Edge Welcome a New U.S. Partner
Jeff Morris is joining Edge International to continue his consulting and coaching practice. His consulting work involves a wide-variety of issues revolving around marketing strategies and practice expansion initiatives. In addition, Jeff has a particular specialty in helping law firms resolve disputes -- both internally and with clients. A former law firm Managing Partner and practicing lawyer, Jeff's practice experience involved serving as a commercial mediator handling over 2000 cases. He brings that experience to assisting firms in dealing with problem partners and problem clients. He has had good experience using his mediation skills in resolving large billing disputes with sensitive clients. Jeff can be reached at email@example.com
The Lockstep Misnomer
Meritocracies are not necessary if all partners are making an equal contribution to a firm.
By Nick Jarrett-Kerr
There is something very appealing about the collegiality of professional partnerships in which profits are shared equally amongst its partners. Such a method of sharing profits is invariably (and wrongly in my view) described as a lockstep system. The description of a partnership profit sharing system should reflect the underlying principle behind it, and the principle behind the equality system is egalitarian. Lockstep (which I prefer to call "the standard progression") merely describes the methodology by which a partner can proceed to equality by pre-defined steps over a pre-ordained period of time.
What is clear is that there is no one-size-fits-all partner profit sharing system for law firms. All agree that equality does not suit every firm, and there are many hybrids and variations which modify the principle of standard progression.
So what system is best and how do firms choose between the different models? Size is one factor, as is culture and history. Systems also play a part, as accurate measurements of performance indicators is critical, where levels of compensation differ between partners based on their performance and contributions. But the biggest determinant of all is (or should be) the firm's overall strategy. Firms with a strategic focus on growth driven by the activities of high-performing partners are likely to want a system which recognizes different levels of contribution, while firms whose strategies rely on teamwork to develop further a strong base of firm-specific capital will lean towards a more egalitarian model.
Many firms gain the best of all worlds by a tri-partite corporate model in which the partners' every day efforts are recognized by a base "salary," their successes by a bonus system and their long term contribution by a proprietorial stake which delivers an annual "dividend."
But I, for one, hope that the equal-sharing profit sharing system retains a rightful place in the firmament of partner profit sharing systems long into the future.
Pop Up Law Offices
Short-term offices help take the risk out of geographic expansion.
By Ed Wesemann
Law firms are constantly seeking ways of serving clients in new locations without the commitment, expense and risk of actually opening an office.
We've seen firms attempt affiliations where a relationship is created with a local firm either directly or through a law firm network. But clients see that for what it is and quickly realize they are being shuttled off to some other firm with which their lawyers have only a passing familiarity. From the client's perspective, using a law firm that is affiliated with their lawyers is like eating at a restaurant recommended by a hotel concierge - you're not sure whether you are there because it is the best restaurant for what you want to eat or because the hotel is getting a piece of the action from your dining bill.
"Best Friends" relationships among law firms is one step better. At least in the classic usage of the term, best friend firms are long-term situations where the law firms work together frequently and know and trust each other well. Unfortunately, in many best friend situations, the firms involved are not providing each other with enough reciprocal business to justify the restrictive exclusivity involved so the relationship deteriorates along with the standards of practice and the priority given to clients of best friends firms.
An interesting new alternative is what has come to be known as the "Pop Up" office. In part, this has occurred as the result of the glut of commercial real estate in many markets as well as the availability of very short-term office rentals. At the same time, the availability of surprisingly high quality contract lawyers permits firms to open a presence in locations with a minimum financial investment. Pop Up offices work particularly well when they support a litigation matter or some other reason for having a presence in a location.
While the concept of Pop Up may seem a little flighty for a conservative law office, there are some significant advantages. The quick set up of a Pop Up office permits a firm to test clients' reaction to their presence in the location, the availability of laterals in the marketplace and the reality of anticipated synergies, with a minimum financial investment. Plus, if the office fails to meet its short-term objectives the set terminations of leases and employment contracts provides a built in "sunset" decision point.
Perhaps the most interesting use of Pop Ups is in developing legal markets in Asia and Africa where a formal representative office may be too cumbersome and expensive to create without a known revenue stream. Often couched as "consulting offices" in locations where the practice of law is highly restricted for foreigners, Pop Up offices provide a real life "proof of concept" for what could otherwise be a highly risky financial investment. Contact the Author, Ed Wesemann.
