Factors in Setting Law Firm Goals and Objectives

Factors in setting law firm goals and objectives are different from objectives and goals for any commercial or industrial enterprise. This is so because of the difference in the nature of the services rendered by the two. There are certain characteristics of law firms, other than the well-known differences between industrial enterprises and professional organizations, which can be set and defined to come up with a model for the organization. Basically, the process of planning and setting goals involves building a model to serve as the development guide for the firm and determination of the way to achieve the goals and the time it will take. There are a number of characteristics of a model which are the factors that affect setting of goals and objectives in a law firm. Throughout this article, the various factors that affect the setting up of goals and objectives in a law firm will be discussed.

Size

According to many lawyers, size is the status in the legal community, prestigious clients, the ability to handle more interesting as well as complex legal work and stability. In most case, these are accompanied by other characteristics like minimal opportunity for significant participation in management, impersonal atmosphere; need to follow the policies and procedures that are already in place and little direct contact with clients which are not attractive to some lawyers. Generally, lawyers in larger firms earn more as compared to those in smaller firms. This is because the large firms attract the large corporate clientele who pay higher rates. As a result, if the model objective is to be a considerably larger firm than the current firm size, a top notch litigation department should be emphasized.

Ownership

Ownership is one of the factors in setting law firm goals and objectives that should be considered keenly. Maintaining high partners to associates ratio in a law firm is a key factor in increasing the income of the partners. The associates actually are the ones that make profits for the partners and that is why the ratio of partners to associates in large firms is always between a third and two thirds of the lawyers. This ratio is mainly affected by: the turnover of associates, the general growth of the firm and the time required to become a partner. For instance in a firm where the rate of turnover of associates is high, the average time needed for an associate to become a partners is six months, there will be a phenomenal growth rate in order to maintain a low partners to associates ratio.

Type of law and client

The type of client and the type of law are two closely related factors that have to be looked at when setting the goals and objectives of a law firm. The large firms normally serve the professionals, the affluent and the corporate clients. These firms increase expertise in legal areas corresponding to their clients’ needs. On top of the regular law areas which include: tax, general corporate, real estate, probate and litigation, some firms are developing distinct specialties either by industry or by function. Some areas of specialization are: labour law, banking natural resources and health care.

Each of the factors in setting law firm goals and objectives explained above should be considered carefully by the law firms during their planning. Planning should be based on the current strengths and weaknesses of a firm. Other external factors like competition and the local economy should also be considered.

Driving Marketing Change At Law Firms – A Test of Leadership

Although it is never easy to challenge the status quo or achieve fundamental change within an organization – especially at a law firm. Yet change is a fundamental component to success. How does a firm steeped in culture and tradition address these questions? Very carefully. Especially if it is driven by a law firm marketing partner.

Driving change can bring about profound personal and professional rewards. It requires developing a strong vision of the firms identity. I call the process firm sculpting – creating your firms ideal image.

The goal of course is to find that new image and make it powerful – one that will greatly increase client satisfaction and propel the firm’s success. This of course takes true leadership – and that’s the rub.

True leaders have the capacity to articulate a vision and inspire others to pursue it with them. True leaders come from a place of honesty–with willingness to see what actually is and discover what could be through community effort. They bring with them a confidence that gives others the courage to strive for even the loftiest goals.

Your firm’s potential for change lies in the hands of such a true leader. Without a strong individual with the skill to push for change by enlisting rather than alienating others, your firm may make important improvements, but it is unlikely to reach its full potential.

The all-important first step in initiating change is to find such a leader within your ranks. Once you are committed to seeing things change, look around and ask yourself who will lead. (The answer may be as close as your own reflection in a mirror.)

Once the leader is chosen, whether he’s the partner with the most power and seniority in the firm or a more junior partner who is eager and willing to support the process, his or her first step is to identify and enlist the other key players in your firm.

Forming Your Inner Team (the Key Partners)

The next step is to identify the principal members of the team–the inner circle. Most of the time, the inner circle will be composed of key partners and, in some firms, top-level administrators. Without them on board, the probability of creating profound change at the root level is seriously diminished. Bring them on board as soon as possible.
But before the firm does this, it must address a very serious issue. It must know whether the core power base–the inner circle–includes what is referred to as a “Toxic Partner.” Like a drop of poison in a carafe, a single “Toxic” can be fatal to even the most brilliant and ambitious of plans.

