Do you want to invite in more work? Welcome back to part three of Law Firm KPIs where I’ll show you how to improve the ways you serve your clients. Here are three straightforward methods to optimize how you expand your work.
In this episode we discussed:
- How creating an SKU will help you to not underprice your services.
- Tracking every client conversation in the past, present, and future.
- Keeping your clients seeking you out for more opportunities to serve them, as a future goal.
- How staying connected with your clients correlates with generating more organic referrals.
Allison Williams: [00:00:05] Hi, everybody, it’s Allison Williams here, your host of The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast, Law Firm Mentor is a business coaching service for solo and small law firm attorneys. We help you to grow your revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money.
Allison Williams: [00:00:32] This week we’re going to continue our discussion about law firm KPI’s, and this is the third in the series. Today, we’re actually going to be talking about inviting in more work.
Allison Williams: [00:00:53] Now ethics alert, for those of you that immediately think of this as a way to build more to your clients or a way to get more from your clients, I want to completely, completely divorce this conversation from that premise. One of the things that I have the pleasure of doing as an attorney who spent many years on the Board of Attorney Certification in my state. My tenure actually just recently ended, and I did not seek renewal because I had given many years to the board, but looking at attorneys who are seeking certification in my jurisdiction in the area of matrimonial law, we have to look at ethics very carefully. So I am very, very, very familiar with the rules of professional conduct, and I don’t teach anyone in my law firm or anyone in our coaching company how to do anything other than ethically serve your clients, right? Your ethics will always be at the forefront of how you approach your work, because that is our requirement. As licensed attorneys, we all took that oath and you ultimately will get more positive in life by doing not only what you’re supposed to do, but what is best for others in the process of doing what is best for yourself. So looking at that globally, I want to give that little alert because I know a lot of people when we start talking about finding ways to make more money, there is unfortunately a very negative connotation with making more money that many people will associate with this idea of give and take, right? If someone is giving you money, you are taking it from them, and when you are taking from them, you are being unethical. So I want to disabuse you of that thought as we go into this discussion, because what we’re talking about here is something that’s actually going to make your clients very happy and that is expanding the, The service and the value that you give to your clients through representing them. Ok?
Allison Williams: [00:02:57] So this is going to be a relatively short episode because the KPIs that we are going to be talking about here, are pretty simple. There’s three very straightforward ways that you’re going to measure your success with expanding the work, and this is about inviting in more work, both from people outside of your law firm, people who are not yet your clients, as well as from people who are existing clients in your law firm who have other work that you can be doing for them if you invite that work in.
Allison Williams: [00:03:26] So the very first thing I want to talk about is the idea of creating a SKU. Now, I’m sure you guys are familiar with this concept when you start thinking about things like restaurants and packages, right? The SKU is the bar code that gives the very specific itemization of what is contained within a package. And when we talk about a SKU in the context of a law firm, we’re really talking about an itemized list of all of the things soup to nuts that are needed to be done in the course of representing a client to make their case ultimately complete their case with all of the necessary steps.
Allison Williams: [00:04:03] Now, the beautiful thing about a SKU is that when you create them and you create them in the right way, they can actually help you with a whole lot of different things in your law firm. They can help you with pricing so that you know what it actually costs you in labor to deliver the service, and that you’re not underpricing your services because it costs you a lot more in a law firm than just the cost of labor on a file. It costs the packaging, the licenses, all of the work that goes into delivering that service. And then, of course, beyond compensating yourself and, and compensating the person that does that work, you have to have profit in order to have retained earnings for economic stability in your business. So the SKU can help you with that.
Allison Williams: [00:04:47] But in this context, when we talk about inviting in more work, what you’re really talking about is knowing everything that can and should be done on a file. Now, everything that can be done does not have to be done all the time. And if we’re honest with ourselves about this, there are many, many, many lawyers, I would argue, probably a majority of lawyers who at some point in time had to quote-unquote cut corners on delivering a legal service because they did not have adequate time. Right? So what ends up happening is you take in a lot of cases and they all start cooking, so to speak. At the same time, right, all of a sudden everybody’s got a court hearing. All of a sudden everybody’s got an emergency, all of a sudden, every adverse attorney that you have is reaching out for settlement proposals or sending you discovery that you have to review. And all of a sudden, it’s landing. Right? Now, if you get to a point of having a thoroughly, highly systematized legal practice, which is something that we teach in our program, systematize your law business that’s actually coming up in a couple of weeks and something that we teach in our master class, The Crushing Chaos Master Class.
