Blog

Message from the President

Fall has officially arrived, and the season of change has begun. The leaves are changing colors, the days are growing shorter, the temperatures are lowering, and the holidays are nearing. It’s also a time to reflect on the first three quarters of the year and contemplate changes for the next year. Change is uncomfortable, and that’s okay.  The ability to embrace and take advantage of change is powerful and holds effective benefits to us as individuals. 

It leads to new beginnings…
It creates better adaptability and flexibility…
It moves things forward and creates progress…
It opens up new opportunities and new choices…
It provides strength and confidence to overcome obstacles…
It creates improvements in our jobs and personal lives…
It causes us to look at things from a different perspective…
Most importantly, it provides a sense of COURAGE!

Let’s forget “the way we’ve always done it” and get inspired to propose a more innovative approach to 2020 strategies. Having the courage to admit that “the old way isn’t working anymore” will increase the value you bring to your firms and organizations. If you’d like to have an accountability partner, please send me just one change that you plan to make (or want to make – think big!) at your firm or organization in 2020.  Send me a quick note!

One way to create meaningful changes in your life is to volunteer within the Gateway Chapter in 2020. We will provide the perfect opportunity for you to showcase your strengths yet balance the other aspects of your life, from completing a specific, one-hour task requiring no time away from the office – to working on a short-term project for a few months – to fulfilling a one-year commitment as a team lead. 

  • Do you have expertise in acquiring and developing talent? You will want to assist the Membership Team in creating a pipeline of future members and developing strategies for succession planning that will strengthen the Chapter’s membership. Or, if you have minimal time to donate, there are smaller projects that you can perform without the need to leave your office. 
  • Are you involved in the community and passionate about serving others? You will want to join the Community Connections Team to plan quarterly community service programs.  And remember how much fun it is to participate at the annual Bunny Hop in the Spring? You could be a part of coordinating this successful event.
  • Is it important to you that we expand diversity and inclusion efforts in our firms? This mission starts at the Chapter level. You will want to be a part of the Diversity & Inclusion Team that actively participates in the annual Diversity Job Fair, Pride Parade, Diversity Awareness Partnership activities, and much more. You can make a difference!
  • Are you passionate about professional development, educating others, and creating effective programs? You will be an ideal member on the Professional Development Team responsible for designing the Chapter’s educational content for workshops/monthly meetings and locating speakers. There are also opportunities to assist with less time-consuming responsibilities, such as drafting flyers and managing catering orders.
  • Do you embrace technology and innovative solutions? The Communications Team can put your creative knowledge to good use in elevating website content and identifying better efficiencies for the Chapter’s communication resources. Or, in the alternative, there are many opportunities to help the team with simple data entry tasks that can be performed right from your own laptop. 
  • Do you belong to other legal associations and enjoy collaborating with peer firms? The Strategic Alliance Team members are always on the go and looking for participants who have the desire to boost alliances with BAMSL, ILTA, LMA, STLPA, and many other legal organizations and bar associations. We have important strategies planned for next year, such as the Women Who Lead in Law workshop, a collaborative effort between ALA Gateway and ILTA. 

These are just a few of the ways you can support the Gateway Chapter and be a part of our mission to change it up. Volunteering in the Chapter provides a  mutually beneficial relationship of value! Please contact Julie Logan, Chapter President, or Dawn Gaskill, Chapter President Elect and visit the Gateway website https://ala-gateway.org/Commitees for details on 2020 opportunities.

Invite your Managing Partners and other Firm Leaders to Leadership Integrity!

This CLE (1.2 credit hours) on October 30, 2019, will help professionals in all fields to develop, inspire and maintain a culture of integrity in their organizations. While chronicling failures of integrity from the cubicle to the corner office, retired FBI Special Agent Jeff Lanza provides a positive framework for creating an environment which helps ensure that company personnel maintain their moral compass. Real FBI case examples, including internal investigations, help the audience understand the root causes of unethical behavior and to facilitate the achievement of corporate goals at all levels with employee’s morality and integrity intact.

ALA Members in attendance will be entered into a drawing for a scholarship to the 2020 Annual Conference in Salt Lake City! 

What a Brilliant Idea!

