Post by Stu Gooderham |
Efficient matter delivery is key to meeting client expectations. Law firms are challenged today on many fronts – financial pressures, competition, globalisation, a changing workforce – but most of all by client expectation. Our research tells us that timeliness and responsiveness appear is a law firm client’s biggest bug bear.
Simplistic as the issue may sound, it essentially boils down to efficiency and productivity in the way a law firm manages a client’s matter lifecycle. It entails everything from optimal resourcing to streamlined billing procedures, all of which must be delivered to a plan that is formulated at the point when the business is won – potentially even when the client is pitched to. So right at the start client expectation is guided and agreed – safe in the knowledge and with confidence that the deliverables are profitably achievable.
Clearly, this marks a paradigm shift in the way law firms operate. Given the power that organisations have today, clients are shaping law firms – they are driving the services that firms deliver and how they deliver them. This, combined with the increasing pressure on price, requires firms to find that golden operational formula, which allows them to deliver every matter profitably while still meeting the ever increasing expectations of the client.
However, to price profitably, a firm needs to have insight into what individual types of matter typically cost. This requires access to data (historical and current) to ascertain what level of resources were applied in the past, how best to leverage those resources, are the skills currently available, how much will new skills cost to acquire, what level of staffing is needed, at what stage of the matter lifecycle and so on.
Similarly, timely and accurate billing is frequently a bone of contention for many clients. What is the best time to bill a client, how can a firm reduce debtor days, and such. Recently I was recounted a story where a firm spent three work days of effort trying to raise an invoice that still turned out to be inaccurate. The days when a law firm could easily discount invoices are long gone – there isn’t the tolerance for such attitudes anymore as business survival is at stake.
Firms need to have their ducks in a row, but many don’t have the capabilities or the technological interoperability that align all the facets of a matter lifecycle and give them a holistic view. Essentially a ‘matter’ is legal parlance for a ‘project’. So efficient and profitable execution of a matter requires project management principles to be applied, which in turn requires the front and back end of a firm to be inextricably and seamlessly connected.
Modern technology can enable this. It can provide a template upon which a matter can be executed supported by a connected environment – from pitching for a piece of work across delivery through to generating profit. Such interconnection for every matter goes from time recording, staffing and resource allocation, and communication right the way to accurate and timely billing.
This blog is the first in a three-part series that outlines the journey to becoming a ‘connected’ firm.