By Legal Futures’ Associate Retain International 
Whether you work at a small practice or a Magic Circle firm, human resource utilisation is a crucial metric. In an environment where downward pressure on fees is stronger than ever, how effectively each member of the team is using their time has a growing impact on financial performance.
As a result, gaining a clear understanding of resource utilisation can play a key role in determining the overall financial health of the firm—even for those organisations working under fixed-fee arrangements.
Despite this fact, many law firms lack an evidence-based approach to distributing caseload across the organisation. In most cases, responsibility for assigning work falls to the partners. While partners may have a clear view of workloads for the other fee-earners within their team, for those positioned further away from them this tends to diminish.
At a partner level, this lack of workload visibility can be troublesome. Moreover, for a firm’s senior executives this can be detrimental to the health and operational efficiency of the business. If one team lacks visibility into workloads and utilisation rates, it is likely this will be replicated across all the respective teams and practice areas.
Instinct, not insight
When visibility into workload distribution is limited, partners are forced to assign tasks based on instinct, not insight. Within a short period of time, this approach can lead to extremely uneven workloads across the firm. In some parts of the organisation, lawyers may be drowning in complex, demanding responsibilities. In other parts of the firm, lawyers may not be receiving enough work to meet their hourly billing targets.
An imbalanced workload presents many different risks to law firms. If lawyers are overloaded with work for an extended period, quality control and adherence to deadlines can quickly begin to suffer—eroding even the strongest client relationships. Continually under-utilised or over-worked lawyers also tend to have a significantly higher risk of attrition, exposing the firm to the cost and disruption of frequent recruitment and training.
To avoid these risks and drive performance at the bottom line, efficient resource utilisation is vital. Achieving this goal demands effective resource planning, which is typically well beyond the capabilities of spreadsheets or practice-management systems.
Shaping a future-facing, effective approach to resource planning starts with fine-grained visibility into the skills profiles, caseloads and experience level of every member of a firm. Equipped with these insights, partners will gain the ability to match the right people to the right matters—ensuring an even distribution of work across every part of the organisation.
If your firm’s current approach to resource planning doesn’t offer you immediate insight into the current caseloads and future availability of your team, then there has never been a better time to take a fresh look at your capabilities.
Retain offers a proven, scalable legal resource planning and management solution that empowers law firms of all sizes to gain full visibility into capacity, optimise resource allocation and plan effectively for future opportunities. All of the Big Four and two Magic Circle firms trust Retain to drive their day-to-day resource planning processes. If you’re ready to take the next step on your transformation journey, Retain is here to help.
To learn more about the Retain platform, visit: www.retaininternational.com . Or to experience Retain’s solutions first-hand, call us now on +44 20 7538 4774 to schedule a demo.