Allison Williams: [00:05:57] One of the things that you’ll get to the point of understanding is how to look at the volume of your work and level it out so you’re not in a state of one minute. We’re completely overwhelmed. In the next minute, we’re twiddling our thumbs looking for things to do. But the SKU, excuse me, the SKU can actually help you when you start looking at all of those missed opportunities on a file, so it could be everything from calling your client to check in on how they’re doing with discovery to having substantive conversations with your client about different settlement options long before you get to the settlement table so that you’re advising the client as you go through the process. Neither one of those things, if not done, is going to prevent you from ethically and appropriately representing a client. In fact, you can get a great result not touching a file, and you can have a mediocre result doing everything on a file.
Allison Williams: [00:06:53] Usually, you’re going to find that there are opportunities for you to give more value to a client. But the ways that we are ultimately able to do that is by making sure that we have all of the tasks in a file itemized and for a purpose of key performance indicators. What you really want to look to is how much of the activity in your skill is actually being done on a regular basis. In other words, when you are in the process of, for instance, working with an expert. Are you meeting with your client to talk about how you’re going to choose the expert? Are you having conversations with your expert about the ways that you see them working on your files? Are you sending them all of the requisite documents in great detail with great analysis and explanation? Or are you just kind of saying enclosed, please find, and here’s the list. Right? Are there, Are there ways that you can go deeper into your analysis and deeper into your client advising? And that typically is going to be found that if you have these things itemized in your SKU, the question becomes what percentage of your SKU is actually being delivered in the course of providing your service? Almost invariably, if you really look at it, there are areas where you are not going as deeply as you could in advising your clients, not because you don’t care about them, not because you’re not ethical, but because you don’t have the time. And if you start planning out your work, you tend to get a better result overall than if you had simply left it to chance of just, Hey, I got to work, I got a file. Let me just do some work on it.
Allison Williams: [00:08:34] All right, the second KPI that we’re going to talk about when we talk about inviting in more work is talking about inviting the next event. Ok, now this is a very yes or no, Did you do this type of analysis, right? So for purposes of KPIs, what you’re really going to be looking at is having, having some form of checklist, some form of template where you actually can have someone verify that they did, in fact, do this particular task, which is inviting the next conversation. Ok. The next event on the file. So every touchpoint on a file requires a next scheduled touchpoint, right. When you are advising a client, You should really be advising them about past, present and future. Every conversation should cover past, present and future. The past is when last we were together, we covered X. The present is right now, today our agenda is to cover A, B, and C, and then in the future, after you kind of wrap up with A, B, and C, the next time we get together, we’re going to have the following things accomplished, right? And the beautiful thing about that is that you keep a case moving forward by virtue of how you are communicating with your client. You are inviting them to take next actions, you’re inviting them to involve themselves in moving their case forward, and you’re inviting them to reach out to you to ensure that the next step is done.
Allison Williams: [00:10:01] Now, before you say, Oh my God, that would be catastrophe, I don’t want my clients calling me anymore. I don’t want my clients reaching out anymore. The reality is you make money from serving your clients. That means the more you serve your clients, the more money you will make. So if you are feeling overwhelmed by the thought of having more work coming at you from your existing clients, that typically means you are at some stage of needing to hire so that more work is available to come at you or to other members of your team so that you can generate more of your existing work. Far too often, the money mindset that says a lawyer is a rich person who is taking from a poor client and helping a client at a time of distress and therefore greedy if they are looking to get paid. That mindset is a societal toxicity that unfortunately we absorb as lawyers, right, and we desire to be good people. Most people I know went into Lawyering, to accomplish some good and whether they ultimately stumbled upon accomplishing good or it was always their intention, you’re a steward of society, right? You are someone who is necessary for the well functioning of society, but we get a lot of flak for wanting to be compensated for our work. And so oftentimes lawyers will not invite the next event, not want to do more, not look for ways to add more service or more value because they are buying into that story. That kind of runs in the ether of our society all the time, that lawyers are money hungry, greedy, etc. And as a result, in order to be perceived as a positive lawyer, you try to do as little as possible on the file so that you are not thought of as greasing your client.