Finding Your Firm’s Vision – The Heart of Legal Marketing

Once the leader and the inner circle have been identified and any Toxics have been dealt with, the next step is for your leader to set up a series of meetings to determine what the firm’s values and challenges are and then begin to articulate a vision for the firm’s future. Ideally, a facilitator will be brought in at this point to help keep things on track.
Uncovering your firm’s values is no easier than confronting its challenges. Your firm’s values must inspire the partners if there is any hope of inspiring the firm itself and its clients. When the members of the inner circle envision the firm, they should identify which values move and inspire them. These inspired values must appeal to them at a visceral level, not just sound good. Left to their own devices, many partners (and professional marketers) come up with meaningless phrases like “We live to serve.” Your firm’s inspired values must be held to a higher standard than this.
The values must be concrete and measurable; the first measure is whether they elicit a positive emotional reaction that motivates action. You’ll know when the values defined by the inner circle are powerful enough–endorphins will kick in, enthusiasm will rise and it will inspire people to take action.

Drafting Your Firm’s Master Charter (and Creating Derivative Charters)

The inspiration and commitment achieved during the first seminal meetings will soon be evidenced in the creation of your firm’s master charter. As will be discussed in much more detail in later chapters, it is the inspired values and principles found in the master charter that will guide what we call -derivative charters–charters that belong to your key departments, practice groups and committees.

The master charter must be anchored in the leadership’s inspired values. It is the first evidence of what has been a dynamic, proactive process. The master charter must be real, not contrived. It must be rooted in the leadership’s intentions for the firm and the principles on which the firm will be governed from now on.

The master charter will become the focal point of the firm’s identity. It is the document that articulates the inspired values and priorities of the firm. It will not be drafted in a day–creating it takes introspection, analysis, debate and thoughtful examination. But when it is finished, it is the equivalent of a constitution for your firm. If it is done with excellence, it will both guide and inspire every member of your firm to actions that are congruent with the firm’s identity.

Once a powerful firm culture is in place, the master charter’s norms and values will keep the firm on the path to following its inspired values and will discourage individual or group conduct that is inconsistent with those values.

Once the master charter is completed, many law firms falter. The leadership becomes excited about the new charter and circulates it among the other members of the firm. A few memos go out touting the power of vision and describing the bright future that lies ahead. A few of the more ambitious partners try to rally the troops around the cause, but soon the inspiration begins to pale and the charter fades into the background, with no more appeal than the firm’s letterhead and logo.

Resculpting is for naught unless the people below the leadership level believe that the vision is relevant to their lives. I can’t emphasize this enough: The relevance cannot be illusory; it must be as real to them as their weekly paycheck. So your next step must be to give them both the responsibility and the authority to put changes into action.
In order to do this, I recommend that the firm’s charter be a jumping-off point from which each major department creates its own charter and plan of action within the vision that the leadership has delineated. These derivative charters and the strategic action plans will give the members of the firm a personal stake in their future.

The facilitator, with the support of top leadership, must ensure that each of the firm’s major departments, practice groups and committees is given time and support in crafting these all-important documents. Otherwise the subordinates will perpetually feel that this is the leadership’s vision, not theirs. Giving them the opportunity to participate is the only way to make the vision relevant, and it will also make them accountable for the results.

The challenge lies in getting the inspiration and enthusiasm evoked by the creation of the new vision to truly motivate everyone–all the way down to the people on the lowest rungs of the firm’s ladder. The solution is to empower everyone. Skipping this step will undermine all of the firm’s efforts.

In the end, every member of the firm should be enrolled in the change process. Every member of the firm who comes into contact with clients, vendors, other firms’ attorneys, or anyone else should reflect the firm’s inspired values and identity. Every form of marketing, advertising and promotion should be inseparably integrated with the people who make up the firm.

Bringing the Rest on Board (and Creating Strategic Action Plans)

This last step in reinventing the firm happens once the master charter and derivative chapters are written. To allow everyone in the firm to take part–to take ownership–in the changes the firm is making, the leaders of each of the firm’s major departments, committees and practice groups, in conjunction with each of their respective team members, will construct detailed action plans that identify specific goals, specify time lines and names of people accountable for bringing the goals to fruition. These strategic action plans should be developed for each of the major departments in the firm.
Strategic action plans are developed only after the firm’s charter and the derivative charters have been carved out by the leadership. These charters are the basis for the strategic action plans, which are tangible instructions for making decisions and taking action.

Strategic action plans can be thought of as logical extensions of the firm’s values and beliefs. They are, by nature, imbued with the firm’s culture. They can take on enormous momentum, capable of pushing the firm forward to new heights and performance levels.

Strategic action plans bridge the gap between the firm’s words and its deeds. They provide specific task-driven objectives against which the firm’s leadership, including the managers, can test assumptions and gauge the firm’s departmental performance.

