One of the interesting things we have done is to provide each partner an incentive to participate in each case. We continue to emphasize an equality of opportunity. Instead of the best cases be hoarded by one or two attorneys, every attorney in the firm has the ability to jump in and contribute on each case.
The hoarding of the best cases is a side effect of a partnership compensation formula which includes as its sole feature, revenue. Revenue in a traditional law firm is created purely through billable hours on business cases and for successful outcomes in contingency fee work.
But what if every lawyer was so well-informed about the cases being handled by the firm that they could jump in and contribute on those cases? What if a firm was created which provided incentives for collaboration as opposed to isolation?
Attorney collaboration can be encouraged using a variety of different technologies and techniques including:
- A case management extranet where every lawyer could see what is happening on every case at any time;
- A de-emphasis of billable hours so that lawyers felt comfortable and encouraged sitting down together to discuss cases, strategy and expected outcomes;
- A healthy number of flat fee matters where the law firm’s goal is to achieve the clients’ goals in the shortest amount of time. Since billable hours are meaningless, case strategy, process and leverage become the foundation of the daily effort. Three lawyers thinking, strategizing and working towards a client goal are much more likely to achieve that goal in a short time as opposed to a single lawyer holed up in the office focused on billing 50 hours per week;
- Regular sit-down strategy and collaboration meetings where the best ideas are tested, continually upgraded and where everyone has a hand in implementation.
The power of collaboration cannot be underestimated. Most law firms today provide few, if any, incentive for collaboration. The best cases in most law firms are handled by one or a few attorneys who guard the case like a personal possession. None of this serves the client. Many great minds will always be superior to one.