Jeremy W. Richter
Webster Henry Attorneys and Counselors At Law
When John Trimble reached out to me a few years ago and invited me to join DRI and get involved with the Law Practice Management committee, I did so, not knowing what to expect. I wasn’t a law firm leader, and I certainly wasn’t a managing partner. What I found in the committee was more important than either of those things. I found a small community of people who were receptive to new people and interested in diverse ideas and discourse. You may already know this, but those things are a rarity.
With the warm reception I received, I was encouraged to start writing articles for DRI’s various publications and sharing with LPM the articles I was writing elsewhere. Based on the feedback I received, I jumped into helping plan the 2019 Managing Partners and Law Firm Leaders conference, even though I had never attended one and with a large dose of imposter syndrome. I didn’t contribute all that much to the planning and organizing of the event, but I was in the room where it was happening – and if you’re a fan of Hamilton, you’ll know that being in the room where it happens is sometimes the most important bit.
What happened next is the most important part. In September 2019, I attended the Managing Partners and Law Firm Leaders conference in Denver. And I say this next part without hyperbole – it transformed my understanding of how to make myself more profitable.
I had always one to strictly keep up with my billable hours on a daily basis. To that point, I had used the same spreadsheet for seven years to track my time entries. This allowed me to keep up with where I was paced for achieving my goals billable goals my firm had for me and that I had for myself. But what I wasn’t tracking was the value of my time.
In one of the sessions at the 2019 conference, the speakers presented on key performance metrics. I had a light-bulb moment sitting right there looking out the window at the eastern edge of the Rockies as a thunderstorm broke over the mountains and poured itself onto the prairie. Keeping up with my time entries wasn’t enough. What was important wasn’t the number of hours I was billing, but the value of those hours. The value was the metric that mattered most.
I had to figure out a way to determine the value of each hour. Since I work for so many clients, each of whom has a different rate, the solution wasn’t as simple as multiplying the number of hours billed in a day by X and determining their value. I had to keep up with the value of each billable entry. Fortunately, I already had a spreadsheet, so I just created a column for the rates and a column with a simple formula to tell me how much each entry was worth. That way I add it up at the end of the day and know how much money I’d earned each day. I’ve been using this method for two years now, and as a result, having a running understanding of how I’m progressing toward my profitability goals.
I don’t know whether the 2021 Managing Partners and Law Firm Leaders conference will bring with it any transformative moments for my law practice. But I do know that by being there, I’ll be giving myself the best opportunity to learn from a diverse group of presenters who bring with them the knowledge and accumulated wisdom to provide light-bulb moments. And I want to be in the room where that happens.