Now is the time to begin preparing for ALA’s Innovation, Development, Engagement and Advancement (IDEA) Awards program. The award is designed to recognize unique programs, services and events that improve the legal community and advance the business of law. There are no predetermined categories, and participants are encouraged to “think outside the box.” The award is open to:

  • Law firms
  • Business partners
  • Organizations
  • ALA chapters
  • ALA committees
  • ALA members

Visit IDEA Award for more information. 

7 Biggest Diversity Issues in the Workplace

             

https://www.thiswayglobal.com/blog/top-diversity-issues-in-the-workplace/
 

We are Better Together and Stronger than Ever

The success of this year’s Annual Business Partner Expo on August 1, 2019, proves that Gateway Members and Business Partners are better together. Check out these photos (more are available on our Facebook page:

  

IST won the award for most creative booth.  As a result, the company will receive a $500 discount on a 2020 bonus opportunity.

These Shoes are Made for Walking…in the PurpleStride

Thanks to the generous support of Gateway members, business partners and sponsorships, Team ALA Gateway raised over $4,900 to help end pancreatic cancer. The team participated in PurpleStride on Sunday, September 15, 2019, in honor of Steve Wingert, our WB Superman. The Gateway Chapter welcomed Wisconsin chapter past president and Steve’s husband, Mark Bridgeman, who participated with the team.

The Value of the Business Partner/Member Relationships  
By: Dale Furnell, Director of Business Development at Epiq

Over the past 7 years, I have had the honor and privilege of getting to know and developing both personal friendships and professional relationships with so many wonderful ALA Members in multiple states and markets.  As such, I am thrilled to be able to share my experience, recommendations and tips to both Members and Business Partners alike. The most valuable attribute that I’ve seen from my experience with the ALA is the deep mutual respect that exists between Chapter Members and Business Partners. If we understand and empathize with each other’s priorities, then we can better connect, build trust and build solid relationships. But how do we build that mutual respect with one another? As I’ve mentioned, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know many Business Partners and Chapter Members over the years. Below, I’ve outlined some pointers that we’ve seen collectively work over the years, so that we can make the most of our ALA partnerships.

It’s important for us as Business Partners to respect the fact that the Chapter Members have a lot going on every day, and many of them wear multiple hats within their firms. We need to respect that we are only one of many individuals trying to earn their business on a daily basis. We also need to understand and respect that they may or may not need our service today – or anytime in the future. But most importantly, we need to respect that like each of us, they have lives and families outside of work that can impact their day, so don’t take a lack of response as a personal or professional rejection. Ultimately, Chapter Members look forward to networking with you, so get involved, get to know people – and you’ll be glad you did.

As a Chapter Member, it’s important to remember that Business Partners want to be viewed as trusted consultants, not just “another vendor”.  Our desire to get to know you and potentially meet with you for a short introduction is not intended to be painful or an interrogation.  We simply want to get to know you as a person, network with you and get involved in your region.  And as a valued member of your firm, we want to connect with you to make you aware of the various ways that we may be able to help you or your colleagues today or in the future. Business Partners want you to know that we are a resource for you. And that’s why we invest financial support so that your chapter can continue to offer education and activities to members. Ultimately, we value our partnerships and interactions, and we look forward to getting to know you.

Together, we create an unstoppable force. And it is important for both Members and Business Partners alike to understand that as a team, we can each develop an incredible network that is a priceless resource. And with just a small investment in time, like an introductory meeting over coffee, lunch or quick meeting, we can develop long-term relationships that go far beyond a work environment.  The Member/Business Partner relationship is meant to be an avenue for each entity to get to know each other over time, to exchange information, solve challenges and find solutions. 

In closing, I want everyone to know that taking the time to get to know each of you over the years has been equally beneficial on a personal level – if not more so – as it has been on a professional level. If developed properly, the Business Partner/Chapter Member relationship is priceless. All in all, I hope that you take the time to get to know each other, attend as many chapter events as possible or say “hello” to someone you haven’t met before. That’s the first step in providing value to one another and building that long-term mutual respect that we’ve all experienced.

Increase Law Firm Profitability Through Cost Accounting
By: Suzette Welling, ALA Suncoast Chapter

How are changes in today's climate impacting your law firm profitability? I have seen a lot of changes in the legal industry since 1982. Technology has changed our world significantly, and law firms are slowly catching up to the rest of the business world in many areas. Gone are the days of the large offices, where every attorney has their own secretary, and the firm houses a large library full of books that must be manually updated with those supplements that would arrive on a regular basis, much to our chagrin.

