Most firms spend far too many hours and kill way too many trees producing reports which are rarely reviewed, month after month, for their lawyers . The reality is that, in order to successfully manage the financial health of the firm, you only need to get lawyers to look at exceptions to the norm, not the norm itself.
For example, for management purposes, while you look at all the firm’s receivables each month, the reports that you prepare for the lawyers do not need this level of detail. You only need to show the ones which are over a certain number of days old or over a certain dollar threshold. As another example, you don’t have to show all the cost write-offs – just those which exceed a certain dollar threshold or percentage of total costs on a file. Many time and billing packages have canned exception reports, where all you have to do is specify the criteria, and the reports will be produced at the push of a button. Your pile of reports will shrink considerably, as will the time you devote to them, and you will then be better able to focus on what really needs attention.
Most firms would benefit greatly from producing a one page report which summarizes all of the key statistics that reveal the health of the firm, both for the current month as well as year-to-date and for the prior year for comparison purposes. We call this report the ‘Dashboard Report”.
Once you become familiar with this report, you will be able to determine in a matter of minutes what trends are occurring and whether any numbers are aberrational, requiring further investigation. This way you will be able to work proactively to maintain the financial health of the firm, rather than reactively.
What to include in the “Dashboard Report” will be in our next Tip.