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A Triple Win: Optimizing Legal Matter Resourcing & Work Allocation for Everyone

Dave CookLaw firms are looking at legal matter resourcing and work allocation strategies in a new light. They’re adopting data-centric strategies to invest in their associates, creating a ripple effect that also fuels partner success and client satisfaction. 

This win-win-win approach leverages the interconnectedness of associate career development, targeted partner support, and client satisfaction to secure your firm’s position in the increasingly competitive legal landscape. 

Let’s take a quick look back to see how we got here and how you can create a triple win for your firm, too. 

Associate turnover impacts law firms

Two years ago, more associates began easily moving among firms. The unexpected uptick in lateral movement sparked fierce talent competition. Salaries rose to unprecedented heights, establishing a new norm — the aftereffects of which we still see today as associate pay in elite firms continues to rise.  


Associates have also demanded a more purposeful approach to career development opportunities, equal access across matter types, and a healthy work-life balance.  

Partners cannot fulfill these responsibilities alone. Most are already burdened with improving client relationships, optimizing matter management, and driving profitability. In fact, these pressures reflect an equally pressing need to provide partners with more targeted support and resources.   

Legal recruiters say that partners lacking proper support are leaving firms for greener pastures, often taking top clients and associates with them. A BigHand survey of over 800 firms found that over the past year:  

  • 42% of firms have seen an increase in attrition and lateral hiring at the partner level,  
  • That number rises to nearly half (49%) of firms at the associate level. 
  • Meanwhile, over half (54%) of firms confirm increased attrition and lateral hires at the trainee level. 

Several factors drive the ongoing movement. But one primary reason is in your control to change.  

“A firm’s ability to support the lateral’s practice and help take it to the next level continues to be the most important factor to laterals choosing a new firm, just as it was in 2020,” states the 2023 Lateral Partner Satisfaction Survey by Major, Lindsey & Africa. 

In recent years, law firms began adopting resource management software to leverage data and analytics when addressing associate, partner, and client needs. Almost two-thirds (62%) of firms that experienced a drop in demand over the past year are implementing technology such as work allocation and resource management software to utilize resources more efficiently, according to the BigHand survey. 

These firms quickly discover that their strategies to engage and motivate associates also help partners thrive in their practices.  


Data-driven legal resourcing supports the whole firm

High associate pay has become the norm, but fewer top firms compete on salary alone. With legal resourcing software, they can turn data into actionable plans to:  

  • uncover prospects for associate career growth,  
  • equitably distribute matter assignments,  
  • invest in individual training and performance improvement, and  
  • promote a balanced work and personal life. 

Legal leaders discuss implementing resource management software solutions in the video The Value of Legal Resource Management from a Partner's Perspective. Their quotes below illustrate the real-life impact of more effective legal resourcing practices that allow you to: 

1.Resource legal matters more objectively and strategically

Base resource allocation and matter staffing decisions on facts, not assumptions, for more efficient and fairer distribution. Use historical data to predict similar future matter needs and match assignments with the most qualified attorneys and staff based on their expertise, experience, and availability.   

Sarah Day, Finance Partner at DLA Piper’s Projects & Restructuring UK Group, discusses the benefits of assigning legal work based on individual skill sets, saying, “Resource managers can focus on really knowing the individuals involved and their skill sets. They can be as up on the learning curve as possible to make appropriate allocations and know what people’s desires are.” 

2.Rely on advanced matter resourcing reporting for real-time insights

Reports and dashboards offer real-time views into team capacities and matter progress. If a matter begins to veer from its set budget, lawyers know why in time for a proactive solution. Quick course corrections are vital as almost three-quarters (74%) of firms feel client pressure to use the most cost-effective resource to complete legal work.  

“We’ve got lower write-offs because we’ve got the right people doing the right work. Clients can see that you can scale teams up as needed and scale teams down. That reassures clients that you actively manage the resource engaged on their transactions and comforts them that there’s no time loading,” says Simon Beddow, European Leader in the Corporate and Finance Transactions Department at BCLP. 

3.Promote associate growth and development and partner support

Review data insights to inform individual and team performance evaluations and career development plans. Tools like skills matrices and opportunity boards help lawyers target specific goals and work on matters that suit their interests and strengths. Opportunities to work on complex and diverse issues help associates develop new skill sets while partners benefit from a broader and deeper pool of legal talent.  

Simon says that with legal resource management software, “Team quality overall has improved. Busyness has improved. By making sure people are uniformly busy, we have not over-recruited. We have retained team members who might otherwise have left because they didn’t get quality opportunities.” 

4.Attract and retain top legal talent

Legal resource software helps law firms stay competitive in a tight market. “A lot of our associates speak to friends in other firms who recognize resource management as a discipline is now much more widespread. It’s becoming a best practice, an expectation,” says Hammad Akhtar, Global Head of Transaction Services. 

“Being able to listen to the associate voice and what they want to see has been very persuasive for the partners because they recognize we need to keep up with the market and best practices,” Hammad says.  

As the next generation of partners and associates adopt evidence-based practices supported by Resource Management software, their legal services will become more efficient and effective.  

“We’ve seen productivity go up, saved money in recruitment fees, and we’ve been able to staff the right people on the right work,” Simon says. “We studied, over time, the relative engagement and busyness of team members and found that, broadly, the hours recorded go up by about 10 percent.”  

Speak with a resourcing expert today to empower your firm with data-backed knowledge. Boost associate and partner satisfaction and maximize your firm’s performance for years to come.

Dave Cook was the founder and CEO of Mason & Cook. He pioneered the adoption and expansion of resource management practices within law firms and legal departments. He established Mason & Cook to continue supporting legal firms in establishing best practice resource management structures, driving efficiency, supporting lawyer career development and driving inclusion across the legal profession. Dave leads the strategic direction of the resource management team at BigHand, including the development of new products and the global expansion of the firms’ award-winning services. 

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