March 27, 2013

Time. It’s your most perishable resource. It’s your inventory.

Looking for a way to free up more time so you can practice law?

Every administrative nonbillable hour you spend is like a retailer throwing merchandise in a dumpster instead of selling it. It’s not good business.

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While there will always be some administrative issues that law partners have to handle, there are many issues that can be handled by a qualified firm administrator. With the right person and the right processes, you can add billable hours to your day.

Here are a few areas where firm administrators can have a real impact.

Human resources

Firm administrators can handle functions like interviewing candidates for employment, maintaining benefit plans, overseeing payroll, managing vacation schedules, coordinating job functions and managing employee reviews and development plans.

They will need input from you from time to time, but the day-to-day management and scheduling of these tasks can be handled by the administrator.

Employees often benefit from a firm administrator having these duties because they are often attended to in a more timely fashion. If your main focus is practicing law, as it should be, these issues may be put on a back burner from time to time. They may be ignored until they become serious “fires.”

A firm administrator’s job is to handle these types of situations so that they don’t become bigger issues.

Facilities and maintenance

Firm administrators can manage repairs and upgrades to keep your facilities at their best. Because this is part of their primary function, firm administrators are more likely to schedule preventive maintenance and head off potential problems.

They can also handle space planning, utilization and lease negotiations. Some good planning on the firm administrator’s part may save you money as your firm grows. If they can help you better use your current space, expansion may not be necessary as soon.

Equipment upgrades and repairs

Technology is constantly changing. To keep up, someone has to be paying attention and researching the benefits of emerging technologies. Many firm administrators perform this function.

Depending on their skill sets, firm administrators sometimes serve as the IT manager, handling computer issues, upgrades, etc. Whether they can actually perform the function themselves or not, they can certainly be the point person in the firm for IT problems, plans and training.

You should carefully consider whether you want the firm administrator to be the IT manager. Depending on the size of your firm, this job can be a position in itself.

Technology issues tend to become “fires” very quickly. Make sure you are staffed appropriately to handle and prevent technology fires.

Odds and ends

Think of all the things that interrupt your client work.

Many of those are issues a firm administrator could handle to keep you from being interrupted.

Good firm administrators will look for ways to keep you billable. They will take charge of odds and ends that arise. Your firm will be able to get more done administratively, while you get more done for your clients.

To hire the right firm administrator, you need to decide what functions are most important and hire someone with those skills and experience. Experience in a law firm is not critical, although it may be helpful.

It is also important to give the administrator appropriate authority. If your approval is required on too many things, it will slow down the process. Use budgets, set parameters and have controls in place so that you can keep an eye on what’s going on. But make it possible for the administrator to do the job without your constant involvement.

The right firm administrator can provide significant benefits to you, your employees and especially your clients by making you more accessible to them.

Many issues can be handled by a qualified firm administrator. With the right person and the right processes, you can add billable hours to your day.

This article was originally posted on March 27, 2013 and the information may no longer be current. For questions, please contact GRF CPAs & Advisors at