Jack Bostelman wrote a blog post about Wells Fargo's Q3 law firm financial survey and the AmLaw 200 firms' weak showing in 2013. Here are the results in a nutshell:
- Gross revenue increased 2.5%
- Expenses also increased 2.5%
- Total hours billed declined 0.75% and hours per lawyer declined 1.1%
- Effective rates increased 3.6%
The Citibank third quarter survey posted similar results. The conclusion continues to be "tepid demand and excess capacity." We know this.
Bostelman shares a few ideas that practice and industry teams (even energetic and take-charge individual lawyers) can do to help firms improve productivity and profitability. But, at the same time, he (I presume unintentionally) disses marketers. Here is what he said:
"Matter experience database. Involve the lawyers in collecting a small amount of basic information about every completed matter in the group. The Marketing Dept.’s efforts are too frequently inaccurate or incomplete. Use the data to find comparable matters for purposes of benchmarking fees, finding internal experts, staffing and finding documents."
In our experience working with marketing departments from AmLaw 10 to 200 firms, there are no more conscientious hunters for and stewards of this data. Lawyers often don't care about it until the last minute – when they are walking out the door, quickly preparing for a pitch or wanting to be included in the latest Chambers survey.
The reason experience management initiatives fail in law firms is because they aren't approached strategically. We have seen it wither entire business development teams, paralyzing them because firm leaders don't understand the mission-critical value of having this information at their fingertips. It takes very smart planning, streamlining processes and understanding ultimate end-users. I agree with Bostelman's recommendation to invest in an experience database. But don't blame the marketing and business development team for incomplete, inferior or inaccurate data.
Success starts at the top.