Keeping law firms on track
Cosgrove Associates is generally retained by law firms to either undertake profitability projects or act as interim office management. Most of our work is done with small and mid-sized firms that often have fewer in-house resources than larger practices.
Cosgrove focuses on increasing profitability and productivity but will pay attention to technology, human resources and administration. This could include everything from document management and office equipment to recruiting, staff reviews and policies.
The Monthly Meeting:
An important part of Cosgrove’s success involves holding monthly meetings with our client law firms’ key decision-makers as a way to keep them apprised of their progress in a number of areas (particularly financial) and to point out other administrative challenges that might need to be addressed.
The monthly meeting often addresses things that the decision-makers don’t have time to deal with on a day-to-day basis because they’re focused on the practice of law, so it’s a good tool for time management as well.
We always prepare and follow an agenda broken out into categories such as finance, technology, administration, staffing and sometimes marketing. The agenda, and any accompanying reports, are circulated to the attendees in advance so they come prepared to speak to what concerns them. The meeting is generally kept to one hour and held as close to the same time each month as possible.
Because we often work with firms on their profitability, we tend to start the monthly meeting off with the financial results. We deliver the results of the work of the associates and the partners in the previous month, and identify successes and challenges in the key areas. We will speak to their timekeeping, their work in progress, fees billed, accounts and collections, just to see where they stand with everything; what we call ‘keeping score’.
For example, if an associate’s financial performance isn’t reaching the targets that were agreed upon, a partner or a Cosgrove consultant might speak to them about ways to adjust and improve results. The problem could work its way down to a personal issue causing distraction or additional stress. Perhaps they’re not working well with their staff. There’s usually some kind of a productivity blocker that can be identified and adjusted.
Cosgrove Associates is also in charge of preparing the minutes of each meeting and assigning any ‘action items’ with deadlines to appropriate individuals encouraging accountability. We set the date for the next meeting and any items on the agenda that do not get addressed are kept on for the next meeting or a separate meeting is scheduled to deal with any critical matters.
Getting in the Door
Boosting profitability and productivity is a key concern for most law firms, so it is surprising that many initially resist committing to a process that could dramatically improve their financial results. It’s not easy for Cosgrove Associates to get ‘in the door’ to explain what we do, and often we’ll get as far as speaking to a decision-maker at a firm on the phone before they say, “We’re fine, we’re profitable. Goodbye!”
When we do get as far as conducting a confidential review of a prospect firm’s financials before any commitment is made, most times we will find that there are areas where they are missing out on profit potential. We will show them examples of what can be done to improve their bottom line and they generally appreciate the benefits that participating in our proprietary profit plan would yield.
If we are retained for a profitability project, we’re on site on a regular basis so we see what is going on in the firm and how things might be impacting results – we are not just reading reports.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have had to adapt to communicating remotely with some clients versus attending the office in person. This has worked effectively as well but we have had to expand our analysis of obstacles causing productivity issues to include home or other environments where people are now working. Sometimes just NOT being at the office is the problem, because they are not getting the usual staff support. Other obstacles include timely technology support or a lack of collaborative problem solving opportunities they were used to before. So many rules and procedures have suddenly changed in the legal industry and it has been a real challenge for many people.
Should anything stand out during our check-in points, we will raise it at the monthly meeting. Sometimes things are not on the firm’s radar until we raise them, and their input allows us to move ahead to mediate, and get back on track to reach the goals of improved profitability.