Over the past decade, following the great recession, client demands for predictability, certainty and efficiency are on the rise. No longer does the billable hour reign nor do invoices pass through with little to no scrutiny. The new reality revolves around the pressure to reduce legal spend, gain predictability and promote efficiencies. In response, most large law firms have developed pricing and legal project management (LPM) roles or programs. Through every point in the matter life cyle, there is an opportunity for pricing or LPM professionals to add value and support to the client and attorney team. The goal of these roles should be to marry the needs of the firm with the needs of the client. In the blog post that follows, I describe how pricing and LPM professionals at my firm interact with legal teams and clients in our Life Cycle of a Matter content series.
At Stinson, one of the key differentiators between our program and other firms is our Pricing and LPM coordinated approach. During every step on the matter continuum, there is a pricing and LPM representative providing input. We believe this approach provides seamless internal customer service to our attorneys and yields the best results that will ensure profitability while also meeting client demands.
Pre-Matter (RFPs, Pitch Meetings or Client / Attorney Request)
Once we receive a request from an attorney or a client, there are a few different things we are working on throughout the pre-matter stage. If we are creating a pricing proposal or a budget, we may data mine comparable matters to help inform the proposal or budget with information such as:
- What were the total hours for similar matters?
- What is usually the mix of work for this matter type?
- How does the matter we are trying to price or budget for compare to our historical comparable matters?
At this point, the LPM and Pricing team may call on the attorneys to provide comparable matter(s) or details on what will likely be the large cost drivers.
As we build out a proposal or budget, we are also drafting assumptions around the scope of the engagement. As an example, for a litigation matter we may build out assumptions regarding deposition count, number of witnesses and days of trial. With proper assumptions in place, the attorney team and client are in agreement as to what is included in the budget or pricing arrangment. These assumptions also act as a communication tool to set expectations for the work that will be completed. A key conversation to have at this point in the lifecycle is what happens when the assumptions or scope change.
During the course of a matter, our team provides various levels of matter management depending on the client's needs. We can provide custom budget reports and timeline tracking. We consider this to be lowest level of matter management as it has the lowest influence on the client. We can also staff an LPM who is an active member of the matter team and helps support and coordinate tasks and deliverables. This may involve client-facing matter management and collaborations with a client's on-staff project manager. These arrangements have the highest influence on the client.
At the close of a matter, it is important to do a post matter review to determine any areas for improvement and capture any relevant data to be used for future pricing or budget requests. If areas for improvement are identified or further information gathered, that will only further improve the next matter that goes through this process. This point in the life cycle is also where you could identify a process improvement project.
As the shift in the industry continues so will client's demands for transparency, value adds, AFAs and legal project management. Those firms likely to prosper in our new reality will be those best able to adapt to these changing demands. LPM and pricing continue to be an active piece in that adaptation and there are no limits to the points in the matter life cycle that LPM and pricing can add value.