Pathetic Time Tracking in the Legal Profession
Law firms are their own worst enemies in the effective use of billable hours.
By Gerry Riskin
Managing time in a law firm isn't only about billable and non-billable hours - it is about creating a dashboard that allows lawyers to elegantly drive client expectations relating to time-frames and costing.
The sad state of time tracking in law firms.
I asked Todd Gerstein of Smart WebParts (www.smart-webparts.com) what his latest data on this subject looked like... he said: "Less than 40% of all timekeepers keep their time contemporaneously; the silent majority (60%) reconstruct their time when they prepare their timesheets." He went on to say: "The compliance numbers are just terrible. Most of the time 80% of the partners are not in compliance. Associates are not in compliance 35-45% of the time."
Todd said this about Month End Cut-Off: "We measure the amount of time that is put in after the month end cutoff... which is at risk for billing and collection realization problems. It is not uncommon to find 5-7% of time (wip value) at risk to miss the billing cycle. It also seems to be one of the issues that sets off managing partners."
If the loss of inventory is not bad enough (cash in the door), there is a much greater and more sinister ramification of the messy and inadequate timekeeping practices. In this modern era of Legal Project Management, it is imperative that lawyers who lead teams understand on a daily basis where their projects stand in the context of two vital metrics:
Time to completion as compared to the client's timeline expectation, and
Cost to completion as compared to the client's budgetary expectation.
Destroying the Client Relationship
The ability to communicate variances and projections with clients on an ongoing basis affords the law firm its greatest opportunity to maintain high levels of client satisfaction, and from time to time, to obtain variances with the client's blessing. Most law firm lawyers do not have a dashboard. They fly blind. The failure to accurately track time distorts the picture and ultimately annoys the client.
- Stop the theft now: Stop tolerating sloppy time recording practices by individuals. It is not charmingly idiosyncratic: it is theft, theft from the individual timekeeper, theft from the firm, and yes, even theft from the client who deserves accurate information.
- Provide the best tools and technology: Todd Gerstein's system puts your existing systems to work for you making the time tracking process easier and more accurate. If you have a better way fine... but you need to compensate for the human foibles that make the current processes inadequate.
- Train: Tracking time well is an essential skill... help your people acquire and improve that skill.
- Keep the client in the equation: Time tracking is not only for your internal management... it is also for the benefit of your clients who are happy to pay money for value but hate surprises. Create systems that make it glaringly obvious when your lawyers are not tracking their time accurately.
For more information about our legal project management capabilities, resources available to improve timekeeping, and information about software now under development for top law firms, feel free to contact me. Contact the Author, Gerry Riskin.
Legal League Consulting, LLC
Dehli and Mumbai,
|At The Podium: Upcoming Appearances by Edge Partners
March 6, 2012
Chris Bull chairs a panel at the New Legal IT Show in London, England
March 13, 2012
Chris Bull presents at the Managing Partner Forum in Bristol, England
March 15, 2012
Chris Bull is a presents at the Law Tech Futures conference in London, England
March 18, 2012
Jordan Furlong gives the closing plenary address at the ABA Bar Leadership Institute in Chicago, USA
March 21, 2012
Gerry Riskin addresses the Pittsburgh Legal Administrator's Partner/Administrator event
March 21, 2012
Chris Bull presents at the UK Claims Management Conference in Manchester, England
March 28, 2012
Chris Bull presents at the Innovators in Law event in London, England
April 16, 2012
Jordan Furlong gives the Keynote at the Canadian Judical Council Conference in Ottawa, Canada
April 18, 2012
Pam Woldow presents a Webinar on the Role of Legal Administrators in Legal Project Management for the ALA
April 19, 2012
David Cruickshank speaks at the National Association of Law Placement in Austin, USA
April 19, 2012
Chris Bull presents at the Ark Conference in London, England
April 24, 2012
Chris Bull is a presents at the Outsourcing Conference in London, England
June 8, 2012
Pam Woldow speaks to the ALFA in Palm Beach, USA
July 12, 2012
Ed Wesemann, Pam Woldow, Bithika Anand, Sean Larkan, and Chris Bull Present at the LMA meeting in Washington, USA
July 21, 2012
Jordan Furlong gives the Keynote address at the American Association of Law Libraries Summit in Boston, USA