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How many cases should each attorney handle?

January 26, 2017

At Vista Consulting, we get asked this question all the time. “How many cases should each attorney handle?” The answer is “it depends…” Not to be evasive, but we have seen many firms have success with many different formulas. We have seen firms where attorneys carry 20-30 cases, and firms where they carry 200-300 cases. Vastly different models, but both can be successful. When firms ask us to analyze their case counts per attorney and support personnel, we look at several things. We look at current client satisfaction through surveys and percentage of business that comes from non-marketing sources. Low client survey scores, and a low percentage of files coming from non-marketing sources are indicators that your team may have too many files on their plate. We also look at average fees, gross revenue per attorney, and gross revenue per support personnel. Low numbers here can also indicate that people are overwhelmed and have too many files. We also like to analyze what we call Client Communication Cycles and File Review Cycles. How often are clients being communicated with and how often are files being touched? As these cycles increase (another sign of too many files), clients get angry, time on desk goes up, referrals go down, and lots of other bad things tend to happen. Case types also matter. An attorney can handle a higher amount of social security cases than premise liability cases. The case type that the attorney is handling will make a difference in how many they can handle. Finally, all attorneys are not created equal. Some can simply handle more files than others, and handle them well. So the answer is, you have to find out what is the right number for your firm, your attorneys, and the case types that you are handling, but should consider the above questions when making that determination.

Bill Berg
“… They have also worked with us in ways to improve how many new cases we sign-up – they constantly are coaching us in ways we can do things better in that regard. In our weekly meetings we go over our new case sign-ups, our demand times and various other statistics and topics. They hold us accountable to ourselves… I could go on & on – our accounting department was also restructured based much on their recommendations. And, Vista also researched and found a new CPA firm for me which actually keeps up on telling me what needs to be done instead of just keeping things as the status quo.”
- Bill Berg
Jim Reed
"I have to confess, I was initially skeptical that Vista could significantly improve my firm. Heck, we are a small firm (4 lawyers) in a small city and have been in business for 60+ years. Frankly, we were already doing well and had managed to carve out a successful business handling personal injury and malpractice cases. But I met (and liked) Tim McKey and we were having a good year, so I thought, let’s give them a try to see if they can offer any meaningful improvement. I am happily surprised to say that hiring Vista is one of the best business decisions I ever made. Vista analyzed and made recommendations in a few key areas and helped us implement changes in those areas. In less that one year, we are already reaping substantial dividends from those simple changes. As lawyers, we think we are pretty smart and know our business pretty well, but I can tell you that inviting an outside set of experienced eyes to take a close look at the way your firm operates WILL reveal many things you never saw and many areas for improvement. If you want to REALLY learn about your firm and how to improve it, I HIGHLY recommend a consultation with Vista."
- Jim Reed / Owner
Richard Harris
"After founding and managing one of Nevada’s largest personal injury law firms for over 30 years, and teaching law practice management, I didn’t think there was much a consultant could do for me. I initially asked Vista, “Why would I pay you to tell me what’s wrong with my firm – when I already know it?” Their response was, “We’ll help you fix it.” That had actually never occurred to me, which showed how much I needed them. Beginning with the onsite visit and comprehensive Needs Assessment, the Vista team not only helped fix what I already knew needed attention, I’m pleased to admit they revealed and helped us resolve several problem areas I previously didn’t know about. Not only that, through consistent coaching conferences and initiation of dynamic reporting of key performance indicators, Vista trained and transitioned a new management team to take our firm to the next level. I’m completely satisfied with Vista and recommend their services to any firm, large or small."
- Richard Harris