When you set clear billing goals, engage your team in meaningful discussions, and hold everyone accountable, your law firm can increase production and see remarkable growth.
Table of contents
- Three Components of Accountability: Billing Goals, Discussions and Discipline
- 1. Billing Goals
- 2. Discussions
- 3. Discipline
- The Secret to Increased Production Lies in Accountability
Oftentimes, clients tell me their friends are surprised at the amount of work that is flowing through their firm. But it’s really no secret how to achieve increased production and drive growth in your law firm: Accountability.
Three Components of Accountability: Billing Goals, Discussions and Discipline
Since I get a lot of pushback and questions about billing goals, I want to tackle this component first.
1. Billing Goals
To hold people accountable, you need a number. Traditional law firms use billable hours. We believe 1,200 to 1,400 hours is a great starting point for a billable goal. After all, you can only bill about 80% of your working hours due to what we call “frictional time loss” — the time it takes to get a cup of coffee, figure out where you were on a project after being interrupted, or locate a file (if you aren’t 100% paperless).
Many attorneys don’t want to track hours. That’s fine, but you still need to measure work moving through the firm.
During a call last week with a potential client, Richard, he told me he had a goal for everybody: $25,000 per week in collected settlements. Here is the problem with that. By the time you look at dollars in, the case is all wrapped up. At that point, it’s hard to have an effect on the result. You need to go back in the timeline.
I told Richard about another law firm client that uses settlement brochures — basically, a demand package — as their goal. Once we started doing this, more demands were sent, which meant more work was moving through the firm, which meant more revenue.
Richard loved this.
He understood that you can’t impact the outcome once you are at the end; you need to choose a place earlier in the process.
What are examples of stages or activities that are good goals?
If you are an estate planner, your billing goal might be setting signing appointments or sending initial documents for review within 30 days of the initial meeting. If you have a criminal practice, it might be the initial discussion with the prosecutor.
Now, we also have clients that say there isn’t one activity or stage. For them, we figure out the activities they want their billable people to perform, assign a point value to each activity, and then set a weekly or monthly point goal.
A goal does no good if you don’t hold people accountable. We designed a weekly meeting agenda for our clients to use to spark productive discussions with their team members.
Here’s the meeting agenda:
- Go over last week’s results. Did everyone hit their billing goal? You might want to use a graph — attorneys don’t always like numbers.
- Ask why they did or didn’t hit the goal. Your job is to ask what we call the AWE question — “And What Else?” Ask it until they have no excuses or reasons left. And why they DID hit the goal is just as important.
- Go over last week’s commitment. Did they follow through on their commitments?
- Read back the list of reasons why they didn’t make their goal. Have them choose the problem they think had the biggest impact. Or, if they did make their goal, have them say which activity was the biggest reason why.
- Teach and train on that problem and success.
- This week’s commitments. Ask for one takeaway from your teaching they can implement this week to improve numbers. Or ask what activity they will continue doing to repeat their success.
Using this agenda, you partner with your employees to identify the reasons for roadblocks and successes. When we implemented this with our first client, her production went up 40% in three weeks.
Discipline is what makes the real difference in production. So many employees have seen management fads come and go. They figure if they just put up with it for a few weeks, you will get bored and move on.
The discipline to keep holding people accountable is what creates lasting change.
Discipline is continuing to focus on something and creating and executing the consequences.
The client whose production went up 40%? It is still at that level four years later; she has the discipline to hold her team accountable.
And when I say accountable, that includes repercussions for missing goals. There must be consequences.
This is one of the problems our potential client, Richard, was having. Remember he told everybody to hit $25K a week? In the beginning, it worked really well, but now — not so much. He also admitted that nothing happened to lawyers who never made their goal.
The Secret to Increased Production Lies in Accountability
By embracing accountability, law firms can transform their operations, drive growth and achieve remarkable results. You do this by setting clear billing goals, engaging in meaningful discussions, and consistently applying discipline:
- Traditional billable hours or alternative metrics such as activities or points can be effective in measuring progress.
- The weekly meeting provides a platform for open discussions, identifying roadblocks and celebrating successes.
- With discipline as the driving force, lasting change can be achieved, resulting in consistent productivity.
- Holding employees accountable, including following through with consequences for missed goals, ensures a focused and motivated team.
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