Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ways to Grow Law Firm Revenues in 2012©

The fundamental challenge most law firms currently face is that expenses are growing at a rate faster than revenues. The most common strategic responses in recent years have been (and continue to be): to cut expenses; to increase billable hour requirements and/or to acquire books of business by lateral acquisition/merger. These strategies have worked to varying degrees, but in this highly competitive and mature market for outside legal services, without corresponding bottom-up support and continued investment they will yield reduced returns in the future.

Described below are four bottom-up strategies/best practices that can help contribute to increased revenue growth for law firms. The list below is not intended to be exhaustive.

  1. Review, re-assess, re-define and/or re-structure your law firm's support staff model - With alternative fee arrangements (AFAs) now accounting for a rapidly growing percentage of total revenues for many law firms, it is imperative to periodically re-analyze/re-consider the traditional roles of the firm's finance/accounting/marketing departments and other staff services. Too many firms create AFAs in a one-off or reactionary posture, with only a small number of law firm employees involved and little cross-collaboration. However, the "marketing mix" now consists of 7 P's - product/service, place, price, promotion, process, physical evidence and people. Too many law firm support staff departments are essentially silos focused primarily on only one of the P’s without effective coordination with other departments that are responsible for supporting the other 6 P's.

  2. Upgrade your law firm's Key Client Team programs - Many firms have been using formal client team programs for years now. Almost all firms have less formal, virtual client service teams led by the primary relationship partner for each client. Many key client team programs have become stagnant, myopic and somewhat reactive. To help fuel continued returns, firm's should consider creating and offering programs on such subjects as: "Next Generation Key Client Teams” and/or "Upgrades in Client Service". It is no longer enough to communicate solely with the client themselves. Consider involving a cross-section of clients and prospective clients in the internal process of educating lawyers to proactively identify, systematize and/or leverage ways to enhance key and other client relationships.

  3. Re-define and/or upgrade firm-wide business development - The practice of law is at its core a people-driven, relationship business (both externally and internally). Too many lawyers think they already know what marketing is and that they already have a complete understanding of business development, client development, client service, and are therefore, dismissive of the proven science of those disciplines. In fact, the meaning of those words and phrases varies dramatically among and between most lawyers. Just like civil procedure, there is a linear process to business development often illustrated by a funnel or pipeline, and once lawyers and staff obtain this knowledge - it goes a long way in creating greater focus and efficiencies in their use of time, effort and resources. A handful of law firms have enhanced their ROI by using a funnel/pipeline approach to help grow revenues and as a result are continuing to invest in the systems, processes and talent to support it.

  4. Provide Partners with more support – When presented with credible options, many partners (whether equity, lateral or income) have both the interest and desire to upgrade their contributions to revenue growth. However, most firms never proactively ask partners which revenue enhancement programs and/or support options they are most interested in. Many firms simply re-cycle a talking-head type "program of the month" that may not have worked or that the lawyers did not like, so these lawyers are highly skeptical of wasting time in the future. It is important to provide proven, credible professional development opportunities for all firm employees, not simply CLE programs, but tailored career development programs that can help drive the growth strategies of the firm. Examples include: "New Income Partner Business Development Training & Coaching", "Sales Pipelines for Practice Groups", "Project Management", "Process Improvement", "Budgeting/Estimating", "Making the Most of Secondments" and/or other credible, experienced coaching to provide support at the individual, team or practice group levels as appropriate.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss the above, please contact the author Julie Savarino, T (734) 668-7008, E

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