Boyer Greene consultants have been assisting small to mid-size law firms for over 20 years. When hired by a client, we focus on the issues facing that firm, how we can best help them improve efforts and what process would work best in their firm culture. These case studies are just a few examples of how we assist our clients.
We were contacted by a 20 lawyer firm that was considering as laterals 3 lawyers who had been practicing together in the same community. The firm had experienced the departure of two of its most productive partners and needed to rebuild firm revenue to support its overhead and fill vacant offices. We agreed to compare financial information from both firms, interview all lawyers and report back with an opinion about the compatibility of the three lawyers with the firm.
First, we acquired in confidence financial reports from both firms. We studied those reports to determine if they had similar billable hours, similar per lawyer revenue and similar billing and collection results. We compared expenses to see if the lawyers in each firm had similar needs in terms of support and related resources. Finally, we had an opportunity to compare both their profit levels and their approaches to sharing profits. This gave us the ability to advise our client as to any issues that might arise from a financial standpoint.
Armed with this basic information, we started the interview process with the lawyers in the firm that had engaged our services. Having been immersed in the numbers, our goal for the interviews was to determine the firm's culture and the tolerance of the individual lawyers for brining in a group of lawyers who had been practicing together in a different firm for many years. We explored with the partners their attitudes about dividing profits, sharing work, being held accountable, and other aspects of their relationship with each other. These interviews gave us a good sense of the firm's culture and how the partners got along with each other.
The next thing we did was to interview the three lawyers that were being considered as lateral additions. We had the opportunity to explore all of the same issues, some of which delved into delicate areas that would have been more difficult to broach in direct discussions between firms. For example, we were able to explore individually with each lawyer issues of expected compensation, partnership status and whether the three lawyers needed to be considered as a block or individually.
As a result of this process, we provided our client with our observations about the three lawyers, which included compatibility considerations from a financial, cultural and personal basis. While this appeared to be a good "fit," we were able to highlight for our client potential issues and areas that deserved special attention in the negotiation process. We recommended that if the three lawyers were to join the firm that they are offered non-equity partners status for the first year, with an opportunity to become equity partners one year later if everything worked out as expected.
Following our work, the firms entered into direct discussions and scheduled several social events for everyone to get to know each other better. Within three months, the arrangement was finalized and the three lawyers joined the firm. Now, over a year later, our client's report that the new lawyers have fit in well, everyone is pleased with the results and that the firm is financially stronger. back to top
A mid-size law firm based in the Western United States received notification that their Legal Administrator was retiring at the end of the year. The firm had an effective management structure and a positive culture, but realized that it was time to review its administrative structure to ensure that it would be able to support the firm's continued growth and position as a leading law firm in the area. The firm called Boyer Greene to assist them with the review and to make recommendations.
We interviewed all administrative personal, selected partners and the human resources partner to learn about the firm's operation and its vision of the future. It was obvious that the firm had outgrown its current bookkeeper and other key administrative personnel. Boyer Greene recommended that the firm upgrade its position description for certain administrative personnel including the Legal Administrator. Boyer Greene drafted the position descriptions for each position as well as the skills and qualifications needed to succeed within the firm. Boyer Greene suggested that the firm provide individual training and coaching to upgrade current employee skills to meet the newly developed positions descriptions. We also created a process by which to review the progress of each individual.
In our written report, we created goals, objectives and expectations to be met by the administrative team. We also included the process by which the administrative team should interact with the management group of the firm. We provided a timetable for actions to ensure implementation of the program.
The firm has implemented the plan and is currently in the process of upgrading administrative personnel with the ultimate goal being for the firm to continue providing high quality legal services to its clients while maintaining a strong administration allowing the lawyers to practice law rather than manage day to day functions of the firm. back to top
We were contacted by a mid-sized law firm that was experiencing a financial crisis. It had maxed out its line of credit, it had utilized its firm credit card and was carrying a high balance, and three of the partners had just made $10,000 loans to the firm in order to meet payroll. Monthly billings were down, receivables were up and the current workload seemed soft.
