Close the Closable

One of the biggest challenges facing the firms I work with is too many in-progress matters. Lawyers love doing intake (for a variety of reasons, including that serotonin boost I mentioned yesterday), but we have a tendency to over-stuff our “doing the work” system without getting those cases closed and archived.

My goal is for your firm to achieve equilibrium between your “getting the work” system and your “doing the work” system. The former should respond to the available capacity of the latter. That’s the nature of a pull-based system. It is also very different from how most firms think.

It is a common mistake to be demand-oriented. “We should sweep in all of these leads,” the thinking goes, “We can sort out how to handle them all later.” This is nature of a push-based system, and it creates a negative spiral of overload and delay.

A lot of my work with firms is me exhorting them to reduce the number of in-progress matters they have at any given moment to move towards equilibrium between intake and close-out. That typically involves a stretch of time where they need to close more matters than they bring in. My common refrain is “Close the closable,” meaning if there is just a bit of work left to get a matter finished up and put away, you should do it. Even if it isn’t billable work, and even if the client has already paid their final bill.

The carrying cost of those not-quite-done cases is heavier than you realize.

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