Firms that take the time to address business fundamentals now will be stronger now than they were before.

This is an ideal time to look at the fundamentals underpinning a law firm's business. We see four areas – costs, lawyer performance, client relations, and strategic focus – as requiring the most attention from firm management right now. Addressing these will ensure that a firm can take full advantage of what is available to strengthen it for the future.

Costs

Any firm that has not yet instituted a review of all major expenses over the past year should do so immediately. The review should begin by analyzing growth in specific expense items over the last few years and comparing them with benchmark studies. But the most effective part of the review is a study of the activities that result in expenses. Each activity should be assessed in light of the contribution that it makes to revenue generation and then graded as "essential," "required but deserving of study," or "of little or no use."

The activities in each category can then be examined in depth. "Essential" costs should remain, naturally, but attention should be given as to whether there is a more cost-effective means to achieve the same or a better result. For instance, a precedent database is an essential tool, but it might not be operating efficiently. Action might both improve its effectiveness and reduce costs.