We reviewed the firm's financial status and immediately made the recommendation that there be no further borrowing to fund partner draws. Funding partner draws is a mistake that is all too common. Next, we looked at the expenses and helped the firm cut what was unnecessary, while protecting staff members who were valuable to the long term future of the firm. There were layoffs of two staff members whose work ethic and productivity had been lacking for years. Other staff members agreed to a four day work week for six month, with a 10% cut in pay, in order to avoid further staff layoffs. Two small branch offices were closed with the lawyers retuning to the home office to better focus on more productive work.
We made specific recommendations concerning fee deposits, billings, and collections. The firm had failed to get clients to replenish fee deposits, billings were handled on an ad hoc basis, and there was no firm wide collection policy.
We examined the financial reports that were routinely circulated to all lawyers and determined that they were confusing and didn't provide a clear message. We assisted the administrator in creating reports that provided better information that was necessary to keep each lawyer accountable. We also helped the firm make some changes to its compensation system, after determining that the system promoted unwanted behaviors, rather than desired behaviors.
As a result of our work, the firm got back on course and started paying down its debt. The partners are got to a point where they reinstated a portion of their monthly draws, however, adopting a policy that the firm will never again borrow money to pay partners. The firm is on course to pay down its remaining debt within a year and will then be able to focus all its energies on building a more profitable firm. back to top
A mid-size mid west law firm was having trouble hiring and keeping good associates. Once associates were hired, they were having trouble keeping them busy. The firm determined that their work delegation process was ineffective and negatively affecting firm profits.
They called Boyer Greene to help them determine an effective strategy to address these issues. Boyer Greene conducted a written survey of all lawyers within the firm. Boyer Greene conducted a one day retreat focusing on hiring, retaining and delegating meaningful work to qualified associates. Both partners and associates attended and participated in the retreat. The results of the survey, helped Boyer Greene to create a report and recommendations including survey results, strategies for enhancing associate hiring, retention and senior lawyer work delegation.
The specific responses to the written survey were confidential to Boyer Greene, however we were able to use the information during the development of the report and recommendations without putting anybody on the "hot seat" for specific comments and thoughts. During the retreat discussion, we were able to raise concerns and share strategies learned from the survey responses. We also used our skill and experience to make significant recommendations for success.
The firm now has a greater understanding of lawyer hiring and retention strategies and processes. The firm has implemented the work delegation plan adopted during the retreat.
Administrative personnel with the ultimate goal being for the firm to continue providing high quality legal services to its clients while maintaining a strong administration allowing the lawyers to practice law rather than manage day to day functions of the firm. back to top
A law firm of over 100 lawyers in the south was struggling with several internal governance and administrative issues. The firm formed a strategic planning committee to focus on developing strategies to address firm issues. The strategic planning committee turned to Boyer Greene for assistance.
In preparation for the retreat, Boyer Greene conducted individual lawyer and staff interviews to help gain information and assistance in identifying all issues facing the firm. Armed with a comprehensive perspective regarding firm issues, we facilitated a full day retreat of the Strategic Planning Committee. The retreat included a candid and objective discussion focusing on developing solutions for success.
During the retreat, we assisted the Strategic Planning Committee to identify issues facing the firm. We then prioritized those issues so as to address the most pressing issues first. Throughout the retreat discussion, goals, objectives and strategies were developed to address the identified issues. At the conclusion of the retreat, the Strategic Planning Committee had developed an extremely focused strategic plan, complete with not only goals, objectives and strategies, but deadline dates and people responsible for specific tasks during the implementation of the strategic plan.
Since the retreat, the firm has effectively implemented the goals, objectives and strategies included in the strategic plan. The lawyers within the firm have noticed a significant difference in lawyer and staff morale as they work together to meet the goals, objectives and strategies. According to one source within the firm, "the firm has developed a new attitude and motivation for success". The firm has also updated the plan regularly using it as a management tool and not a paper weight. back to top
A law firm still in its first generation management structure, was experiencing difficulties in attempting to transition leadership from the first generation to the second generation and beyond. The firm has a three tier partnership structure and could not determine the best mechanism to develop new leaders while using the experience and knowledge of current leadership.
