Is it Possible For Lawyers to Embrace New Business Models?
Blawg Review # 54

Law Firm Staffing Decisions Often Shortchange the Client

In many of the firms that I have worked for through the years, the fundamental decision is to whether or not to add a new associate is based on one simple question. The question isn’t whether or not there are tasks being left undone. The decision has nothing to do with the level of service clients receive. The decision is based on whether or not work capacities are pushed to the limit whether every associate’s plate is so full that they can’t possibly deal with their workload.

While this approach certainly makes sense from an hourly billing perspective, it is fundamentally anti-client. Sure, law firms don’t want to add an associate if workload fluctuations will mean that those associates will be looking for hours to bill 3 months down the line. At a given moment, the associate workload may be way beyond the ability of the associate workforce to get all the tasks done that really need to be done in order to accomplish client goals. The law firms are concerned that that workload might fluctuate downward and that they will have over hired. Law firms deal with the "over hire" situation by creating make-work for their associates. You know this type of work. It’s the work that associates do which really doesn’t add any value to the case strategy or the client goals. Nevertheless, it appears legitimate on the billing record.

Another tremendous advantage of the virtual worker program is that it is scalable. Law firms do not have to worry about overhead, finding more office space, adding a secretary to support the associate or law clerk, being stuck with an associate who is doing make-work as opposed to strategic work. Our virtual employees are added as needed with no overhead to the law firm. If the workload fluctuates downward, the law firm has not made an investment, which they cannot undo. Each virtual law clerk/associate operates as a profit center for the firm. Where is the downside?

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