Mind Your Own Business! Manage Your Law Practice Like a Corporation

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By Gerry Riskin | Mar 24, 2014

by Gerry Riskin

There is only one line that stands between you and phenomenal success — it separates action from inaction. By considering yourself in all the senior executive roles in managing your practice, you will optimize satisfaction and income.

Position: Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

Function: Creating a vision for the personal practice that fits with the firm’s

  • Ask yourself: What kind of work do I enjoy most? Which clients do I prefer serving? In what ways could I enhance the value of the work I like doing, so that clients I prefer would get more value from me than my competitors? What am I learning?

Consistent with my preferences for work and clients, what practice areas can I explore or develop that will enhance the firm’s competitive position in the marketplace? Who do I respect and admire outside the practice of law whom I could recruit to an informal personal advisory committee, someone who would be a worthy mentor and who would have a fresh perspective?

Position: Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

Function: Exercising financial discipline for optimum performance

  • Ask yourself: What are my numbers like: my billings, relative to others in the firm and/or others in my practice area in the profession? Am I capturing all my effort by time recording, or am I robbing myself through lack of discipline? Do I understand what alternative billing really means, in light of the nature of clients I serve? Is my WIP being billed effectively and quickly when analyzed by age and percentage of billings? How do my write-downs and write-offs compare to others? Do I get retainers to reduce or eliminate write-downs and write-offs? Am I collecting receivables by picking up the phone and sending frequent reminders?

Position: Chief Information Officer (CIO)

Function: Incorporating technology for effectiveness and efficiency

  • Ask yourself: Do I understand the spectrum of technological tools, from basic word processing to document generation to knowledge management? Am I exploring client access to data, from databases to file status to deal rooms? Do I understand what the Web can offer to enhance communications with clients? Do I encourage or require that my people take some time for technology learning/training?

Position: VP Marketing

Function: Attracting and maintaining optimum business (requires creativity)

  • Ask yourself: Do I effectively determine client needs by engaging existing and prospective clients in discussions on the topic, including how clients choose attorneys? Do I explore what clients would like that no one is currently providing? Recognizing lag time, do I market even when my plate is full?

Am I bulletproofing my favoured clients by investing time to enhance their satisfaction levels? Do I allow the marketing professional(s) within the firm to help me? Do I care more about what my peers think about marketing options than whether they will be effective? Do I have a supply of thank-you cards within arm’s reach, so that I can take a few seconds to create an expression of appreciation when needed (especially when I receive a referral)?

Position: VP Production

Function: Delivering unmatched legal work product (requires self-regulation)

  • Ask yourself: Do I plan the creation of my work as well as my team’s work? Does my team (including support staff) harmonize work schedules for optimum results? Do I apply time management principles (including saying no) to avoid overworking (inefficiently) and under-producing?

Position: VP Human Resources

Function: Supervising and developing personnel to peak performance (requires leadership and teamwork)

  • Ask yourself: Do I take some time to learn the preferences (work-type and client-type) of my team’s members? Do I find out what they aspire to, and then coach them and follow up? Do I allow training time for my team, including substantive, client relations, technology application and firm systems training?

Get away from the treadmill, ponder these questions and record any action ideas that you think are worth considering. Choose few actions, but execute them.

Gerald Riskin is a former managing partner and a principal of Edge International, a global consultancy serving many of the world’s most prominent firms: riskin@edge.ai or +1 202 957 6717.