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Profitable Law Firm Management - Briefing
JOEL A. ROSE & ASSOCIATES, INC.
Management Consultants to Law Offices
P.O. Box 162, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003
Telephone (856)427-0050 | Fax (856)429-0073
WELCOME to Profitable Law Firm Management Briefing, a free, monthly newsletter that contains insight and information about law firm management and economics.
THIS ISSUE CONTAINS: A SPECIAL INTEREST ARTICLE:BILLING GUIDELINES
And insight on:
(1) A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Meaningful Client Teams; and
(2) A New Philosophy for Managing Partners: “Building Consensus versus Managing as an Autocrat”
A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO CREATING MEANINGFUL CLIENT TEAMS
In the past few years, many law firms have launched initiatives to form client teams. For a number of compelling reasons, law firms are reaching the conclusion that these teams make sense for both the client and the firm.
A NEW PHILISOPHY FOR MANAGING PARTNERS: “BUILDING CONSENSUS VERSUS MANAGING AS AN AUTOCRAT”
An astute lawyer-manager must achieve the appropriate balance of building consensus among the partners versus managing as an autocrat.
Countless law firms, large and small, are questioning long-standing views about firm management and structure. Yet, the sources of their concern are not new. After years of analyzing the personal and professional styles of lawyer managers in successful (and not so successful) law firms, three inescapable conclusions are readily apparent.
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CALL ON US to speak at Law Firm and Bar Association Events
We hope that you will call upon Joel A. Rose, if you are looking for an effective speaker for your firm’s retreat, a partners’ meeting or bar association event, or desire assistance with the planning process. Below is a list of recent and future speaking engagements to look for:
- January 4, 2017: Clear Law Institute, Webinar, “Origination Credit and Partner Compensation: Giving Credit Where Credit is Due”
- February 15, 2017: New York State Bar Association, Managing Partners’ Conference, Joel will serve as the Panel Moderator, Live presentation and Tele-seminar, “Law Firm Business Development; Determining the Goals to be Achieved; Developing and Managing the Business Development Plan; Pitfalls to be Avoided; Compensation Incentives; Techniques for Evaluating Efforts and Results; and Strategies for Motivating Senior Partners to Transition Their Work, Clients and Networking Contacts to Other Members of the Firm”
- April 18, 2017: Clear Law Institute, Webinar, “Origination Credit and Partner Compensation: Giving Credit Where Credit is Due”
- April 19, 2017: New York State Bar Association, Managing Partners’ Conference, Joel will serve as the Panel Moderator, Live presentation and Tele-seminar, “How Mid-Sized Firms and Specialty Boutiques Can Survive, even Thrive” and “Law Firm Leadership Succession”
- April 27, 2017: Center for Competitive Management, Joel will serve as the Panel Moderator, Webinar, “Law Firm Collections: 101: Get Paid Faster; Avoid Legal Action (when possible) and Comply with Ethics Rules”
- June 9, 2017: Center 4 Competitive Management, Joel will serve as the Panel Moderator, Webinar, "Associate Compensation"
- June 15, 2017: New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education, Joel will serve as the Panel Moderator, Webinar, “To Merge or not to Merge”
- July 27, 2017: Clear Law Institute, Webinar, “The Orderly Succession of Firm Governance and The Transition of Clients from Senior Partners to other Members of the Firm”
- August 24, 2017: Clear Law Institute, Webinar, “Origination Credit and Partner Compensation: Giving Credit Where Credit is Due”
- SPECIAL INTEREST ARTICLE -
Following are excerpts of Billing Guidelines that many financially successful client law firms include in their Attorney’s Manual to educate younger attorneys about the proper process for billing clients. We hope you find these Guidelines to be informative and interesting:
- Legal fees and expenses should be discussed at the inception of the case, before you commit the firm to representing the client in this matter.
- Clients know that legal matters are expensive, so many are nervous about the cost of the matter from the first moment they walk into the office. Therefore, you are obligated to raise the issue first.
- Prior to estimating legal fees in a case for a client, unless the originating attorney is the person who will be responsible for performing the work or directly supervising the work to be performed on that matter, the former should consult with the attorney who will perform the work on that matter or with the partner who manages the substantive practice group or team responsible for that matter.
- What type of billing format the client would like to receive?
- When billings should be sent: bi-weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, annually, etc.?
- Where the billings should be sent. (Some clients do not want the billings going to their office or to their home, so our office needs to know where the billing should be sent).
- If you are the responsible attorney for performing work on that matter, introduce the client to those members of our office , including the attorneys, legal assistants (and your secretary of he/she will have contact with the client) who will be assigned to their case.
- Provide the client with a realistic estimate of the length of time it will take to complete the work on the matter, i.e., days, weeks, months, years).
- During your initial meeting with the client, discuss legal expenses, including exactly what costs the client will be billed for, whether clients can pay for outside assistance, such as the costs of investigators and experts, and how much the total expenses might be.
- Ask the client be directly whether he or she thinks they will be able to make payments on the case as costs are incurred. If they do not think they can pay the balance as they go along, it is important that this is known up front to help decide what type of fee agreement is the most appropriate.
- It is important that you learn to screen out and minimize acceptance of matters from clients who simply will not pay their bills. If you have any question about the willingness and/or ability of a client to pay their bills in a timely manner, consult with the Managing Partner or the partner who is responsible who will perform the work on that matter or with the partner who manages the substantive practice group or team responsible for that matter.
- You must get from the client the fee agreement in writing. All fee agreements, arrangements regarding when billing should be sent, and bill formats should be completed in writing and put into the client’s file.
- You must accurately track how much a client has paid the firm.
- You must send regular billings. Most clients like to receive billings at least monthly. Regular billings will alert the client as to how he or she is being billed and how much he or she needs to budget.
- Your client billings must be accurate, fair and respectful. If a client thinks that the firm is overcharging him or her for services or that the billings are curt and unprofessional, there will be a good chance that he or she will not pay the bill or will withhold payment. If you speak to a client regarding a bill, be courteous and respectful and try to understand the situation from his or her point of view. If there is a dispute, take down the client’s side of the story, relay the information to the attorney in charge of the matter, and let the attorney resolve it.
- Client billings must be clear (and without legalese.) Your bill should be easy to read and provide the information that the client wants to see. Payments that are made based on billings that are complicated and hard to read are oftentimes held-up while the client tries to decipher the bill.
- As a professional member of our firm, you are obligated to build relationships with your clients, including returning phone calls, listening to and being responsive to client needs, keeping your promises and providing quality and timely services. Clients are far less likely to complain or refuse to pay billings when they receive good service from someone they like and trust and who is sincerely interested in their best welfare.