Here are some ideas about how firms could simplify their life, cut out unnecessary processes, and thereby make – or save – more money. Many of these ideas involve the use of IT and build on the use of email, your web site and internet access to legal resources. I hope you can find at least one or two of these ideas to use in your own firm. (I have to say that I have not implemented all of these ideas yet – but I am giving them all serious consideration!)
The notes are based on a lecture I gave recently for Central Law Training (CLT).
1. Charge more per hour (do you have enough leads? If so, you can charge more).
2. Charge more, do less and get rid of a couple of lawyers and secretaries. Less risk (and admin cost) same or more profit.
3. Offer fixed fees (then you can bill on value to the buyer not just how many hours you take).
4. Get rid of your credit control systems and staff altogether and only work with fixed fees paid up front by credit card (or only with money on account via card). Think how much that saves: office space, staff costs, envelopes, stamps, phone costs, cashflow delay, overdraft interest.
5. Set a date by which you will only take payment by card or bank transfer. Cheques are a nuisance.
6. Better still, get clients to pay online only.
7. Stop lawyers from writing letters, PLEASE! Emails only. In 2011 the Court system has to operate by an “e-system”. How much does sending a letter cost? Some lawyers send an e-mail (which they get their secretary to type), then fax a copy and then post a copy. Blimey!
8. “Oh, but the other side won’t send e-mails”. OK, there are some but normally just speak to the secretary and that nonsense will be over.
9. Why have secretaries? They stop lawyers “getting” I.T. We have never had any.
10. Remind and remind and remind lawyers to (a) time record everything including (especially) thinking time and also (b) that they do need to …….send bills!
11. Bill every client every month, have 7 days terms and enforce a “stop work” if they don’t pay.
12. Do a list of your main suppliers. Tell them you want 20% off or you will go elsewhere. (Don’t forget to include your accountant).
13. Outsource your I.T. and software provision and management especially your server. Try never to own a server.
14. I hope you’re not still using recruiters? Use your website. Ask your lawyers to talk to 2 possible lawyers (possible joiners) in the next 14 days.
15. Get rid of your law books and pay per user for an electronic library. It costs about the same but they keep it up to date so you don’t pay somebody to do this.
16. How do you pay suppliers, including barristers – by cheque? What!!! Pay by BACs. It costs about £1 less each payment and that equals a lot per year.
17. Ask your brightest secretary to work from home for a few days and tell him or her that you spend (e.g.) £50k pa on stationery and printing. If she can get these for less you’ll give them 20% of the first year saving. I bet they do it!
18. Ask your secretaries how to save money. They are bound to have some good ideas.
19. Pay (yes pay!) for a course for your lawyers on sales especially “closing”. You already pay to get the leads so just imagine the return if you could close just 10% more each year.
20. Do check your sources of leads and conversions from each. If one doesn’t work and you can’t easily get it sorted, then drop it immediately.
Andrew Woolley is Founder and Managing Partner of Woolley & Co, a substantial virtual law firm.