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The Business of the Practice and the Practice of the Business David J. Bilinsky Tim Daley.

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Presentation on theme: "The Business of the Practice and the Practice of the Business David J. Bilinsky Tim Daley."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Business of the Practice and the Practice of the Business David J. Bilinsky Tim Daley

2 Tell Me a Little about Yourself… What do we practice? – Expertise? With whom do we practice? Where do we practice? How many years in practice? What do we like about practising law?

3 Why Are We Here? What: – Questions, – Topics, – Issues, or – Challenges do you want discussed to make this day a success?

4 Let’s Make this InterActive!!! Please don’t hesitate to add a comment, suggestion or ask a question! Aiming at sharing some ‘out of the box’ ideas! The more we share today, the more we all get out of the day!

5 Pablo Picasso “Computers are useless. They can only give you answers…”

6 On with the Presentation!! The world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress. Charles Kettering Charles Kettering

7 Agenda Introduction Setting up a Solo / Small Practice Lawyers Sharing Space Selecting an Accounting System Working Effectively with a Bookkeeper Compensation System Considerations Cash Flow Spreadsheet/budget Associate Agreement Considerations Financial Tips Conclusions Questions

8 Dual Roles in a Small Practice Have to do the legal work and Have to run the business side Managing cash flow is key

9 What Can Your Financial System Tell You? Budget: Achieve income goals and keep expenses in line Determine profitability Timekeepers are meeting expectations A/R are staying in line “Dashboard” report that summaries your financial position

10 Top 7 Reasons for Business Failure #1 Wrong Reasons to Start #2 Poor Management #3 Insufficient capital #4Location, Location, Location #5Lack of Planning #6 Overexpansion #7No Website

11 #1 Wrong/Right Reasons to Start Passion for business? Fit and Well? Strong Drive? Positive Attitude? Supportive Family? Thrive on Independence Excellent Integrity, honesty & Social Skills?

12 #2 Poor Management Good businessperson is also a good delegator Delegate financial records mgmt to a good bookkeeper + good legal accounting package

13 #3 Insufficient Capital Lack of: – Start-up Capital – Operating Funds Common mistake: – Overestimate revenues – Underestimate expenses Draw up a 12 month budget Track actuals against budget

14 #4Location, Location, Location Where are your clients? Parking? Access? Location of the Competition Condition & safety of your office Community Internet location too

15 #5Lack of Planning Have a business plan: – Management – Marketing – Technology – Budgeting SWOT analysis – What do we do? – How do we do it? – How do we excel?

16 #6 Overexpansion Expansion can lead to financial difficulties 105 day ‘lag’ between rendering an invoice and being paid.

17 #7No Website Not being on Google is being invisible Google Map to your office Description of services Consider a blog and social media

18 Lawyers Sharing Space Conflicts Confidentiality Code of Professional Conduct of the CBA states: Practising in association: “The definition of ‘law firm’ includes one or more lawyers practising in association for the purpose of sharing certain common expenses but who are otherwise independent practitioners. This recognizes the risk that lawyers practising in association, like partners in a law firm, will share client confidences while discussing their files with one another.”

19 Select the Right Accounting System General Trust Budgeting Conflict checks Calendaring To-Dos Time and Billing A/R Management Reports etc.

20 Working Effectively with a Bookkeeper Not just postings! Month end procedures – Trust reconciliation – Billing and A/R work – Pay disbursements – Prep of financial reports – Monitoring cash flow – Budget comparisons – Cash flow needs

21 You’re the CEO of Your Business Are you a businessperson or a lawyer first? Operate like a business Make business decisions using integrated legal practice management systems and good financial reports

22 What are Your Goals? Move your financial system from a historical (expense) position To a forward thinking (revenue) position Chart out financial goals and reach out to them… Integrate all of this into your practice and your financial systems

23 #1 Rule of Compensation  Plan to Pay Yourself First – Because no one else will!  If you don’t – You will end up with whatever is left, rather than meeting your own personal requirements AND those that you must pay  We are going to show you how to get financial reports from your accounting system that will allow you to ethically and responsibly do this.

