After working with legal firms for over 25 years, I focus on one simple formula to consistently and effectively measure a firm’s efficiency – the productivity ratio.

The ratio measures the number of support staff to fee earners. For example a 1:1 ratio will have 1 staff member supporting 1 fee earner.

It is still common to find a 1:1 ratio in many law firms. However, I have seen improvements of the ratio to 1:4 and even as high as 1:8 for some high-tech firms. (Of course, this is dependent upon the area of law.)

The legal profession has an opportunity for dramatic improvements to their productivity, but unfortunately the culture is often averse to change, whether internal, e.g. new processes, systems or responsibilities, or external, e.g. market forces, new law providers.

There are a number of practical guides on how to choose new systems or develop new processes to make change happen, but there is very little advice on how to actually implement them – how to set up a culture that is ‘pro’ change and innovation.

What to do before you make a change

Before you even start, make sure your team are involved – whether it’s planning a new process, installing a new system, or making any significant change to day-to-day work responsibilities. This may seem simple, but it’s surprising how often teams are first notified of a change after it has been made.

Begin by explaining the reasons for the change, then agree on:

  • The goals – Are they measurable? Ensure there are quantitative targets and a timeframe.
  • The mandatories of the project.
  • Whether you have the competencies, tools and internal resourcing to effect positive change.

Then select key people as ‘champions of change’ who will act as role models and gain the support of the entire team. These people enable open and transparent communication throughout the entire change process.

Finally, undertake a holistic due diligence of the firm’s systems and processes that are likely to impact productivity. The firm’s performance shouldn’t be hampered by outdated technology – new technology should enable the firm to go beyond what is done now and support new ways to improve performance.

What to do after you’ve made a change

Having laid the foundations for change, implementation success requires ongoing accountability and measurement. You can’t expect ongoing productivity improvements if staff don’t have agreed goals with the ability to easily monitor their progress.

In our experience, many firms make changes which fail to produce an ongoing focus on improvements to productivity and performance. Worse still, performance measurements may not be transparent, reliable, timely, consistent or appropriate to that role or team, therefore reducing the veracity of the measures and goals.

The new FilePro Dashboard is born of this idea – it allows people to reliably monitor productivity and change.

  • Fully integrated across matters, documentation, workflow, billings and accounting functionality
  • Flexible enough to tailor goals to each team, role or office
  • Provide ease of access to a dashboard to allow self monitoring of performance to goals such as profit and loss, critical dates, aged creditors and debtors, debtor KPIs, and much more

For more information on Dashboard, watch the video below.