Boyer Greene worked with the firm to identify leadership skills needed to succeed in management within the firm culture. We then developed criteria that lawyers must meet to be considered for leadership positions within the firm. Boyer Greene developed and recommended changes to the current management structure to enhance the structure allowing for additional lawyers to be trained in firm management. Our recommendations included very specific strategies to create the transition while ensuring firm management remained effective.
The firm has developed and implemented a new management structure that incorporated senior management with younger less experienced, but skilled leaders. The less experienced lawyers have gained confidence in their ability to become senior leaders as well as continue to train and develop younger lawyers to ensure consistent leadership and management for the future. back to top
We were contacted by a 12 lawyer firm for help establishing a marketing initiative. The firm had practiced successfully for over 70 years based on doing good work and getting referrals from clients and former clients. However, the firm recognized times have changed and that it needed to spend more time, money and energy on marketing if it was to continue to be successful.
In a retreat setting, we presented a two hour marketing presentation to all lawyers to give them an understanding of basic concepts and some of the options to be considered by the firm. We then met with each lawyer individually and explored where their work came from, what community activities they have been involved in and how they spend their spare time. Many lawyers are not good at marketing, but our philosophy is that each lawyer has the ability to market successfully by developing a plan that focuses on their own skills, interests, and personality. We helped each lawyer create a personalized marketing plan; some were quite novel, and that was a good thing.
We guided the lawyers in developing a firm marketing plan designed to promote its brand and serve as a focal point for the individual marketing plans. In order to help the firm stay focused, we recommended that marketing be on the agenda for the lawyers' luncheon meeting every Monday. A senior associate was responsible for leading the weekly marketing discussion during which lawyers reported on their activities and brought forward new ideas. The firm and its lawyers have stayed focused on marketing and the result has been a good flow of new business. back to top
Marketing & Analysis Planning
An eastern mid-size law firm with an outstanding reputation for quality client service in its community decided it was time to develop a strategic marketing plan that would guide the firm for the next three to five years. The firm contacted Boyer Greene to help them develop a plan to gain important client feedback, to analyze its reputation in its service areas and to ensure the firm was, and continues, to meet client expectations.
We individually interviewed every lawyer in the firm to learn about the firm's operations, clients, legal staff and service areas. We then developed a process that included the development and implementation of a client satisfaction survey, a non-client visibility community survey and a strategic marketing plan.
Boyer Greene conducted a written client satisfaction survey, received the responses to the survey, summarized the responses and created a written report including recommendations as to how to address issues raised by clients. We also conducted telephone interviews of selected clients, summarized that responses and created a written report including recommendations as to how to address issues raised by clients during the personal interviews.
Boyer Greene conducted a written survey of local businesses that were not clients of the firm to gain information as to the visibility the firm had in its geographic service areas. We received the responses, summarized the responses and created a written report. We also conducted telephone interviews of selected businesses in the local area asking questions regarding the firm's visibility in its geographic services areas. We create a written report including recommendations as to how the firm might enhance its visibility in its services areas.
Boyer Greene developed a Final Report regarding the information gained during the written and oral surveys. Based on the information gathered, we developed a detailed written strategic marketing plan and presented it to the firm. The written marketing plan served as the agenda for the firm wide retreat. During the retreat the lawyers and Boyer Greene finalized the strategic marketing plan.
The firm continues to implement and update the strategic marketing plan to ensure the firm continues to meets its client's needs and expectations while remaining profitable.
We were contacted by a midsized firm with concern that their paralegals were not being used effectively or profitably. We agreed to evaluate the utilization of their paralegals and make recommendations on how to utilize them more effectively and profitably. back to top
We reviewed the financial data and individually interviewed the lawyers and the paralegals. We determined that the paralegals were not profitable because they were not fully integrated into the process and were performing a limited amount of billable work. We found in many situations the paralegals were asked to perform isolated tasks or clerical projects. We examined their billing rates and how much of their billable time was written of in the billing process.