As we have slowly joined the rest of the world in the ways of online research and paperless offices, we are also considering more appropriate ways to look at profitability. This is due, in part, to client demand. Clients no longer accept the idea that they will pay our firms by billable hour, with no budget or foreshadowing of what their final out-of-pocket expense may become. Technology allows for broader communication and stiffer competition, and if we want to remain competitive, we must become more efficient and readily able to consider alternative fee arrangements (AFAs) such as flat fees, risk collar agreements, etc., or at the very least, offer accurate budgets that clients can count on so that they know their worst-case scenario.

While we may have given in to the fact that we must agree to these terms in order to get the work, many firms find themselves no longer profitable as a result. Where they are falling short is in the failure to recognize that, like other businesses, they must have a cost accounting model that allows them to understand what their cost is for producing the client's product before they can agree to a sale price.

If you think only manufacturing companies can use cost accounting methods in their businesses, think again. Law firms who are using these methodologies will leave in the dust those who do not jump on the bandwagon. You may not be producing widgets, but you are selling a "product" that can measured in order to determine the cost to produce. By implementing a cost accounting system, you will be able to determine profitability by producer, department, office, client and matter. (You may be surprised to learn that your largest fee income client is not necessarily the largest contributor to your bottom line!)

So how does a firm determine the cost of their product? It isn't as complicated as you may think. By determining the direct costs of your timekeepers (salary, payroll taxes, insurance, training, etc.) and allocating the remaining firm overhead to your timekeepers (how the overhead is allocated to differing timekeepers is another article in itself), you can determine an annual cost per timekeeper. By then looking at the number of hours each timekeeper bills per year, you can determine their hourly cost. (Timekeeper annual cost including overhead allocation ÷ number of hours billed = timekeeper cost per hour.)

Once you have determined the timekeeper's cost per hour, you can readily understand what you can (and cannot) afford to offer as your billable rates and AFAs. You can determine the necessary billable rate for each timekeeper in order to meet your profitability goals, taking into account anticipated write-downs and write-offs (typically 10 percent). You will also know very quickly whether you can afford to offer a client a discount on any given invoice and still receive a profit on that work.

By doing a small amount of legwork on the front end to create a model that works for your firm, you can

  • Ensure you are billing your timekeepers at a rate that will meet your profitability goals;
  • Look at the profitability of each client based on the timekeepers who have worked on their matter(s) and the effective rates for those timekeepers after receipts;
  • Be more accurate in your budgeting for client proposals;
  • Be more competitive by using this knowledge to be creative in your billing models and the use of AFAs.

You can start with a simple spreadsheet prepared for each of your timekeepers to determine their break even rate.   For a sample spreadsheet, email Suzette Welling at [email protected].

Upcoming Events

October 25, 2019, 8:30 AM-9:30 AM
Community Connections:  Let’s Start
Alaris Litigation
711 N. 11th Street
St. Louis, MO  63101
https://ala-gateway.org/meet-reg1.php?id=276

October 30, 2019, 11:30 AM-1:00 PM
Annual Law Firm Leader Luncheon:  Leadership Integrity
Moulin-Jefferson Room
2017 Chouteau Ave.
St. Louis, MO  63103
https://ala-gateway.org/meet-reg1.php?id=293

November 20, 2019, 11:30 AM-12:00 PM
LMA/ALA Joint Meeting: General Counsel Panel Discussion
Vue 17
1034 S. Brentwood Blvd., 17th Floor
St. Louis, MO  63117
https://ala-gateway.org/meet-reg1.php?id=296

December 11, 2019, 4:30 PM-7:30 pm
SAVE THE DATE! Gateway Holiday Party
The Magnolia Hotel
421 N. 8th Street
St. Louis, MO  63101

January 23, 2020, 4:30 PM-7:30 PM
SAVE THE DATE! Social Connections
Pieces Board Game Bar & Café
1535 S. 8th Street
St. Louis, MO  63104

Registration and attendance at any ALA Gateway event serves as consent for ALA Gateway as well as ALA International to capture and use your photo, image, and/or voice on the association websites, publications, social media channels, and any other media.

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