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ROI and beyond: How business intake projects help you maximize profitability

survey of 200 law firm partners commissioned by litigation funder Harbour found 44% are facing client pressure to reduce fees in the face of increasing costs, while 46% said clients are moving work to less expensive competitors.

Well-planned business intake projects can maximize returns on investment, reduce firm costs, and contribute to efficient billing cycles by producing clear, intuitive workflows and forms and executing on-budget updates or upgrades that reduce the impact on billable time. 

From handshake to prebill: Building workflows that contribute to the bottom line

The crux of legal business workflow is moving core risk and client/matter data from the legal team to admin teams, with the least amount of impedance and human intervention and the highest probability of loading accurate, complete data. The essential tasks of performing risk and conflicts analyses, time entry and billing, and client and case management are all administrative and organizational imperatives that rely on the timely transfer of quality data.

Efficiently soliciting data from legal teams and analysts while driving matters to billing-ready states as quickly as ethically possible requires discernment and consideration for the timing of administrative processes.

For instance, key client or matter information is needed to run conflicts and evaluate risks, both of which are prerequisites to opening new matters for billing. However, reporting, referrals, and other admin initiatives can often be addressed after new business intake, once the client or matter has been opened for time and billing.

Adding secondary workflows for capturing these additional data streams throughout the life cycle of the client or matter ensures the right people are asked the right questions at the right time. These change management processes can also provide a familiar, intuitive interface that makes it easy for legal teams to update client or matter details, reducing errors and time spent communicating data changes needed for client interactions and matter management. For myriad reasons, these often-redundant data entry and update tasks fall outside of formal processes and end up consuming everyone’s time through email, phone calls and messaging, and cutting and pasting into systems of record.

The old cliché applies: time is money; and in this instance, the less time fee earners spend thinking about filling out forms, the more time they have to think about their billable work. If 50 fee earners shave off a single hour of admin time per week, intake system support and maintenance costs, for example, can be won back many times over.

Beyond ROI: Good workflow projects can pump up profits

Planning for minimal disruption of billable time goes beyond achieving your ROI, by boosting the firm’s bottom line. Legal and admin teams access business intake functions daily and the effectiveness of your systems and processes impacts both teams. This means it is worth your time and effort to thoughtfully plan workflow forms and consider the perspective of the people from whom information is being solicited. 

Streamlining workflow and creating clear, intuitive forms pays off in both efficiency and the quality of your data. For example, legal teams are keen to see their time billed, and matters opened in a billing-ready state without needing extensive proforma revisions can have a positive impact on cash flow and timekeeper stats as the gap between WIP and AR narrows.

Upgrades or migrations that change workflows can be disruptive to legal teams when they don’t go smoothly. Solutions with non-customized functionality and fully optimized software, on the other hand, virtually guarantee fluid, fully supported upgrades. This reduces the impact on billable work and ensures a stable, reliable system that’s more cost-effective to maintain.

Another way that workflow can positively contribute to the financial health of the firm is by maximizing the firm’s technology investments. Continually reevaluate your internal processes and manual workstreams, looking for opportunities to better utilize the tools you’ve deployed. Processes can outgrow legacy software and may benefit from newly available functionality or solutions. Can a new feature, option, or tool improve your workflow? Take advantage of opportunities to streamline tasks and create new efficiencies between teams and systems.

Finally, invest in training. This is arguably the most important contribution to the firm’s return on investment. Well-trained staff are confident and efficient and able to use software to its fullest potential to complete tasks, solve problems, and improve processes. Training is overlooked at the expense of the firm, as equipping professionals with the knowledge and ability to succeed in their roles pays off in happier, more productive people and more cost-efficient processes.

Support positive business and employee outcomes

Implementing a well-planned new business intake process pays dividends for your bottom line:

  • Protect and preserve billable time through smart, concise forms and streamlined workflow processes that ask the right questions at the right time.
  • Limit the scope of new business intake to the information needed for risk compliance and creating billing-ready matters.
  • Plan for secondary workflow processes to manage change management after matters are opened for time and billing.
  • Identify areas where manual data update tasks can be combined and automated in workflow processes
    Know the capabilities of your technology tools and optimize out-of-the-box configurations to avoid the disruption and expense of upgrading custom solutions.
  • Plan for in-depth and ongoing staff training as the best way to reap the full value of the firm’s technology investment. 

Building workflows to consolidate and automate redundant data intake and update tasks frees up staff to do the work they were hired to do, reduces stress, and contributes to a fulfilling and enjoyable work life. The positive outcomes for firms include employee retention and team satisfaction — vitally important metrics for company health and financial well-being.

About the author

Debbie Ventura

Making Knowledge Work

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