Knowsley Management Services
Legal Practice Management Consultants
As I “pen” these thoughts yet another financial year draws to a close in Australia and of course half of the calendar year has powered by on both sides of the Tasman!
The past twelve months has been very patchy for law firm performance, with strong results from a wide range of firms, and poor results and a wide range of “bleating” about causes from many others!
Reasons for success or poor outcomes are hardly ever narrow…fix this or fix that and all will be fine.
It really comes down to the vision and drive of management to keep trying to understand what it is in your marketplace that people really want and need, communicating well with the right parts of the marketplace to demonstrate (not allege) that your firm really can help, and organising all your resources to consistently deliver excellent outcomes efficiently.
Do that and you will more often than not be busy, and importantly, in sufficient demand, and self-confident enough, to charge proper fees for the valuable help you provide.
I thought it opportune at this point in the year to point to some big areas in the legal landscape that smart firms will be continuing to address closely…
An individual with drive, passion and vision needs to be leading your firm forward in this critical area.
Most lawyers need to move forward from fear or confusion when it comes to marketing.
The simple key is in understanding that marketing is part of a lawyer’s duty to the client.
Being close enough to your client or prospect to understand what they truly need means you can help them better, by looking after their real needs yourself if you can, or by ensuring they get the experienced help they need.
Communication is the key. Lots of listening and lots of relevant helpful information from you will position you as caring and capable, not a bad branding to have!
That leads inevitably to happier clients, and more work from them and their referred contacts.
Outsourcing can reduce pressure on over-crowded premises or push back the time when you need to acquire more space, perhaps even to move…with associated fit-out costs.
Some of your high cost, low real production, Expenses can be reconfigured very positively. As a simple example, I’ve recently assisted a firm in which senior support staff at around $80,000 pa were doing mainly transcription, and almost no paralegal work despite having the skill sets and experience to move up the chain and produce substantial fees.
Without losing staff in this instance, the opportunity is there to outsource transcription (at the same time as giving the lawyers involved wider options for digital dictation on the go), reducing transcription cost, opening up a 24/7 transcription availability, and reducing turnaround average by over a business day.
All this can be achieved at the same time as increasing the paralegal contribution, delaying the need for another lawyer for the team (no space is available anyway in the current premises), and increasing revenue by around $100,000pa.
Not all the opportunities in outsourcing involve the off-shoring of existing jobs.
At any event, if you do have a moral objection to off-shoring jobs you can at least investigate limiting outsourcing for the moment to when you have a back-log of work, when you have staff leave who cannot be replaced with staff of the right quality, or when you have some legal work to do that you cannot handle in-house with your present skill sets.
Outsourcing is here to stay. The basic theme to come out of a conference I attended recently on the subject was that the focus has moved from wondering what could be outsourced to wondering what cannot be!
A final comment…the ultimate responsibility for the legal work of course rests with you, exactly as it does when you have your own staff assist you with legal work!
I trust that you find the comments herein of interest and value to you. Best wishes for a superb second half of 2013 one and all, and to Australian readers, here’s to a great new Financial year you are heading into.
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