The single most important characteristic of strategic action plans is that they are task-specific–they describe purposes, time lines and responsibilities for the tasks the firm performs. These plans, as well as the specific goals they are intended to achieve, must in the end be measured against both the derivative and master charters.

Although it is never easy to challenge the status quo or achieve fundamental change within an organization, the personal and professional rewards are boundless. Moving away from a firm’s preconceived notions frees it from existing limitations. The vision that emerges from the process of sculpting your firm allows your firm to create a new identity that will greatly increase client satisfaction and propel the firm’s success.

Medical Records Retrieval for Law Firms

• MODERN MEDICAL RECORDS RETRIEVAL SERVICE – AUTOMATION, COMPLIANCE, SAVINGS

The modern Medical Records Retrieval (MRR) service is a combination of modern web-based technology and a rules-compliant outsource solution. Historically lawyers and their staff would have to set aside a portion of their time, often a lot of time, to capture necessary information for cases that involved medical records. It’s not that the process is complex. Quite the contrary, every attorney, paralegal, and litigation-support person knows exactly what needs to be done.

It may appear simple, but it is a very manually intensive process. Someone at the firm must acknowledge the need for the records. Necessary forms must be completed to ensure compliance with a myriad of laws (including HIPAA), which the firm and often the patient (who may or may not be the firm’s client) would need to initiate a request. Then, the firm must track the progress of the request, and eventually receive, review, and organize the results, or note that there were no medical records available related to the matter.

To support the business of running a law practice, sophisticated and affordable software tools include new client/business intake, workflow automation, and conflicts management. Vendors who provide early case assessment tools and e-discovery-based technology-assisted review have begun to offer solutions for small firm and solo practitioners. In this article, we will show you how you can improve productivity, lower costs, and better manage billing for MRR expenses.

How Medical Records Retrieval Services Work

Here’s how a typical MRR service works for a small firm/solo practice. One of the firm’s employees logs into a secure, encrypted website. He or she then submits an order outlining the patient’s information, the records being requested, and any other data necessary to complete the request. What happens next is truly a game-changing activity. Instead of the firm’s billable resources chasing record requests from hospitals, doctors, and other healthcare providers, they go back to doing other, productive work, while the MRR process self-executes, and eventually provides you with the requested information and documents or informs you that there were no responsive documents.

Questions Regarding MRR Services

The availability of MRR services presents all attorneys, but especially solo and small firms, with the following important questions:

• How do you start with an MRR service?

• How are the record requests processed?

• Is this process HIPAA-compliant?

• When and how am I alerted to the status of my requests?

• How do I distribute the costs/fees associated with outsourcing medical records retrieval?

Choosing Your MRR Provider

To reduce the risk of choosing the wrong MRR service, consider the following best practices:

1) Ensure that the MRR service can prove secure access to its website (and your records) via a login and password.

2) Understand the MRR service’s processes to ensure protection of privacy.

3) Understand its service level agreements, which explain their process and anticipated turnaround time.

4) Verify that the MRR service has experience with expediting record requests by requesting a list of reference clients.

5) Review the process by which you and/or your staff are notified of updates, including record availability or notice of “no record found.”

6) Ask for the MRR service’s price schedule, preferably in a format that will permit you to do an apples-to-apples comparison of the fees of other MRR services.

When possible, a dedicated MRR service is a better choice than a firm that offers a multitude of legal practice services of which records retrieval is only a small subset of their overall business.

Getting Started with the MRR Provider

Upon choosing your MRR provider, the steps to starting to work with the provider are straightforward and similar to those when signing up with any on-line type of service:

• The firm identifies the approved personnel who are authorized to access the secure system.

• A unique user ID is created for the firm at this time, with a strong password required for all future access.

• Often, this is also the time that billing information is provided, and thus a financial account with the firm and MRR is created for future invoicing.

• Each authorized person completes a new user profile and sign-on request. The user must provide email and phone contact information.

• It is the responsibility of the law firm to notify the MRR as soon as possible in the event that an existing authorized user should be removed from the access control. The MRR should remedy and respond as soon as the user access has been removed.

• While the use of the MRR site should be quite easy for most users with minimal training, additional site support generally is available from the MRR’s services personnel via phone or email request.

Safeguarding Privacy

No matter how beneficial the technology, the firm must ensure compliance of federal and state HIPAA guidelines and any ethical rules about maintaining client confidences. Therefore, they must ensure that the MRR service collects, hosts, and provides access to client(s) records while maintaining compliance with privacy guidelines. Note: This should be part of your due diligence when selecting a provider.

The MRR Service should comply with Federal and state privacy laws. MRR services should keep up to date with changing rules of privacy such as the HITECH Act.

