Operational Excellence for Law Firms – Top 10 Tips

operational-excellence-law-firms“Some people see innovation as change, but we have never really seen it like that. It’s making things better.” Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc.

As I wrote on LinkedIn recently, it’s never too late to gain new skills. If you are in a leadership or decision-making position in your firm, it may be worth you learning how to implement operational excellence for the following reasons:-

  • To grow your business
  • To maximise the resource you’re paying for
  • To allow you to be much more focused on the numbers, so that every important decision made is based on stats/numbers, not guesswork
  • To ensure you’re not unreasonably demanding too much of your people
  • To maintain and improve on a healthy net profit margin
  • To increase efficiency across the team
  • Ultimately to allow your firm to succeed in competitive markets

Top 10 Tips for Operational Excellence

I published the following ten tips to improve your firm’s operations in full on the Moore Legal Technology Insights Portal in 2018. These are some useful snippets:-

1.    Know your firm 

How much do you and your team know your business? Your vision, mission, culture, brand, business plan etc? Are these written down and shared with relevant people in your team or closed off to all but the most senior partners? Or indeed only in their heads? Ask all of your staff to deliver an elevator pitch for your firm, for instance, to find out if everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet – the results may be surprising.

2.    Know your clients and their needs 

It’s a great competitive advantage to be able to know your clients well, whether they are individuals or businesses, and what their needs are. Why are they choosing your services? How can you add value? For law firms, as Nancy Furman Paul notes on a recent Above the Law post, this means having a “deep understanding that generates contextual legal advice specifically tailored to the needs of an individual client.”

Leading law firm growth consultant Stephen Gold emphasises the importance of this in his piece in the Journal Through the client’s eyes:- “[I]f my clients give me the message, unless I am terminally stupid, I sit up and pay attention. A hallmark of the most successful firms is that they engage constantly with their clients to develop a forensic understanding of what great legal service looks like to them. I am unashamedly evangelical about this. At the forefront of client engagement when I was in practice, and now helping many different firms, I have seen at first hand how it strengthens relationships, fends off competitors and creates new opportunities.”

3.    Adapt to change quickly

Speed in adapting to change and in improving your main products/services is of the utmost importance.

4.    Focus on quality

“The idea is to reduce waste and rework, saving money in the process, and to improve results, making the company more effective.” Erik ShermanThe Middle Market Centre

Focusing on the quality of your offering to the extent that you provide an outstanding product/service that delights your clients means they will be much more likely to buy from you again and refer you to their friends and family.

To improve your firm’s services, one of the first steps to take is to ask your customers regularly for feedback and act on such information quickly.

5.    Improve constantly

“Don’t try to do one thing 100 per cent better — it’s about doing 100 things a small degree better”.

6.    Appreciate your staff

In any professional services firm, your staff are some of your most valuable assets. Employees who are appreciated are more likely to be engaged in your firm’s mission and goals. Having well-designed uniforms can also make your employees feel smart and look sophisticated, which increases employee morale and productivity.

7.    Avoid complexity where unnecessary

As leading marketing entrepreneur John Fildes notes, Less is more when it comes to effective marketing operations. The more you can downsize tools, agencies, and process, the more you reduce operational complexity. Your target should be the minimum set of tools, agencies, and process required to do what your team needs to do, at the scale they need to do it – that’s it.”

8.    Find the bottleneck(s) and eliminate them

The late Eliyahu M. Goldratt, a thought-leading business management consultant, goes into great depth on the subject of bottlenecks in his book The Goal. What The Goal teaches is that you must first start with what your firm’s goals are, then work to see what action is required.

Within a law firm, there may be bottlenecks right under your nose without you realising. Even at the outset of a legal transaction, perhaps, money laundering checks involving acquiring ID from your client, may hold up the process by several days; or perhaps trainee solicitors may be causing undue delays because of their relative lack of experience, in which case helping them use standardised processes/templates or delivering more effective training could be effectively eliminate a bottleneck.

9.    Use metrics to work out how well your teams are performing

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it, as Peter Drucker noted. Most law firms now use sophisticated case management software. One of the most common KPIs for employee/team performance is the number of Billable Hours. But there may be other more sophisticated KPIs that are overlooked – such as number of complaints per team (broken down by types of complaints), number of deals done, cases won etc.

10.    Outsource more effectively

No-one can do everything in a business themselves – indeed, that’s why there comes a point when more senior partners, leaders and even lower level managers in firms need to take a step back from doing certain types of work themselves.

Outsourcing employment solutions in China can offer a great way for firms to reduce cost and improve quality across a broad range of types of work, not just legal work (as explored below) but also HR, marketing, branding, IT and more – but only if done in the right way.

Read These Operational Excellence Tips in More Detail

We hope that that insights above have been useful for you considering how you can shape your firm’s operations strategy. To read the full post as first published in the Moore Legal Technology Insights Portal, please click here.

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