Corporate legal departments, that are more cost-conscious than ever, are scrutinizing your bills.
General Counsels have begun putting every expense line item under a microscope. In some cases, if they recognize they are being charged a partner rate for work that could have been completed by a senior associate or associate, they will challenge the billing.
This trend is leading law firms to re-evaluate their staffing models with the goal of matching the work and the rate to the skill level of the attorney. Firms that can explain and demonstrate that they are using the right staff for work will have a competitive advantage.
“The traditional Big Law model . . . is to sell the client a Cadillac, even when he only needs or wants a Ford,” write the authors of “Disruptive Innovation: New Models of Legal Practice1,” a report by the WorkLife Law Center at UC Hastings College of the Law. But, that model has changed with more and more firms delivering a Ford with a price to match.
This requires a new approach: A strategic and creative reconfiguration of staffing, with a critical eye toward the client’s, and the firm’s, current and future needs. Over-staffing and under-productivity are sapping law firms’ financial health, according to Altman Weil’s Law Firms in Transition2 survey. Some 77 percent of firms that changed their approach to attorney staffing increased their profits per equity partner, compared to 56 percent of firms that made no such changes, according to the survey. In some cases, I’ve helped firms create entirely new job categories. In fact, Ricoh’s legal board along with recruiting firm Robert Half & Associates have noted the following new, emerging roles: