Building the Pricing Machine (Part 1): In the Deep End

Topics: Billing & Pricing, Building the Pricing Machine, Business Development & Marketing Blog Posts, Client Relations, Efficiency, Law Firm Profitability, Law Firm Strategy, Law Firms, Leadership

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This is the first part in a series of blog posts about our on-going webinar series, Building the Pricing Machine, which aims to provide valuable insight to law firms on all elements of their pricing process.

At what point does drinking from a firehose begin to feel normal?

After a year, it’s probably closer to reality than I’m comfortable admitting. It’s a good thing I’m thirsty.

In my first year at Fredrikson & Byron, my role has changed somewhat from strictly learning to now rolling my sleeves up and getting my hands on some really interesting projects. One advantage I had in getting up and running was the timing of my on-boarding.  The firm had already laid the groundwork of a pricing function, and a number of lawyers were already accustomed to teaming with a pricing professional.  Additionally, I arrived just in time to take part in all of the meetings for setting rates this year; I went to a legal pricing master class just a month after starting on the job (where I met and learned from several peers at other firms); and clients continued to ask our lawyers for estimates, budgets, and AFAs.

All of those things contributed to a whirlwind first year, but one where we’ve also seen a lot of progress and success.

In addition to working on client-specific projects, we’re now well down the path of implementing a large-scale initiative designed to improve the accuracy and competitiveness of our pricing firm-wide through a data-driven approach.

It’s a big project, but we have tackled it by locating champions in each of our legal departments, breaking the project down into manageable pieces, working slowly enough to make lasting progress, but quickly enough that we don’t lose momentum.  This approach has given departments and lawyers a sense of ownership over the process without feeling overwhelmed by change and has led to strong buy-in as a whole.

Steven Chambers, a senior pricing analyst for Fredrikson & Byron, presented the first part of Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute’s multi-part webinar series, “Building the Pricing Machine” with a session called “In the Deep End” which aired on September 25.

You can hear a recording of that webinar here.

Looking ahead a few years, and based in large part on the efforts we’ve made in the past several months, I see my role evolving from one that is often reactive based on the work coming in, to one where I am able to take some self-service estimating and budgeting tools proactively into the firm so that lawyers can do some of the more repeatable pricing activities quickly and confidently without needing to pull me in.  That keeps the staffing lean, minimizes workflow bottlenecks, and frees me up to do some of the longer-term work that the firm has planned in order to continue to thrive in the face of a rapidly changing industry.

My personal dream is to create a sandbox environment where our attorneys can run a matter in real time against parallel scenarios with other fee structures to see what might have happened.  Obviously, it’s not simple, but I would love to have some data showing that AFAs are possible without having to dramatically change how a lawyer practices law.

Until then, I guess it’s a good thing Excel is my favorite video game.  Plus, I know I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed as a “new” pricing professional within a law firm, and that knowledge helps.

Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute invited me to share my experiences in the first of a multi-part webinar series titled, “Building the Pricing Machine”. My session, “In the Deep End,” kicked off this series and looked at the experiences of those pricing professionals who have deep experience in the industry but are new to their firm, and those who are longstanding members of their firm’s leadership.