Moving the Middle: Optimizing Leadership Time to Improve Productivity

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Today’s stagnant or shrinking legal services market puts significant pressure on law firm leaders at all levels to find new ways to increase productivity and build firm value.  In my work advising law firms, regardless of the type of project I’m working on, there is always some linkage to the objective of increased productivity.

However, it is important to define productivity in the context of a law firm partnership. C. Jackson Grayson, Jr., Chairman of the American Productivity Center in Houston, said: “Productivity is nothing more than a mathematical ratio. It’s output over input, that simple. But a company has to supply the content of the words input and output. And if you define your input and output the wrong way, you get into trouble.”

This is where law firms may go wrong. Even if they are currently doing well economically, most firms have defined productivity in a very narrow way, and they may suffer as marketplace realities and dynamics continue to change substantially.

Partner productivity should be defined as more than just the ability to produce working attorney fee receipts or to generate business. To correctly understand the input factor, firms should consider other value-adding contributions like excellent leadership, superior client service, skill and knowledge sharing, service innovations and efficiencies among others, all of which can truly add value to the partnership.

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