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Legal Update - The power of simplicity and efficient working

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4 July 2016

We have spent lots of time with quite a number of practices over the last year or so working together on improving operational efficiency. The results are amazing, and often mostly as a result of taking ‘easy wins’ as opposed to doing anything complicated.

A 10% bottom line improvement seems to be realistic for many practices, over perhaps a two year period. We have put together a list of some examples to show how uncomplicated it can be.

1. Pitching for work – most practices are busy now, and pitching can lose some of the attention it deserves. Try involving two people when both specifying and costing all jobs over say £2,000, and challenge each other about how to provide the best thought through specification, the most appropriate people to do the work, and the most efficient way of going about it. Also, challenge the proposed fee with each other before it goes out to the client, and speak to the client too about price expectations – it is definitely not all about being seen to be the cheapest.

2. Charge rates – whatever the size of your practice, review your charging matrix. Clearly, more complicated work should be priced more highly, but it is surprising how often rates are set per individual fee earner, as opposed to certain matter types carrying a premium rate.

3. Get the basics of charging time right:

  1. one set of policy expectations for everyone, so you get consistency;
  2. enforce the need for timesheets to be completed daily, adopt a consistent approach and make sure they are completed by everyone (including partners);
  3. spend time with all fee earners so they understand how to manage their unbilled work in progress levels;
  4. remove any whiffs of policies allowing fee earners to merely charge time up to what they think the client will pay and ‘lose’ the rest.

4. Make sure all fee earners know what is expected of them in terms of time charged, fees and recoverability. If you have a live performance reporting function within your practice management system, open it up to all fee earners – transparency is so helpful.

5. Encourage staff suggestions about ‘fix its’ for systems type improvements they would like to see, and action asmany as you can.

6. Actively help all staff to challenge their own operational efficiency, delegation and training skills.

7. Review how you go about tasks like money laundering checks, engagement letters, billing etc., and challenge yourselves until you feel that the time spent on each is minimised, without becoming overly mechanical in the eyes of clients.

8. Spend time listening to operational frustrations, and acting.

9. Engage with younger staff members with regard to IT matters – their views are often really valuable.

10. Give voice recognition software a try if you haven’t done so recently.

11. Spend quality time together as operational teams so you really know each other. Character and behavioural assessment testing can be fun, and really worthwhile.

We are always available to work with any practice, and will be confident of helping you to see real results –without complication.


Andy Harris - Associate Partner
Andy Harris
Associate Partner Contact details