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The following is a brief summary of key points from the April 24th roundtable discussion. Enjoy! Pricing for Small Firms – How do you set up a pricing program on a budget or with limited resources and/or staff and where do you start? -Pricing role is not a historical function at law firms. There is a hesitation factor on the attorneys’ side.  You need to explain what you can do for them, explain the value you can provide.  You need to get in front of the attorneys and other functional groups to explain what your role does and the value it brings. -Start with a smaller practice group. Analyze historical data and show them how it can be used in the future ...
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The 21 st century has ushered in a taste for all things do it yourself, restored or re-purposed. As evidenced by pallet projects or pantry-raid recipes, the ‘stuff’ laying around your house or yard is now a vehicle for creative expression. Yet most professionals receive emails on a daily basis touting the capabilities of hot stove software taking the world by storm. The legal industry often seems unenthused about the prospect of solving problems internally, especially when out-of-the-box solutions are plentiful. Given the increased focus on managing client financial expectations the spike in the number of products dedicated to budgeting and matter management ...
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A common question that comes up in the ILTA communities, in particular for smaller firms, is what are your options for financial software?  What is everyone else using and why did they choose that particular one? You may have missed the series last year on that very topic that was hosted by Beth O’Connor and Julie Lindsay, both from AAC, Inc., so below are links and recaps for the series.  I am also including information on a series that was presented in 2016 which still has relevant information when navigating the process of purchasing a new financial system. (Click on titles to access the recording and related materials for each session) Financial ...
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What? – You mean I am just like everybody else? We all know that the legal industry is changing (it’s more a case of what industry isn’t?) and this is being driven by a number of factors: technology is enabling new entrants to play at lower costs and develop new services models and legal products, clients are demanding demonstrable value and transparency around cost but that doesn’t necessarily mean narrations to support the billable hour, procurement is getting a seat at the table when assessing panel proposals and pitch responses. Basically law is starting to be treated like any other professional service - with scrutiny, commercial obligations and ...
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I have just returned from one of my firm's regional conferences over the weekend and realized it was my turn once again to provide the Business & Financial Management Weekly Thought. As part of the general discussions between plenary sessions and breakouts, discussions centered (at least with me) about how to ensure appropriate pricing consistency in an international basis - something certainly within my firm which is key. Perhaps some higher authority was guiding me to address a topic close to my heart (I am not sure) but my topic this week is ' Pricing - The International Dimension'. We all recognize that market pressures vary by jurisdiction, ...
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The Business and Financial Management Peer Group has been posting weekly thoughts for the past several months, and the last time I posted I laid out several new posts on my sqlforelite.com site. It was very well received, so I figured I'd do something similar this time. Since that last post, we've rolled out Elite Design Gallery for formatting invoices. It is truly a fantastic software leveraging XML and XSL to transform data into documents. Along with that, we installed the relatively new XML Superbill in our Elite environment. While it does the vast majority of what we need it to do, it wasn't 100%. So, I've written 2 posts on sqlforelite.com explaining ...
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Preparing for Transition for the same business but different environment While undergoing career changes, but seeking to stay in the same area of business, which is the business of law, I have found that there are several factors and opportunities to consider when deciding what environment is suitable or adaptable based on skills and experience. Knowing the business processes and mechanics of one environment, may or may not have benefit in a different environment, however both environments service the same business need. So what does one do to prepare for such a transformation and outline an adaptive platform to maximize opportunity? First is to outline ...
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This is a co-post with Steven Smith , Business Relationship Manager at WilmerHale Getting anyone to accept and embrace change can be a challenge. Add the skeptical and introverted nature of many lawyers and you have the makings of a Greek tragedy on your hands. So why do we continually throw good money after bad implementing technologies that very few use? Or perhaps a better question: what can we do about it? Enter Organizational Change Management, or OCM. Originally developed in the 1980s and popularized over the last few decades, OCM is a guiding set of principles and framework for introducing change in an organization and decreasing the chance ...
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This post is more in the nature of a question than a statement. Predictive project management (e.g. waterfall) contemplates planning, task identification and estimation, schedule identification and estimation, risk identification, etc. Adaptive project management (e.g. Agile and Scrum) embraces change (often including late changes) and reduces the amount of planning up front (preferring elaboration through iteration). Let me say up front that I know some planning occurs in Agile up front, but understand it to be significantly less than in Waterfall. I have seen many conference sessions and various articles praising adaptive project management for legal, but ...
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The theme of my weekly post this time is on a subject that many of us unintentionally neglect - our own personal and professional development. Why? The reason for this post may in part be to do with the typical reflection than by many of us the start of a new calendar year, but in my case is also being driven by two specific instances. The first, was in part down to me writing an article on this topic (also for ILTA) on professional development within pricing. The second was due to a conversation with a friend in another firm on professional qualifications (and the misuse or mis-representation of). Many of us, particularly those of us who are ...
