Prepared by Catherine Evans.
The profitable pipeline
A topic near and dear to my heart but maybe not in the way you first think. Ok, I’m a corporate lawyer. I have been my whole legal career. Does this mean making lots of money is my primary driver? Absolutely not.
My solid belief is that in focusing on purpose (which, for avoidance of doubt should not be about making money), profit will follow and with wise stewardship, a business will flourish.
How do you know your purpose?
Initially during a period of career existential crisis, I feared I would have to become a criminal or legal aid lawyer to feel I was contributing to our society or making a difference. After reading an amazing book “Conscious Marketing” by Carolyn Tate (which I literally recommend to almost anyone I meet), I did a lot of deep thinking about my purpose by considering why I do what I do, what is broken in my industry that I can fix and how I can best help others with the skills and passion I’ve been given.
Knowing the answers to these questions completely changes the dynamic and creates an entirely new dialogue with both staff and clients. However, to be very clear, this is not about slapping some values on a website. It requires doing a deep dive into yourself and having a hard look at why you do what you do. This may reveal some difficult truths to work through. If it’s not authentic, there’s no point.
Once you’ve worked out your purpose it is critical to be clear and transparent to staff and ensure every decision you make aligns with your purpose. You have to live and breathe it. People not aligned with the purpose need to be moved out and only people who are aligned with the purpose hired. The distinct benefit is that once you know your purpose, making business decisions becomes super easy (in a later blog I’ll talk about how to start a law firm in 2 weeks). If the outcome is not aligned with your purpose, don’t do it.
Profitability, cost cutting and becoming lean
Profit is a consideration in our business but only in an indirect sense. For us to achieve our purpose of helping as many businesses as we can to thrive, we need to be profitable so we don’t go out of business. We’re not going to help anyone if we can’t make a profit. However, profit in itself is not a primary driver. To the extent we can be profitable, we want to share that profit with employees, clients and our community to again help fulfil our purpose in seeing businesses thrive.
At Kit we constantly think “how can we use this next hour to best help someone” and “how can we best use our money to achieve our purpose”. There are a number of practical implications from this:
- we say no to people we can’t best help (and find them another awesome lawyer who can);
- we want our clients to have an amazing experience in dealing with us. This means investing time, energy and money into our skills and how we communicate;
- we value output not input;
- we share our knowledge openly;
- we play to our strengths and work as a team;
- we need lawyers who are not only technically amazing but are humble, authentic and fun human beings that really want to help others;
- we want our staff to LOVE coming to work each day. Rather than throwing a heap of expensive incentives at them, we actually ask them what they want (and implement it!);
- we don’t live above the hard or thankless work. Everyone pitches in;
- we don’t waste our hard earned money on things that aren’t aligned to our purpose;
- we constantly think about how we can do things better to achieve our purpose.
Lean is not about being a tight arse. We want to be known for our generosity not our frugality. Lean is about being in top shape to live out our purpose and removing waste and excess that adds no value. For instance, many firms spend a whole heap of money on employee benefits that employees don’t actually see as a benefit. What many employees want is to feel trusted and valued, like they are making a difference, given flexibility (linked to feeling trusted) and empowered to make decisions. None of these things cost any money but are hugely powerful.
There are so many things law firms do that are simply not required any more with the efficient use of technology. Empower your younger staff to investigate and come up with ideas!
Profitability and revenue
Being a lean firm that isn’t wasting resources means that we don’t need to charge the earth to make a profit. Using technology to change the way legal services are delivered means we can reach and help more people for the same input. We price outputs (which clients can easily value) not how long those outputs take us to deliver. No hourly rates, no billable hours. How long something takes to do is our problem not our client’s problem. It is the result they are paying for. We help them sleep easy at night!