Law firms want their lawyers to be more commercially aware, research finds

Avatar photo

By Rhys Duncan on


TC hunting 101

The majority of law firms are planning to boost their lawyers’ commercial awareness through training, a new study has found.

The report, published by tech firm BigHand, found that 51% of firms are looking to give their lawyers additional training on commercial awareness as part of their efforts to reduce ‘profit leakage’ — i.e. the amount of money that a firm has earned but hasn’t actually collected.

As well as making their lawyers more commercially aware, 64% of firms plan to collect and bill more frequently, while nearly a third (31%) said they will adjust their billing terms.

The study also noted that just 38% of firms provide associates with profit information for matters they’re working on, with 39% providing billing information.

This data is key, the report says, for lawyers to understand the firm’s commercial position within a matter, and for associates to have a detailed discussion with clients on value for money.

“The shift towards a commercial focus for lawyers is inevitable — and firms will fare far better if they drive the conversation, rather than clients. And that demands a different culture, one supported by a legal workforce with the confidence to take a business-focused approach to all client engagement”, the report says.

Elsewhere, it was found that 47% of firms have increased billable hours this year. Counteracting this, however, is confirmation that 59% have seen an increase in write-offs (work it accepts it’s not getting paid for), with 43% saying that this increase was over 10%.

Highlighting the difference between profitability and billable hours, the research comments that:

“In the current economic climate with more pressure than ever to provide clients with more value for less, law firm leaders must turn their attention from short-sighted discounting and billing billable hours write-offs to improving financial transparency from the matter onboarding process and throughout the lifecycle.”

The finds are based on a survey of 800 individuals from senior legal finance roles, CEOs and managing partners at UK and US law firms with 100 lawyers or more.



Write offs is a problem largely of law firms own making.

I’m in house so use externals. Here’s a typical conversation.

Me: “Hi, I’ve got this job, here’s a spec, please can you provide a quote? will need to be fixed fee as it’s part of the project cost“

Partner: “Great, thanks, so amazing, will provide a quote”

Partner: “Hi Anon, we can do the job for £400k-£500k”

Me: “Cool, I’ll need to get budget sign off so is it 400 or 500”

Partner: “Oh we can definitely do £400k fixed fee.”

Me: “Great, I’ll get that signed off.”

Partner: “Really appreciate the instructions, would you like to go for lunch/come to Wimbledon/sleep with my wife?”

*sign off for £500k anticipated in expectation of inevitable over spend*

*work gets done*

*bill lands for £1,344,659.34”

Me: “Hi, the bill appears to be £800k over the quote”

Partner: “Yes, that’s what was on the file.”

Me: “But the matter was fixed fee”

Partner: “Yes but the parameters changed/you needed more tax advice/the NQ’s dog died so we used 9 equity partners instead”

Me: “But you never mentioned any of this during the deal and now you’re asking me to get internal sign off for over double the spend 8 months after budgets were settled. I can do £500k but that’s the max”

Partner: *wails* *gnashes teeth* “This will leave me penniless, I can do £600k”

Me: “I’ll go make special pleadings to the CFO”

Partner: “Thanks, we can write off the £700k. Do you want to do lunch/come to Twickenham/sleep with my sister?”

That was funny and probs true too

Loooool mate you should be comedy writer 😂🤣


Please write more. I’ll read. And if you’ve a website/blog, please share.

Junior Leachman

Hello Anon, you are cracking me up.

Join the conversation

Related Stories