As we head into what promises to be a tumultuous year for law firms and their people, many commentators have been focusing on what partners and managers can do secure their law firm as a business - from financing and external investment, to technological change and even wholesale rebranding.
The Practice Profit Pipeline
Each of these approaches has its benefits - and in certain circumstances we would advocate each of them - but our advice is that, before employing any new strategy, firms must go back to basics. Firms must revisit their pipeline.
The pipeline approach involves five stages:
• Client Acquisition
• Matter instruction
• Matter completion
Going back to basics means reassessing performance at each of these stages, and ensuring that the firm has processes designed to maximise efficiency and returns.
First Things First
Where you start in your pipeline reappraisals depends on where you are as a firm – and what you see as your main challenges. If cash flow is a problem then the place to start is actually at the end of the pipeline. If the main issue appears to be a lack of suitable work, then client acquisition and matter instructions should be the focus.
For each step, processes should be documented and made as simple as possible. For example, each fee earner should be aware of when they should be billing each type of client, what format the bill should take, the terms of payment, and – in the event of non-payment – what the process is for pursuing the client in a professional manner, and in such a way that a good relationship is maintained.
Likewise, each fee earner should have standards for client acquisition and instructions each week, month or quarter, and should be aware of the business development activities expected of them in order to meet these standards.
The Next Stage
Of course, defining standards and processes is not always as straightforward as it may appear. At Wilkinson Read & Partners we have a great deal of experience in setting standards and developing processes for business developers and financial managers alike.