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How long is a piece of string?

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My dear old grandad used to have an answer to the age-old question: "How long is a piece of string?" He used to say (in his broadest Yorkshire): "Twice as long as from't middle t'end".

As a statement of logic, he wasn't wrong! However, as a means of trying to calculate the length of the aforementioned 'string' it was pretty useless.

When businesses are asked: “What is the cost of delivery of your service?”, a similar logic can be applied, which is both simple and concise, but often just as useless!

"I take all my overheads, divide by the number of units I sell and add in a % for profit".

In essence that is the same logic applied to the 'string' scenario.

However, in the case of law firms, that piece of string all of a sudden becomes a ball of twine, full of knots and split ends. Is that your Law Firm? ''afraid not" I hear you say (think about it, string with knots and split ends...a 'frayed knot'...never mind??).

Law firm balls of string have 'utilisation twine', 'realisation twine', 'fixed fee twine', teams, departments and divisions with all their own little balls of twine. All of this makes for one big ball of knotty string, which some poor person (usually in finance) spends their life trying to untangle and make sense of.

Further complications are created when services are mainly of the 'fixed fee' type. Knowing what the underlying cost of delivering a transaction is when that transaction has an undetermined process length (conveyancing transactions are prime examples) means putting a price on the value of a service that usually comes from knowing that your competitors charge £X and therefore we will charge £X-Y.

If the firm does not know how long a transaction should take and the value of the 'hands' that touch the file as part of the process, then how can they determine whether they are working as efficiently and effectively as they could to ensure the end fee is returning any real value to the business?

Wouldn't it be good if you could start laying out all your 'bits of string' in such a way so that they never became tangled? You could add in new strings or take them away without having to spend time undoing that the knots that may have formed.

Even better, how about being able to say 'What if we added in a new person/unit/team/department/division/branch" and being able to see how that would affect your business.

Add to that the ability to define a business process in to meaningful elements which would allow the apportioning of work to the most appropriate resource and from that streamline that process by use of automation?

This where the Visualfiles Client Advising team can help. We have the technology (built into Visualfiles) to help you untangle your 'balls of twine' and help you see the separate threads of your business and ensure your processes are running efficiently and effectively. Get in touch with us via email, if you’d like to discuss.

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About the Author:


Shaun Denham is Client Advisor at LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions. He has over 25 years’ experience in legal IT and finance and has held a variety of roles including Head of IT at Lupton Fawcett in Leeds. He has also worked at a number of legal software suppliers.

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