- MAXIMIZE LAW CLERK
- INCREASE SERVICE STANDARDS
Because of the pressure from law firm clients to provide “value-based” billing, more and more work is being delegated to the law clerk level. As a result of this, a close look at the professional development and productivity of law clerks is essential.
Specifically, four areas need to be evaluated.
- PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
- PRODUCTIVITY AND EFFICIENCIES
- EFFECTIVE USE OF LAW CLERKS
Law firms should ensure that in each practice area, their law clerks are competent, highly skilled and motivated in order to provide low cost, high efficient legal services to law firm clients. Law firms need to offer formal continuing education and development to their law clerks in order to meet the needs of the lawyers and the clients they service. A Professional Development Plan (the “Plan”) will provide a curriculum and competencies (legal writing, legal knowledge, technical knowledge, systems management, time management, docketing practices, coaching) for each level of law clerk (see sample competency model attached). The Plan would incorporate:
- The firm’s Strategic Plan
- Annual budget and revenue generation goals
- Law clerk competencies and curriculum
- Practice specific job descriptions
- Annual performance review and assessment of law clerks
- Structured bonus plans, perks and compensation for special projects.
The Plan will result in law clerks becoming more engaged and in turn, the performance, quality of work, commitment and revenue generation of the law clerk will increase. A successful Plan will also result in high retention. (See suggested law clerk workshops attached)
PRODUCTIVITY AND EFFICIENCIES
Law firms need to evaluate their law clerk resources in each practice area. Do they have
- The right skill level to meet the service standards required by the lawyers and their clients
- Efficient systems; ie. practice specific database, on-line filing, automated service providers, ticklers, docket timer
- Specialized law clerks to provide specific services, ie. searches, on-line filing, answers to general queries, transaction work, project work
- The right structure to ensure the work is produced in the most efficient and cost effective method
- Quasi-law clerks, ie. law clerks who are also doing assistant work or assistants who are also doing law clerk work which results in loss of revenue and highly skilled service delivery
- A succession plan to accommodate service needs for the future.
A restructure of how the work is assigned and produced is essential. Once the restructure is completed, the law firm will have a low cost and high efficient legal resource that it can offer its clients in all practice areas.
In looking at increasing profitability of law clerks, a law firm must look at the following:
- Setting competitive billable rates based on the skill set and sophistication of work for each law clerk
- Setting project rates, block fees, alternative fee arrangements which are attractive to law firm clients
- Monitoring dockets on a regular basis
- Offering training for strategies of successful docketing
- Setting docketing policies
- Creating consistency in law clerk billable and revenue targets
- Delegation and allocation of work so that the law clerk is receiving the appropriate level of work and the appropriate amount of work in order to be successful in meeting the service needs as well as the revenue needs of the firm.
- Assigning law clerk work currently given to legal assistants.
A revenue generation plan and, if appropriate, policies once instituted will result in increased profitability of the law clerk resource.
EFFECTIVE USE OF LAW CLERKS
Effectively using law clerks would provide the law clerks with the appropriate amount and level of work to meet their billable targets.
Some issues to look at would be:
- Do the lawyers include law clerks when allocating work assignments?
- Do the lawyers include law clerks when providing RFP’s, fee quotes or alternative fee arrangements?
- Are law clerks included in the legal teams for large transactions and projects?
- Is the full docketed time of the law clerk resources being billed to the client?
- Is law clerk time written down pro rata with the lawyer’s time?
- Are active file numbers being given when work is assigned to law clerks?
- Are law clerks being asked not to docket or docket lightly to files when lawyers find they have not included law clerk work in the quote or the quote is too low?
Recommended Lawyer Workshops:
- Incorporating law clerks into your practice
- Effectively Utilizing law clerk services
It is suggested that policies are developed to address these issues and once instituted will result in increased law clerk revenue and profitability.
For firms with more than one office or many offices, it is important to implement the above process for each office in each jurisdiction so that law clerk service delivery and productivity is consistent across all offices.
Once the law clerk resource has been evaluated and the plans and policies are developed, implemented and the process evolves, the firm will enjoy highly skilled, profitable law clerks that will bring an increased value to the firm. The law clerks will benefit from the education, training and career development provided by the firm resulting in retention. Most importantly, the law firm will have a low cost and high efficient legal resource that it can offer its clients.