It was late fall 2001. The internet bubble had burst. A stock I owned that had traded at a record $130 per share was on it way to single digits where it remains today. I foolishly bought shares all the way down.

I remember a conversation with our law firm’s financial officer. He told me and a member of our board that based on hours the lawyers were producing, we had 38 lawyers more than we had work available for them to do. Each month that fall, our firm leaders found other ways for us to cut expenses, I tried to suggest we focus on increasing revenue, but my suggestion was never considered.

Think about your own firm. Whether it is a very large firm or only 3-4 lawyers, what would happen if you were able to increase revenue by 15%? I thought of this idea again when I read Seth Godin’s blog post several years ago, 15% Changes Everything. In a law firm, a 15% decline in revenue or a 15% increase in revenue really does change everything.

How can your firm increase revenue by 15%?

  1. Get your highest producers together quarterly and come up with an action plan for them to implement.
  2. Create a client development coaching program for your junior partners/senior associates to get them more focused on client development.
  3. Get each of your lawyers to prepare a business plan for their non-billable time. If you would like a template, click here.
  4. Create a Cross-Serving Plan.
  5. Get each of your practice groups to prepare a plan. In my old firm, we created “Targeted Differentiators.”.

I’m in my third of four weeks of Spanish Immersion in San Miguel de Allende. I am just starting to feel like I am learning more vocabulary and I can actually carry on a conversation, albeit slowly. So, yesterday, when asked, I could actually describe what I did over the weekend…only it was in present tense.

I have found a website that is helpful. If you are learning a language, you may know it memorize.com.

During the week I am busy with class,  and doing things with my classmates. So, I’m rarely bored and lonely. Tonight a las seis, our class is going to  La clase de salsa en la calle homobono!

The weekends are another story. I study, but after a couple of hours, I get tired of it.

One thing that is fun is to watch the wedding at the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel. I’ve been told there are more than 600  weddings there annually. I believe it. If you are interested, you might enjoy the photos on this photographer’s website.

To say the weddings are a big deal, understates it. While we were eating dinner last night we saw a parade of horses outside the window of the restaurant. After eating we walked to near the Parrquuia and watched the wedding guests arrive. All of the men wore black tuxedos or black suits and all of the women wore full length dresses. I commented that they looked regal.

Well, let’s get to our topic today.

Have you ever been to a retreat you thought was a waste of time? Several I attended were a waste, other than getting to know other firm lawyers.

I remember the last one I attended. The theme was “One Firm,” meaning we were focusing on working together and teamwork. I wish I had saved my yellow tee shirt (the color designated the group of team builders I was in).

On Monday after we all went back to work, we retreated into our silos. So much for the “one firm.” I always wanted to be part of a firm which was constantly seeking to improve. Now that I’m coaching, the lawyers I enjoy the most are those constantly seeking to get better.

Excellent Firms Tom Peters

If you want to make your retreat valuable, consider discussing some or all of these questions and developing action plans. Most importantly, actually implement the plans when you go back to work:

  1. Are you totally satisfied with the amount of business members of your practice group are generating? If not, Group A, decide what your practice group can do now that will produce business for you in the next year. Group B decide what your practice group can do now that will produce business from 1-3 years out. Group C decide what your practice group can do now that will produce business from 3 years out and beyond.
  2. What is the industry or industries most of your clients are in?
  3. Your clients are members of what industry associations?
  4. What industry association executives do you know and how can they help you reach out to their members?
  5. What problems, opportunities or changes are your client contacts facing?
  6. What industry changes will take place in the next three years that will create opportunities for you to help and add value?
  7. What have you learned about working with clients in this industry that others in your practice group may not know?
  8. What are you doing to provide extraordinary service to your clients  and improve your clients’ satisfaction?
  9. If resources were not an issue, what are three things each of you could do that would attract new business?
  10. If resources were not an issue, what are three things each of you would do that would attract more business from existing clients?
  11. What are the challenges you face developing new business and how can they be overcome?
  12. What are the names of three potential clients you are most likely to get work from in the next 18 months?
  13. What is it that you are uniquely able to offer this industry, that is of value, and that these potential clients can’t get from any other firm?
  14. Who are your main competitors?
  15. What are you competitors doing better than your group and what is your group doing better?
  16. What benefits might you expect from working together as a team on client development and client satisfaction?
  17. What are the benefits to your clients from your working as a team?
  18. How can you use blogging, podcasts, webinars LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media most effectively?
  19. What is the one thing each of you is doing that is making our clients ecstatic about using our law firm?

I was a practice group leader for many years. It was a thankless job. Each month I got a report on the “productivity” of each lawyer in my group and I was frequently told to “make” them more productive.

I finally fired our most “unproductive” income partner and learned for the first time that while I had the authority to “make” income partners more productive,  I did not have the authority to fire one who would never be more productive.

If you are ar regular reader, you might recall my blog: Is Your Firm Rewarding or Punishing Practice Group/Office Leaders?

I don’t see much has changed. I still see the same problems with practice groups. Here is my take on some of them:

  1. For client development and everything else external, it makes no sense to organize practice groups around law what the lawyers do (corporate, real estate, litigation.) For everything external, it makes sense to organize by industries.
  2. Practice groups rarely have a strategic plan or a marketing plan. (I created one for my group and was then asked to help other practice groups create theirs. If you are interested, I will share our practice group plan with you.)
  3. Practice group leaders are not asked to lead. They are asked to manage.
  4. Practice group leaders are rarely given any leadership or management training.
  5. Practice group leaders are not compensated or held accountable for the success of their group.
  6. Practice group leaders are not given the authority to allocate funds for marketing and other expenses to lawyers within the group.
  7. The lawyers selected to be practice group leaders are not always the best to take that role.
  8. Practice groups either have no budget or do not have the appropriate budget. (My old firm’s litigation and corporate practice groups were allocated the largest amounts for marketing and could barely spend a quarter of the budgeted amount.)
  9. Finally, for many law firms, the lawyers within the practice group are silos or fiefdoms competing with each other rather than their competitors outside the law firm.
If you are interested in reading more, consider reading Patrick J. McKenna and David H. Maister‘s book First Among Equals, or their 2002 paper ON BEING A PRACTICE GROUP LEADER.