Allison Williams: [00:11:52] And that mindset is very unhealthy because oftentimes that can preclude you from doing everything that you minimally need to do. But assume that you do everything you’re required to do. You’re just not doing the extra because a lot of times people will think of the quote-unquote extra as another way to make more money alone. And I would never advocate that. In fact, what I have found is that when I do more for my clients, they are actually more inclined to pay the bill even if they are financially distressed by the bill. So that means my doing less doesn’t typically invite my clients to pay their bill because, oh, my lawyer could have done so much more work, but she was nice enough to do the minimum, so I would have a lower bill. So let me make sure I pay it, right. That’s not the line of thinking of most clients. Most clients would say they have no awareness of what you are doing or are not doing. They’re only aware of what you send them as a document, right? They can see your physical production and they can understand when you have conversations with them that you have done something because typically you’re updating them on a court hearing or a conversation with an adverse party or an adverse attorney or something going on in their case.
Allison Williams: [00:13:03] So they know you’re working. But most clients don’t have a real conception of how much it takes to analyze the case, work up a case, research, and so forth. So you’re doing less work doesn’t truly benefit them in the sense of they get something out of it because they’re not aware of it. Most of the time, even when you tell them, I’m doing a lot less than I could be doing. They still don’t get that right. I remember the first time I came to that awareness, I was actually I was at the courthouse and I had a client that was a little emotionally needy, so I checked in with her when I first got there. But by this time I had a statewide practice and I was going from multiple counties in the course of a day. And so I would typically check in with the court, urged them to hear me as quickly as possible, check in with my client, get them calm and satiated, get them aware of what we’re going to accomplish that day. And then I would go off to a quiet corner to work until the court called our case. And initially, I thought, I’m doing something great for my clients because they’re off the clock when I’m serving another client, right? So their bill is going to be lower. But then I realized that I had one client who called me after court. We got everything that she wanted and she called me and she said, You know, I was really disappointed in court today, and I thought, Well, how could you? How could you possibly be disappointed? I got you everything you asked for? And she said, Well, you know, you just kind of stuck me in a corner and didn’t talk to me. And then I explained to her, I said, Well, I actually called myself doing you a favor by virtue of working on another file because, you know, I’m not charging you during that time, you’re going to see that your bill is quite a bit lower than it would have been had I been sitting there with you, kind of just waiting to be heard. And she said, I know, but like it was so anxiety-producing and if I had just had you there to talk to during that time, I would have felt so much better. And that’s when it hit me that even though I was doing what I thought was best for the client, I wasn’t involving the client in making that choice, right? So sometimes the way that we would involve a client was simply to tell them, You know, this is what my plan is for court. Are you on board with that? And the client says I’d rather pay you to spend time with me, talk me through, etc. Or even there’s got to be some compromise. I don’t want to just be seen, greeted, and then have you disappear. You can actually start to finagle some, some better results there. But on the on the vein of talking about KPIs, when we talk about advise clients differently, this is pretty simple. It really is just having a past, present, and future orientation of everything that you do with the client. Everything harkens back to what you last did, talks about what you’re going to do today, and then summarizes what you did today and what’s going to happen next. And when you do that and you just verify, you can either create yourself kind of like a checklist or a check-off box. Yes, past, present, and future we’re done with advising the client. When you have that type of process and that becomes institutionalized, you tend to invite your clients to stay engaged with you, which tends to keep your clients emotionally connected to the work that you’re actually doing. That emotional connection is usually going to be a greater benefit to them and to you because they are more likely to refer additional clients, they are more likely to seek you out for additional work, and they are more likely to be satisfied with the fact that you are immersed with them and thus pay their bill.
Allison Williams: [00:16:29] You’re normally going to see a higher collection rate, which is one of the KPIs we talked about in our last episode. When you have that immersive experience, so the past, present, future becomes something that you want to be tracking and look at whether or not in those cases where you didn’t do past, present, and future, did you actually get a result that the client paid you more or less money than the average case value? That the client was or was not likely to refer to someone else, right, either based on a closeout survey or based on their actual behavior. And you can start to really make some projective plans around. Statistically, we are most likely to get X number of referrals out of our cases where we had past, present, and future relative to the cases where we did not use that approach.
Allison Williams: [00:17:17] All right. Third, KPI, third and final is that you want to give your clients homework. Ok, now when I say homework, that sounds pejorative. That sounds like your client is being treated like a child, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Ok? We’re talking about giving your client something to do that will again invite in more work. Your team is going to ultimately manage the oversight of this work. They’re going to be checking in to make sure that your clients are doing the homework, so this would not actually invite more work for you. It will typically invite more work for your team.
