Do More with Less: Staffing Models for Today’s Law Firm

Nimble had the opportunity to present at the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) 2018 Regional Conferences in Chicago and Austin. In this post, we’ll share what we presented in our session, “Do More with Less: Staffing Models for Today’s Law Firm”.

The legal industry is under pressure like never before. With demand flat and competition increasing, many law firms are trying to do more with less. The good news is, there are alternatives that can give these firms a competitive advantage. While there is one magic solution for any law firm, the tools we provided are a best practice to finding the right staffing mix for any law firm.

First, Understand the Work

The options available for staffing depend on the type of work that needs to be done. For that reason, performing a Resource Allocation Study is a great place to start. The following are some questions to ask:

  • How are people spending their time today?

  • What work is complex/unique and what is simple?

  • What work a highly strategic or risky and what isn’t?

  • What is the current volume of work? How will that change in the future? 

Focus on the biggest buckets of work for this analysis since they will have the most significant impact.

Next, Know Your Staffing Options

Once the work is well understood, decisions can be made on the more efficient way to staff it. Here are some questions to ask:

  • What are the best uses for internal resources?

  • Is there some work we don’t want to do?

  • Can we outsource work that is low risk or of low strategic value?

  • Do we have the right partners in place?

This staffing matrix summarizes the resourcing options that exist for different types of work:

staffingmodel.png

Staffing Trends

Many law firms are exploring these types of alternatives. According to Altman Weil: Law Firms in Transition, here are some statistics on the staffing strategies being used:

  • 57.1% using contract lawyers (50.4% for firms with less than 250 lawyers)

  • 52.7% using part time lawyers

  • 41.8% using staff lawyers

  • 19.3% outsourcing non-lawyer functions

  • 12.4% creating low cost service centers for back office

  • 6.6% outsourcing legal work

One thing is certain, both lawyers and legal administrators will need to continue to be creative and try new ways of working smarter instead of harder.