Question: How many cases should an attorney handle?
Answer: 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 the 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 (taking longer for these things to happen), clients get angry, time on desk goes up, referrals go down, and lots of other bad things tend to happen. Case types also matter. Attorneys can handle more cases for certain case types. Premise liability cases can be trickier, so case counts are probably lower. Social Security case counts are typically higher and that is ok. 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 you should consider the above factors when making that determination.