Allison Williams: [00:17:54] So the way that you want to do that and the reason why, again, this becomes a KPI, you really want to check in to see that you’re doing this. And this can really be very simple. Every time that you have a phone call or an email with a client, you document that somewhere in your practice management software so that you or the next person picking up the file can verify that the last piece of homework was something, right? And depending on the CRM that you’re using or the practice management software, you can actually create tasks and delegate them out directly to your clients, and then you would have a record of that as well. But your goal is to track whether or not you are doing it because again, your goal is to invite in more work. Your goal is to keep your client seeking you out for more opportunities to serve.
Allison Williams: [00:18:40] Now, one thing I want to address is for cases where you either have a contingency practice or a flat fee practice because I can hear those practitioners saying I don’t want to invite anymore because I want to be as efficient as possible. But here’s the thing when you are doing more, the law of compensation would say that you are entitled to more. So even if you have a flat fee file, if you found that you are charging $5000 for a particular case and it is really twenty-five thousand hundred dollars worth of time, if you were billing it hourly, then you’re making twenty-five hundred per case, right? And if you start inviting your clients to call you more or you start inviting your clients to do more and give that work over to you, that twenty-five hundred dollars cost to deliver the case might go up to 3000 or 4000, and thus you make less profit.
Allison Williams: [00:19:31] Now, that is only the mindset that you would adopt if, in fact, you’re not going to raise your prices or add more people to handle more cases. Because once you have a certain amount of volume of activity, what you would want to do is add more people so that ultimately the per-unit cost of activity goes down or so that you have more people to do full cases from beginning to end, and thus you’re not adding more work to a particular file without increasing your volume of revenue. So whether you are selling more flat fee services or ultimately settling cases faster because work is being done on files, right, whether it’s flat fee or contingency. Either way, more activity should be get more revenue and ultimately more profit. If you are not driving up your revenue when you are driving, work into your law firm. You have a pricing issue or you have a work allocation issue. So you want to look at both of those in order to use this technique in order to drive up profit in your law firm.
Allison Williams: [00:20:32] All right, everyone, I’m Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor. And today we have been talking about the third in our final series on law firm KPIs. We first started by talking about our sales. Pardon me. We first started talking about getting the work, which was through sales and marketing. We next started talking about doing the work, which is our productivity, our people, metrics that we are monitoring in order to make sure that we are getting the work done effectively, efficiently, and profitably. And today we’ve talked about expanding the work, which means essentially same number of files, more money available, and biting in more work gets you a higher level of connectivity with your clients, which actually correlates with generating more organic referrals, as well as giving a higher level customer service experience. All right, everyone. We’ll see you on the next show.
Allison Williams: [00:21:32] Thank you for tuning in to The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast to learn more about today’s show and take advantage of the resources mentioned. Check out our show notes. And if you enjoy today’s episode, take a moment to follow the podcast wherever you get your podcasts and leave us a rating and review. This helps us to reach even more law firm owners from around the country who want to crush chaos in business and make more money. I’m Allison Williams your Law Firm Mentor, everyone. Have a great day!
Allison C. Williams, Esq., is the Founder and Owner of the Williams Law Group, LLC, with offices in Short Hills and Freehold, New Jersey. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, is Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney, and is the first attorney in New Jersey to become Board-Certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy in the field of Family Law.
Ms. Williams is an accomplished businesswoman. In 2017, the Williams Law Group won the LawFirm500 award, ranking 14th of the fastest-growing law firms in the nation, as Ms. Williams grew the firm 581% in three years. Ms. Williams won the Silver Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017. In 2018, Ms. Williams was voted as NJBIZ’s Top 50 Women in Business and was designated one of the Top 25 Leading Women Entrepreneurs and Business Owners. In 2019, Ms. Williams won the Seminole 100 Award for founding one of the fastest-growing companies among graduates of Florida State University.
In 2018, Ms. Williams created Law Firm Mentor, a business coaching service for lawyers. She helps solo and small law firm attorneys grow their business revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money. Through multi-day intensive business retreats, group and one-to-one coaching, and strategic planning sessions, Ms. Williams advises lawyers on all aspects of creating, sustaining, and scaling a law firm business – and specifically, she teaches them the core foundational principles of marketing, sales, personnel management, communications, and money management in law firms.
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My Favorite Excerpt From The Episode:
TIME: 00:23:18 (33 Seconds)
So sometimes the way that we would involve a client was simply to tell them, You know, this is what my plan is for court. Are you on board with that? And the client says I’d rather pay you to spend time with me, talk me through, etc. Or even there’s got to be some compromise. I don’t want to just be seen, greeted, and then have you disappear. You can actually start to finagle some, some better results there.