Digital White Papers

December 2013: Business and Financial Management

publication of the International Legal Technology Association

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Page 32 of 41

NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN NEW BUSINESS INTAKE Adopt a matter life cycle risk management and data collection approach. The first day of a matter should not be the only time you review its risk or collect information. Matter parties change, clients merge and matter descriptions can change dramatically. Firms do not do enough to identify clients or matters whose profiles have changed over time. This exposes the firm to risk and puts an undue burden on the intake process to collect all necessary information. A NEW LEVEL OF SUPPORT Being the gatekeeper for new business at a firm can be a thankless role. Yet with so much change for law firms — their size, practices, lawyers, clients, deals, regulations and risks — the role has never been more important. New business intake professionals have the opportunity to provide a new level of support to the firm — furthering firm strategy, improving the lives of attorneys and reducing overall risk. If your new business intake practices are holdovers from an earlier age, now is the time for modernization. Your firm might even thank you. NBI Operating Models Although all firms perform essentially the same functions with regard to NBI, they do it using markedly different operating models. Below are three common ones, of which all firms employ some variation: •Distributed: Data entry, analysis and approvals are performed by the attorneys who bring in the business. Firms with distributed models can provide some centralized approvals, such as for pro bono work or unusual financial agreements, but the overall "yes/no" decision is left to the attorney. This is the traditional model, and some firms believe that, as partnerships, they should trust their partners to make these decisions. Potentially, they pose the risk of moral hazard — in which the benefits of taking on new work are distributed, but the risks are shared. In addition, many lawyers lack the time and expertise to review conflicts reports sufficiently. •Centralized: Decisions are made centrally, such as by a new business intake committee, the general counsel or firm managing partners. This model enables the firm to closely control the work it takes on and puts conflict checking in the hands of experts. Risks lie in frustrating attorneys and their clients if approvals are delayed or withheld. It also requires a financial investment on the part of the firm to maintain a professional staff dedicated to intake. •Center of Excellence: This is a hybrid model in which centralized staff support decision-making through data collection and analysis, potentially even by offering a "yes/no" recommendation. Yet, Michael Lowe is the President of HardingLowe, a ultimate decision-making is distributed, either to attorneys or to their practice group or geographic strategy and management consulting firm. He works leads. with top-tier law firms, specializing in strategy, business planning, process re-engineering and Is your firm's NBI operating model the result of a conscious decision or a holdover from a different era? change management. Mike is also an instructor Does it still work with the size and complexity of your firm? Dramatic changes between models could be on transformational change for the Project too much to swallow. However, firms can move along the continuum with incremental changes, such as Management Institute. He can be contacted at mike. gradually bringing on skilled conflicts staff to provide analytical support to their attorneys.

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