24 Write a Business Plan Only way to measure progress Refocus and revitalize practice Organized explanation of how to start and manage your practice

25 Write a Business Plan! Software package Available through ABA- LPM publishing Mission Statement Overview of the Practice Financial Plan Management Plan Marketing Plan The Lawyer’s Guide to Creating a Business Plan

26 Build a Budget Budget Capital budget – Investing activities: leasehold improvements etc. Operations Budget: – Cash Flow budget – Revenue and expense forecast

27 Build a Budget! Forecast for future financial performance Month by month – 12 months Income and expenses Fudge factor 20% pport/articles/docs/Budget.xls

28 Produce a Statement of Time Time logged vs. time expectations It typically sets forth: The time logged (“WIP”) (measured against budgeted amounts for a set period of time) The Time Billed (measured against budgeted amounts), and Fees Collected (measured against budgeted amounts) Necessary to measure EHR.

29 Income Statement Reflects: – All income received, less – All debts paid, and – the balance remaining Accrual method: – income statement ≠ Cash

30 Statement of Cash Flows Reflects: – All cash received, less – All cash paid, and – the balance remaining Accrual method: – Statement of Cash Flows brings ‘everything’ back to Cash

31 The Power of Leverage Focus on “net profit per partner hour” – David Maister Work smarter, not harder

32 Working with Associates Rule of Three for associates salaries Independent legal contractors Paralegal billable hour targets Outsource or hire admin Model Employment Policies

33 Cash Flow Management Tips & tricks for greater profitability

34 Compensation Systems Financial reports, strategic business plan + compensation system should work together Are we achieving the objectives that we set for ourselves in our strategic plan? OR are we rewarding behaviors that are counter-productive to our stated goals for success?

35 Manage Suppliers & Costs Cost reduction review – zero-base all costs Cost control consultants can save you 20%+ Project management for increased efficiency Integrate case & practice management software

36 Creating and Sending the Bill Get Familiar with the Line of Gratitude; Bill Promptly

37 Bill Electronically & Regularly Top quartile firms: – Days to bill + days to collect of 155 days Bottom quartile firms – 170 days Shorten the time to collect!

38 Spread Billing Out + Time to Payment Cycle Bill ¼ of all files weekly (not weakly) Find out when your client’s cutoff dates are to process payments and bill accordingly

39 Draft Bills Clients Love to Pay There is an Art to getting paid Foonberg and Morgan’s advice is priceless Available from the ABA or Amazon

40 Creating and Sending the Bill Put it in your engagement agreement DO IT...automatically Don’t expect to collect the interest Charge Interest on Past Due Invoices

41 Creating and Sending the Bill Not expensive any more Clients like it Collection becomes merchant’s problem Cash flow improves Allow Clients to Pay by Credit Card

42 Focus on Prevention, not Collections 1.File opening approval system 2.Credit limit system 3.Quarterly income distributions 4.Capitalize firm adequately

43 Be Fraud Vigilant! Collection Fraud Retained to collect a debt Send demand letter Receive “certified funds” Client demands $ Cheque is fraudulent – cleans out trust account Bennett Jones Fraud etc…

44 Prune Your Client Tree Run realization reports for all clients Focus on cash in as a % of WIP Aim for 95% realization Use an 80% realization cut-off Upgrade to higher realization clients

45 Expectation Management is Key Engagement Agreement – Set forth your billing policies Gather Requisite Personal Data Trust Replenishment – Minimum trust balance at all times

46 Prune Your Client Tree Determine Lawyers Effective Hourly Rate, by client Fees received = EHR Hours Worked Want high EHR clients! Ask low EHR client to ethically leave

47 Marketing Ideas Client satisfaction interviews Utilize Social Media Sell products

48 Consider Alternative Billing Unbundled legal services Flat Fee, once you know generally how many hours you will spend on the matter Contingency Fee Agreements Gives clients a choice

49 Summary Tips & tricks for greater profitability – Client selection is #1 – The power of leverage – Focus on value, not price – Invest in technology – You’re the CEO of your business

50 Conclusion To thrive (not just survive) a law firm needs more than just standard financial statements Need to know what to measure and what it all means. Accurate management reports allow firms to plan and measure their strategic growth towards their goals. Practice should satisfy the financial goals of the lawyers and staff who operate it.

51 Thanks and Questions! David J. Bilinsky Tim Daley The Law Society of British ColumbiaGMPD Law ‘David_Bilinsky’ on Twitter © 2010 Bilinsky


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