MRR agreements should expressly state that no personally identifiable health information (PHI) can ever be used for non-business related activities such as marketing and/or sales lead generation.

Record Processing

Once you have chosen an MRR service and set up your account, obtaining medical records is relatively straight-forward:

• After you enter a request into the system, the MRR service creates an MRR record request connected to the unique ID of the requester (the specific user at your firm), and confirms receipt of the request via an email.

• A reviewer is assigned to assess the necessary actions to fulfill the request, and will notify the user of any questions regarding the record request. In some states, including California, an electronic request can be executed from the MRR service to the healthcare provider, eliminating the need for paper-based transaction.

• The provider then tracks the request, and conducts any follow-up communication by any means available, including email, telephone or in-person visits if necessary, to acquire clear copies of records requested.

• If the record is available and legible, it is scanned into the secure web-based system for access by the user. Otherwise, a “no record found” is annotated to the request, and communicated back to the user.

Communication Is Key

Nothing can be more frustrating to case management than waiting for needed information from a third party. The MRR service must not only forward the record request to the healthcare provider, but also must provide the firm an ongoing and timely response regarding status. Each record must be tracked in real-time with detailed notes from the MRR agents. The MRR service should send alerts if additional information is required, provide replies via email, and deliver the link to download and/or view completed requests as soon as the records become available. Again, during the selection process, you should ascertain the provider’s practices regarding communications, and include them in the contract.

Speed Is Critical Too

Obtaining the medical records timely is critical, whether to respond to discovery, to make or oppose a motion for summary judgment, to get an expert up to speed, or to settle a case. A reliable MRR service will offer a quick turnaround. They have the experience working with medical locations to obtain records faster than a law firm’s in-house staff. After all, a law firm staff member may encounter (or, in truth, may feel like they have gotten stuck with) the occasional medical record search, but the MRR service is a specialist in the process of collecting information, including “no records found.” So, the MRR service’s very job is obtaining medical records, and therefore will have the process down to a set of specific steps, and can support their clients via a web interface.

Relationships With Healthcare Providers

Sometimes hospitals, physicians’ offices, and other healthcare providers may treat the occasional request by an attorney for medical records as an inconvenience, not respond as quickly or perhaps as completely as the attorney or client would like. A smart MRR service will develop long-term relationships with healthcare providers and their staff to get the data needed promptly and efficiently. This will improve the quality of the document production, reduce its cost, and speed the process up.

Database Strength

Medical records often can be in a different location or city than the healthcare provider. For example, billing records for hospitals are usually in an offsite facility, sometimes in another state. With the advent of electronic records, more healthcare providers are centralizing their records offsite with the umbrella company of their medical group/hospital. Without the information on how and where to request records, in-house staff can waste valuable time sending requests to the wrong locations or having to spend the time to find out where to send the requests. A strong database on where and how to request records from healthcare providers therefore is key to save time, ensure complete result, and save money. MRR services have the incentive and the resources to develop such a database. Law firms, especially solos and small firms, do not.

In addition the importance on the database in requesting medical records, it is equally important on the production side. Virtually all medical records are produced in digital format. Records are typically available in PDF or TIFF file format, making them searchable by many document management systems – including on premise, cloud-based, web-based or hybrid systems. They are usually made available for download and/or viewing from virtually anywhere on any device that supports a secure micro-browser. The MRR service maintains the medical records for ongoing access by the user and any authorized personnel.

MRR Costs and other Considerations

The MRR service will charge you for their services. However, because the firm’s resources are freed up to work on activities that generate revenue for the firm, the costs of using an MRR service will be offset at least in part, and perhaps in full. In addition, depending on your fee arrangement with your client, the invoices from the MRR service may be directly billable back to the client or at least accounted for as a recoverable cost. (Many MRR services charge no monthly fees for having an account, and thus the firm only incur fees on a usage basis, which can then be charged to the cases for which they are required.)

Summary

While many firms may continue the “do-it-yourself” approach, solos and small firms should consider using an MRR service. In addition to the higher costs of installing and maintaining one’s own record management system, the soft costs and resource consumption make this a less favorable alternative. A qualified, experienced MRR service offers a cost effective, robust platform for processing, monitoring, and tracking medical records requests. Record management and processing is HIPAA-compliant, always available, and secure-which in-house processes may not be, with the attendant risks. Use of an MRR service does not require capital expense to leverage digitally filed and maintained medical records. Firm resources can be repurposed from tracking record requests to meaningful and fee-generating activities. Client satisfaction may improve as matters are able to be processed more efficiently, and firm business may increase. The results of using an MRR service are measureable and immediate. It’s literally a one-click quantum leap from manual, resource-heavy processes to a modern, digital, secure web based management for your practice.