Changing Fee Earner Behaviours

The Challenge

A client had a range of very skilled fee earners delivering top quality work to their clients. However, while their reputation was growing and fee income was rising, the firm itself was finding cash and lock-up increasingly tough to manage.

On an intellectual level all fee earners fully appreciated working capital, lock up, the need to chase debts and bill WIP. A few even understood value billing. However, in practice, people were more focused on projects and matters than raising fee notes, chasing debts, or thinking about how to position the work in terms of its value rather than hours worked.

The client discovered that working with a margin of only 16% available for partners meant that they were running an overdraft amounting to millions of pounds that was not aligned to the brand the firm presented externally, nor did it reflect the financial hygiene that the finance director aspired to manage.

The Solution

Each firm we help transform is different, but this clients challenges were similar so we focused on four key issues:

  1. Negotiating a fee and payment terms
  2. Recording time
  3. Rescoping work
  4. Invoicing quickly and recovering fees.

We spent time with the Finance Director and a number of the Heads of Department before establishing a solution that combined business consulting with financial education and coaching to drive behavioural change.

All fee earners over 3 years post qualified went through a 3 month process:

  • Assessing baseline performance of each team
  • A 1 day interactive business simulation. A competitive practical simulation that mirrors your firm competing with others in the room for different contracts (scale, complexity, length) with clients who were sensitive to fees, reputation, breadth of services, goodwill and market positioning. Each team make key decisions – quality, staffing levels, leverage, pay rises, charge out rates, business development and ultimately, reputation. Learning is debriefed – with the Finance Director and group chair or HoD driving home the parallels to their own firm.
  • Monthly departmental Group coaching sessions to resolve all the barriers to change. By monitoring individuals each month we were able to maintain behavioural change momentum.
  • As part of our consulting work, we helped to create team and individual commercial targets which were linked to reward and performance management. This was essential in embedding changes in behaviour.

The Outcomes

Performance improved across all departments specifically in respect of negotiation and invoicing patterns. Fee earners reported changing the way clients viewed standing orders and payments on account and many admitted to discussing payment terms after negotiating fees. Work in progress fell by 23%, debtors fell by 18% and cash flow improved.

Contact us

Call us now on 01892 610060 or email hello@thegrogroup.com to discuss how we can help you improve your business performance