As a result of our work, we concluded that the many of the lawyers underutilized their paralegals and needed to better understand how to expand the role the paralegal in the delivery of services. We also determined that the paralegals had no billable hour goals and did not have a good understanding of what was billable and what was not. As a result, the paralegals failed to record time appropriately and, in fact, did not recognize its importance to the financial health of the firm.
We conducted a session with the lawyers dealing with how to effectively utilize paralegals and expand their role on files to allow the lawyer to handle more files. We emphasized the need to include paralegals in client meetings in order for the client to understand their importance in the process and develop a working relationship with them. We conducted a session with the paralegals on the topics of time recording and their role as a revenue producer in the firm.
We recommended the firm set billable hour goals for paralegals (increasing over three years) and provide for some clerical support for the paralegals, in order to permit them to achieve their increased billable hour goals. As a result of these activities, the paralegals became more integrated into the process, they developed a better rapport with the clients, and over the course of a couple of years they began to produce significant profits to the firm. The improved working relationship between the lawyer and paralegal also caused the lawyer to be better organized and less stressed. back to top
A small law firm located in Canada was facing a crossroads. The firm was a boutique law firm with decreasing business as the needs of their clients were shifting due to changes in their industry. The firm felt that in order to be successful in the future, it needed to diversify its practice mix. This firm wanted a review of its current position, the development a vision for the future and a plan for implementation of that vision.
Boyer Greene was called to assist the firm with the process. We met individually with the Managing Partner, the firm partners, the associates and administrative staff. We wanted to learn as much as possible about the firm's practice, its clients, its lawyers, and its ability to diversify into other practice areas.
After the interviews and a review of relevant firm information, we created a retreat agenda and then took the firm on retreat to enable the lawyers (both associates and partners) to share views about a vision for the firm, with frank and practical discussion what the firm can be expected to achieve.
During the retreat we were able to develop an interactive discussion which allowed the group to share ideas, suggestions and strategies before reaching agreement on a vision for the firm and the plan. This planning process allowed all lawyers to participate in their developing their personal future in the context of a firm vision. The retreat facilitator kept the group focused in developing the vision as well as a rational road map for implementation of the vision.
At the conclusion of the retreat, the firm had created a strategic plan including goals, objectives and strategies with task assignments and a timeline by which to implement the plan.
Boyer Greene worked with the client as they progressed through the implementation process. The firm has remained focused and continues to implement the strategic plan.
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We were contacted by a firm of 15 lawyers that had been struggling with profitability. Expenses had been increasing at a greater rate than revenue and the partners believed they were making less money than other similarly situated firms. We were asked to conduct a profitability study to determine on an objective basis how they were doing and to identify opportunities for improving profits.
We started by receiving three years of the standard financial reports used to manage the firm. After reviewing and analyzing those reports, we met with the managing partner to discuss other factors that were not revealed by the financial reports. We discussed whether or not there was advantage to meeting with each of the partners individually and decided that in this assignment additional lawyer interviews were not necessary to accomplish our mission.
While we were at the law office, we did meet with the bookkeeper to ask whether she could produce some additional financial reports that we felt were critical, but that had not been previously used to manage the firm. The bookkeeper was able to develop the needed reports from the existing financial software.
Back at our office, we continued our financial analysis. We determined that the firm's revenue was only 61% of its revenue capacity based on existing personnel and the resources in place. Taking the results of our analysis, we were able to determine why the firm was losing 39% of its potential revenue and identify opportunities for improvement. To complete our report, we combined the results from the financial analysis with what we had learned from our interviews with the managing partner and bookkeeper.
We presented a written report to the managing partner that provided our objective opinion of the firm's profitability, identified the best opportunities for improvement, and included our recommendations, which provided a practical step-by-step plan for implementation. Following a discussion of our findings and recommendations with the managing partner, a decision was made to present our report and recommendations to the partners in a Saturday morning retreat session.
We presented our conclusions and recommendations at the retread and guided the partners through to process of planning to implement our recommendations. The firm was able to increase its profits by 10% in the first year and continued to see further improvement in the following year. back to top