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I was chatting recently with a colleague at another law firm. One of the topics of conversation became (quite how, I am not sure!) about how frequently law firms do not structure their matters' commercial terms clearly from the outset, thus impacting the profitability of the matters in question. It got me thinking. There are a number of potential pitfalls to matter profitability that it is useful to address before starting the matter if not already done so. Some are appropriate to all agreements and other specific to the type of fee approach adopted. Although by no means exhaustive, I pulled together a summary of typical areas we may want to consider. ...
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Driving Legal Project Management: A Fiat, a Honda, or a Cadillac? Having worked with lawyers on managing legal matters for many years, one thing is clear to me: the application of legal project management requires an agile approach. Sometimes you need something simple, yet enough to get the job done; like a Fiat. This usually means a strong communication plan using strategies like a kick-off meeting, a written scope, a recurring status meeting, budget updates and a closing matter debrief. Nothing fancy, and it works. Sometimes you need a little more sophistication and structure; like a Honda. In addition to a strong ...
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Perhaps I have been spending way too much time studying corporate finance in school the past month, but the topic that has remained in the back of my mind is whether our jobs, as staff in a law firm, is to maximize the long-term value of our partners. The longer that I have considered the question, the more that I fundamentally believe that it is. Granted, we are not corporations (yet), so we don't have a legal duty to our shareholders (equity partners), but does it really change our obligation as employees of our firm owners? What does this mean though? As a pricing person, I think it means that my department needs to measure its impact, not only to ...
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Hi All. The Business and Financial Management Peer Group is starting a weekly blog thought akin to the 12 Days of Business and Financial Management that we published in December last year. We hope this will be a useful tool for everyone. I get the pleasure to kick things off, and I thought I'd piggy-back on a recent discussion in the Elite listserv on Elite and SQL. As we near the end of the year, odd-ball ad hoc requests often come up for various bits of data and/or full on reports for various cuts that are simple unavailable within the application itself. Many of you are aware of the blog I created many moons ago called SQLforElite . Well, due to popular ...
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Which metrics should a firm really pay attention to in order run efficiently and profitably? We asked Stuart Dodds, Director, Global Pricing & Legal Project Mgmt at Baker & McKenzie for his thoughts on this. Stuart: Be careful to interpret realization metrics properly. It is useful to examine realization at its component level. Although the usual definition of realization is the percentage of the firm's standard billing rate actually collected, there are a number of other approaches which can be as, and often be more, useful. An article by James Cotterman (published in 2012, Issues in Realization, Altman Weil, ) expanded ...
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Which metrics should a firm really pay attention to in order run efficiently and profitably? We asked Cecy Graf, Director of Financial Services at Perkins Coie for her thoughts on this. Cecy: Firms neglect profitability metrics at their own peril. A comprehensive profitability model that provides metrics on business units, clients and matters, and individual timekeepers is vital to success. Profitability may not be the driving factor for all decisions, but considering these metrics requires firms to tackle tough questions and deal with sacred cows head on; those that do will prosper, while those who continue to focus on the top line at ...
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Which metrics should a firm really pay attention to in order run efficiently and profitably? We asked David Pulice, Manager of KM Practice Innovation at Reed Smith for his thoughts on this. David: I imagine like most firms we’re always looking at realization. We also try to incorporate leverage as much as possible. One key initiative that we’ve taken on recently is tracking our opportunities and eventual price structures identifying where we were profitable and where we were not. This enables us to better price similar engagements in the future to ensure that they are profitable. Additionally, we have a Legal Project Management team ...
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Which metrics should a firm really pay attention to in order run efficiently and profitably? We posed this question to a number of industry thought leaders. When we reached out to Steve Odom, Chief Financial Officer of Bricker & Eckler LLP for his thoughts, he replied as follows: Steve: Pay attention to the leaks. Your billing process can be leaking money. There are three things to watch out for. Watch the negotiated rates up front. While a necessary evil, don’t give away the farm. Watch the write-downs at the time of billing. Better management of matters can help reduce these. ...
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‘Business Process Management’, ‘Process Improvement’, ‘Lean Six Sigma’ – terms that are now beginning to resonate in the legal world. Why? Because there are significant benefits (cost, quality, time) to be had for any type of organisation when it focuses on streamlining, standardising and improving its processes. Again why? Because processes can impact the cost and revenue generation of an organisation. In fact processes can be considered as strategic assets and as enablers for creating a competitive edge and even differentiation. “Yes” I hear you say - “I would like some of that - but how can I apply Lean for legal?” Well in simple terms ...
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Hypothetically speaking, what would terrify a financial planning analyst when not involved in the design of an AFA for an "undead" legal matter? Essentially EVERYTHING! The terrifying fact is that AFAs constructed in a reactionary or non-specific methodology tend to yield disastrous results from a cost overrun or resource waste perspective on both the corporate legal department and law firm side. Again hypothetically speaking, a fixed fee retainer for a specific matter is used to maintain legal services and advice, however what is the matter becomes undead due to lack of volume of work in the matter and no careful planning at the early stages of ...
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