work, using the four D’s…Delete, Delegate, Do, Decide…
Delete is self-explanatory…before email it was Dump!
Delegate is for things it doesn’t make sense for you to do, or put off, gumming up your In-Box…it is also for Delegate Now!
Do is for “Do now”…you have the situational awareness, you know what needs to be done, and in a nano-second you can determine that there’s no real value in taking the time to delegate. You should have seen any later emails on the same topic on your initial run through, so as to avoid attacking the earlier emails without being across important (even game-changing) information in later ones!
Decide…this didn’t fit the first three, so you won’t Delete, won’t Delegate, but shouldn’t Do now…work out how long it’s likely to take, whether it could be done in one time segment, then schedule it for attention then…in one or more time slots.
Having, for a few minutes at least, got rid of the personal and FirmTime™ emails, attack the client file-related emails in accordance with your normal priorities, filing, scheduling etc in the way you always do, remembering to capture the input to the relevant file.
Perusing a communication, considering what needs to be done, and planning to get it done does not become valuable because it is in an email, but nor does it become valueless because you received and read it in an email!
Track what in your day, your practice, is absorbing your time, and that of others, and consider what sort of return you are getting on those investments you are making that makes the time of everyone on the team available to you as a resource.
Again, this is not about what billing method you consider most appropriate in delivering value to each client. It is about something much more fundamental, and important to your ability to generate a decent profit, and that is how you are utilising your most critical, expensive, potentially valuable, resources.
I’d be surprised if most lawyers can’t get through their FirmTime™ emails in ten minutes a morning, with the switch being thrown to high priority client file work immediately thereafter.
The on-going housekeeping through the day is somewhat easier.
Rob Out and About…August.
For NZ readers, College of Law NZ, “The Business of Law”… there are 2 in-house sessions available year round…
“Maximising Financial Performance and Profitability” link ZH2019-MAXF and “Acquiring New Business and Fee Generation” link ZH2019-AQBUS…I am delighted to be presenting five of these sessions in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch from August 26th to 29th…
At present I still have some limited slots that week to meet with representatives of firms for an introductory chat over a coffee…feel free to email me to explore the possibilities… email@example.com
I’m delighted to have been asked to deliver a session on “The Critical Drivers of Profitability” at the 7th Managing Partners’ Forum…Boutique and Small Firms, on 15th and 16th August, at Werribee. The two-day program looks superb and the learning/networking combo at a terrific venue a great opportunity. More here
I will be around the Mansion Hotel and Spa at Werribee for two days and have plenty of time for catch-ups if anyone wants to discuss specific challenges faced in their practice.
I’m working with CCH Learning Australia on two Australian webinars for the Legal Profession…
8 August 10.30 am AEST…”Maximising Financial Performance and Profitability”…link
5 September 10.30am AEST…”Practical Marketing in the Small-Medium Law Firm”…link
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, and non-Group, LI posts are now going to over 7180 Connections, 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