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November 28, 2018

LPM success at Lathrop Gage (Part 1 of 2)

By Tim Batdorf and Jim Hassett

In November 2017, we published a case study entitled “LPM Initiatives at Lathrop Gage” describing the steps this 260 lawyer firm had taken to maximize LPM’s impact, and the results they’d achieved through our Master Certified LPM Coach™ program, and the use of LegalBizDev’s proprietary tools and templates.  This post provides an update, based on an interview LegalBizDev CEO Tim Batdorf recently conducted with David Clark, Lathrop Gage’s LPM partner. 


LegalBizDev:  How would you describe LPM’s progress at Lathrop Gage in the year since we published our case study?

Clark:  LPM is continuing to change our firm’s culture and the way our lawyers practice law.  More and more lawyers are applying its principles every day, and clients are reaping the benefits. 

It’s always hard to know exactly how things like LPM progress compares across firms.   But when I listened to LPM leaders at the P3 conference in Chicago last spring, I got the sense that Lathrop Gage is far ahead of the curve.

LegalBizDev:  Why do you think you are ahead of many other firms?

Clark:  Because of our unrelenting focus on changing lawyers’ behavior through the one to one coaching I’ve been doing.

LegalBizDev:  Can you give me a few examples?

Clark:  Of course.  One of the issues that often comes up in my LPM coaching is how to improve delegation to the most cost-effective time keepers; getting paralegals, legal assistants, library folks, and so on involved in some of the tasks appropriate for them to handle in order to lower the costs to clients.  In our one to one coaching, several lawyers have increased not only the amount of delegation they do, but also its effectiveness.

Process improvement is another interesting example.  Some firms have developed complex and time consuming approaches to process improvement.  Using the much simpler approach summarized in several recent posts in your blog, several lawyers I coached have very quickly found areas for improvement.  For example, one lawyer I coached simplified a tracking spreadsheet so that it quickly communicates the information necessary to other team members without being too complicated.

Budget planning and tracking is at the heart of LPM, and several lawyers I’ve coached have also begun to implement task codes to get better financial information.  For example, our new business litigation practice group leader recently completed a one to one coaching program with me and is now in the process of improving budgeting by requiring his group to use mandatory task codes.

LegalBizDev:  Have any practice groups implemented task codes yet as a result of your coaching?  If so, how did it impact the way they practice law?

Clark:  Yes, several groups have begun to implement task codes.  Of course, to use them effectively you need to have a budget and you need to track that budget against actual expenses.  A number of partners are now using that information to determine ‘OK to make this matter profitable for us and cost effective for the client we need to delegate some work down and we need to leverage more of it.’ Or ‘This is taking longer than we budgeted for this phase, so we need to get more efficient.’

Task codes are not a panacea. Frankly, entering them can be a pain in the neck.  But they allow us to harness the financial data we have, and a lot of other things flow from that.

LegalBizDev:  With other clients, we’ve found that task codes produce the fastest benefits with fixed price arrangements.  Has that been your experience? 

Clark:  Yes, the most immediate benefits to the firm are usually seen in fixed price deals.  For example, one of my partners, Chris Feldmeir, works with our franchisor clients on monthly retainers.  When I coached Chris, one of his clients was paying the firm on a monthly retainer basis.  Working together, we set up a set of task codes to analyze how much time and effort was being spent on discrete tasks included within the retainer arrangement.  The result is that Chris is now better able to fully meet the client’s needs, while also ensuring that it remains profitable for the firm.

LegalBizDev:  Can you give me another example of the benefits of LPM coaching?

Clark:  Of course.  The case study published last year discussed my initial work with partner Travis McCallon for an automobile manufacturer client that wanted to come up with an enforcement system to protect their trademarks from infringers.  Things like tire wheels and hood ornaments are distinctive, and lots of mom and pop type operations try to copy them, create knock offs, and sell them out of garages and small shops.

Travis was engaged to focus on these small infringers with the goal of stopping the infringing conduct.  Most of these infringers had few assets you could collect upon even if you could prove infringement.  However, these trademark enforcement efforts are still important because if manufacturers know of infringements, but take no action to stop them, they could be accused of waiving their trademark rights. 

There were a large number of potential infringements which Travis had to identify and track.  Then for each, he had to work with the client to determine what kind of action, if any, was required.  The project included efficiently sending out cease and desist letters and other communications, monitoring these enforcement efforts, and keeping the client fully informed.  

Since it didn’t make economic sense to take formal legal action against most of these infringers, it was very important that this effort be sustainable and cost effective.  I helped Travis apply LPM principles to think through the options and refine some of the details, and he did the rest.




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