Effective Service Delivery, Providing Client Value, and Applying Sound Decision Making to Matter Management

by Cohen & Grigsby, P.C
Contact

[author: David Kearney]

As lawyers and law firms continue to recognize the need to more effectively engage, manage, and retain clients, it is becoming obvious that the adoption of tools and models to gain new work and keep existing clients is a necessity. Models that address the overall flat growth for legal services, the “new normal” economy since The Great Recession, the growing sophistication of clients, and new and non-traditional legal service providers in the legal market must be utilized to justify the traditional billable hour and also to be able to offer various alternative fee and service arrangements.

Regardless of the terms or concepts used, whether it is called legal project management or variants of client value initiatives, practice innovation, etc., it is becoming essential that when responding to an RFP or bidding for new work, lawyers must have at least a small arsenal of tools at their disposal to effectively price a matter, efficiently manage a matter to completion, while also producing value to the client. Part of the arsenal of tools must include training in the new economies of legal services; the ability to track billable time at the task and activity level; providing, communicating, and analyzing metrics of the business and engagement; the ability to budget a matter based on a combination of internal metrics, the value of the service being provided, historical data, and intuition; and being able to provide alternative fee arrangements not based solely on hourly rates.

A lawyer or firm may not know what exact steps to take and each step may vary across firms, practice groups, or individual attorneys, but the following are some essentials to have an understanding of to remain competitive to upstream and downstream providers, and utilize resources that can provide guidance in helping to move your practice towards meeting client expectations in today’s legal services environment.

Training

An acknowledgement of how the terrain has changed over the past few years needs to be addressed at the organizational level, regardless of the size or client-base. The elephant-in-the-room should not go unacknowledged. An overall discussion of how the business of law has changed and how this may impact a practice group or firm is the first step in ensuring that there is at least a recognition that change is on the horizon. Looking a year or two down the road to peering five-to-ten years out and how the trends of today will impact the ability to gain new clients and retain them may make things clear that a strategic plan should be designed now; One that takes into account what is here & now and what other changes may be looming. Examine project management practices, innovations in the delivery of legal services, and what clients expect beyond the initial services they need and how best to service these needs is a good place to begin. Educate clients and practice groups and let them educate you in return.

Standardized Time and Activities

Consider keeping time utilizing the standardized categorization of legal work and expenses. The Uniform Task-Based Management System (UTBMS) was developed by the American Bar Association, the Association of Corporate Counsel, along with corporations and law firms. This standard will assist with electronic billing; the process of better understanding where time is spent on a matter, across matters, and within a practice; can be used to better prepare RFP responses; and enhance communications within your team and with your client…not to mention you will be prepared when a client requests that that these standards be instituted in their billings. Implementing a standard time-keeping and task structure will certainly require change to how entries are logged and billed, but will enhance the data captured that wouldn’t be able to be accurately measured otherwise. Some clients are already expecting this from their outside counsel and it is only a matter of time before other clients begin to expect this standard way of time and task accounting.

Workflow Improvement

Identifying workflows, identifying inefficient workflows, and automating efficient workflows where possible are ways of streamlining the work involved on a matter. By analyzing what works and what doesn’t will help remove inefficient practices that can then be made more efficient to help drive down costs and meet client expectations. Before any automation can be put into place, it is probably a good idea to make sure that workflows are efficient; otherwise an inefficient workflow will be automated. Study workflows of matters and find efficiencies and implement practices that can take advantage of similar processes across matters to manage them more effectively, perhaps even as a portfolio.

Metrics

Examining the all-around costs of people, places, and things and how those costs impact the degree of flexibility that can be applied to pricing work is essential to knowing if a certain piece of work will be done at a profit or loss and by how much. How much of a billing rate covers overhead, such as office space, benefits, staff, technology, supplies, etc.? These costs have to be covered and accounted for. When a matter is closed is an analysis done to compare the budgeted costs versus the actual costs? Is there a communication model around a matter and/or client? How is the status of matters communicated to the internal legal team and to the client? Metrics analysis is vital to budgeting, managing, and improving the delivery of services…within scope and on-budget.

The Outcome

Once the systems are in place that keep the lawyers and legal team up-to-speed of legal market changes and client expectations, that standardize billing entries, that define efficient workflows, that account for costs and expenses related to a matter, the ability to utilize internal information, take advantage of the knowledge that is now available, the analysis of industry benchmarks against your practice, the examination of alternative service delivery mechanisms, and the application of project management tools and practices to the management of matters will allow for hourly rates to be based on the work needing accomplished and alternative fees arrangements that fit to the tasks required for the matter.

Hourly fee and alternative fee arrangements can be proposed more effectively when designed based on the analytics of an efficient process, based on historical data in-line with new work requirements, is consistent within a practice group and matter type, and in a way that is in-line with the goals of the organization or individual seeking a solution to their matter.

Change is never easy and the changes required to work in an environment that has changed significantly over a short period of time will require a long-term commitment, strategy, and team to ensure that client requirements are met head-on with transparent and predictable results.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Cohen & Grigsby, P.C | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Cohen & Grigsby, P.C
Contact
more
less

Cohen & Grigsby, P.C on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.
Feedback? Tell us what you think of the new jdsupra.com!