Building the Pricing Machine (Part 2): Learning from Experience — A Primer on Pricing Program Development

Topics: Billing & Pricing, Building the Pricing Machine, Business Development & Marketing Blog Posts, Client Relations, Law Firm Profitability, Law Firms, Leadership, Legal Innovation, Process Management, Thomson Reuters, Webinars


This is the second installment in a series of blog posts in 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.

Building a pricing and matter management program that is respected internally and externally takes time, energy, and dedication. Implementing any “new” business strategy — even one as tested as data-driven pricing and analysis — within a law firm is not for the faint of heart. But those who push through the challenges and enjoy the pains and growth that come from building programs, tools, and teams will no doubt be rewarded with respect in the organization.

High-Level Process of Program Development

Bringing previous experience to bear in a new firm, regardless whether it is to build from scratch or build upon an existing program, follows a similar process of three steps, with each step consuming a year or so. To fully integrate a pricing program, the path generally follows the elements listed below, simply because before one can run, one must crawl, then walk and then run.

  1. Education and awareness — First, it takes an investment of time to coach and educate your teams and their support staff. In a law firm, the first year or so is spent educating attorneys on what a pricing director does and why there is need for this role in the law firm. At times the questions can be critical, but the answer is always easy — we have a job because of our clients, and they now demand more from us. Indeed, your attorneys need to know that clients are demanding much more of the law firms they hire, and in a pricing or matter management role, a pricing director will help then meet their clients’ demands.
  2. Adoption — Second, understanding how attorneys in your firm are most likely to embrace pricing support. Creating and launching tools to help attorneys adopt the desired principles and practices, and in some cases taking over the pricing work for them, helps to create a disciplined and data-driven pricing culture.
  3. Expansion and growth — Third, once you have consensus on the adoption of the pricing program and tools, it is an opportunity to focus on innovation and forward-thinking expansion of ideas and possibly the team in order to drive new solutions for attorneys and clients alike.

While in some firm cultures it may be possible to fast track the education and awareness stage if significant efforts have already been completed, adoption is a key phase that is not likely to be sped up. It takes time on the part of the pricing leader to meet regularly with partners and firm members to help them understand what strategies are most likely to hit the mark at that firm and with the firm’s client mix.

You can hear a recording of the Oct. 30 webinar, Learning from Experiencefeaturing Bree Johnson of Robins Kaplan, and Bill Josten, of Thomson Reuters here.

Building a Culture of Client Success

A critical component of a pricing leader’s role should be a ruthless and constant focus on the client. In project management, it’s often referred to as the “voice of the client” and can be effectively used inside a law firm to build a pricing and matter management program. When clients are happy, or you have a client success story based on work supported by your team, you and your team’s work will be more respected within the law firm.

It’s also important to identify a forum or vehicle to share news of client success. Some examples are a firm-wide newsletter, the firm’s intranet, a lunch and learn session, CLE workshop, a partner meeting, or even paralegal or associate lunch presentation. Any opportunity to share the output of your team and the impact of that work on a client relationship is a great step to reducing or eliminating misconceptions of what you do and what the team is bringing to the table for the client’s benefit, as well as an opportunity to demonstrate expertise.

Understand the Business and the Firm

Last and most importantly, building a pricing program within a law firm is not a one-size fits all endeavor. There are very real and important differences firm-to-firm that should drive the objectives of a pricing and matter management program. Examples of the firm variations that impact program goals include firm size, typical communication methods, the role of Legal Operations professionals in client relationships, appetite for dedicated v. self-serve resources, past practices of the firm, and the business and revenue make-up of the firm. Taking time to learn about the firm, its clients, and the major players within the firm will enable a smoother path to building a department and a program that is respected and delivers value for the client.

Embracing the role “program builder” isn’t easy, and it doesn’t necessarily get easier in subsequent efforts. Growing pains exist with every attempt to build new or expand existing pricing and matter management programs, but the knowledge and firsthand experience that it gets easier as you move from phase to phase, that clients will help you to do much of the selling of the program, and that there is tremendous value to our roles in law firms is an advantage.

By focusing on a brick-by-brick model of growth and development for a new program, pricing leaders can drive change in an existing law firm organization.

You can also hear a recording of the first webinar of Legal Executive Institute’s “Building the Pricing Machine” webinar series here.