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For many law firms, the name of the game is signing more cases. Period. They are constantly evaluating this metric, asking “How many cases did we sign last week? Last month?” and “How can we sign more cases this month and next month?” While signing more cases is an important goal for law firm growth, focusing primarily on this one objective means you are likely losing out on hundreds of thousands – or even millions – of dollars that you should be collecting in fees each year.

One of the biggest secrets to increasing your firm’s profits is to increase your average case values. Think about it: If your average fee for an auto case is $6,000 and you could double that to $12,000 or triple it to $18,000, you would double or even triple your income without having to spend a dime more on case acquisition.

If you’ve ever heard me talk about the 7 Levers for Increasing Your Firm’s Cash Flow, then you know that increasing the value of your existing cases is one of the sure-fire ways law firm owners can realize more profits relatively quickly.  However, for many law firms the primary focus is signing more cases rather than increasing the value of existing cases.  But you know that one of the keys to law firm success is working smarter, not harder.  You’ve already worked hard to bring cases in the door, and it’s a shame for both you and your clients if you fail to maximize each case to its fullest value.

At this point you are probably saying to yourself: “I’d love to be able to double my case values  but I just can’t! It isn’t realistic.”

But the truth is, if you want to increase your case values, you have to think counterintuitively at times.

Let’s break this down.

The first step is to decrease your attorneys’ caseloads. 

Although this sounds like it will cost you money, it’s actually the key to making more money. If you want to increase your case values, you have to have someone working each case more thoroughly, and that’s impossible if your attorneys are handling 160-250 cases each.  You should have your lawyers handling no more than about 80 cases so that they have the time and opportunity to work up each case properly and to its fullest potential.  When your attorneys are handling 160 to 250 cases there is no way they can touch every file or provide in-depth evaluations.  There’s no way for them or their staff to have the client contact necessary to determine how best to build each case so as to maximize its value.

Freeing lawyers and staff up to work harder on each case doesn’t mean they will do so automatically. You should put systems into place to ensure that each case is thoroughly worked up by the attorneys and staff.  Require mandatory client contact every 14 days that the clients are treating. This will ensure that your firm is staying apprised of the client’s condition and encourages clients to continue with necessary treatment, MRIs, injections, pain management, etc.

Think of all the ways that you can and should build a case properly, and then set up systems and processes so that your lawyers and staff have a clear picture of what you want them to do in order to maximize the value of each case.

Create a cheat sheet for your lawyers and staff, so they are watching for things such as: signs of a traumatic brain injury, the need for an ortho evaluation when chiro treatment lasts more than 6 months, obtaining MRIs or other objective testing when warranted, etc.

Consider how you can best illustrate the degree of your client’s injury to a jury if the case were to go to trial. With that in mind,  make sure your staff and/or the assigned lawyer talks to people that knew your client before and after the accident or injury, and prepare videos or affidavits that illustrative the before and after condition – what the person was like before/after the accident, the things they could do before, but can’t do now, and so forth.

If you live in a bill-paid versus bills-incurred state, consider advising your clients of the pros and cons of waiting to file claims with their health care provider so you can increase the medical bills component of your case to the jury or adjuster.

The important thing to remember is that you have the ability to increase your average case fee dramatically, if you take proactive steps that will enable you to build each case’s evidentiary value.  Hiring more lawyers to work less cases may initially seem like a bad move, but for the firms who do so, and manage the cases effectively, the results are highly profitable, not to mention more alienable to our ethical obligation to zealously advocate for each and every client.  Boosting the settlement or trial value of each case also results in happier clients, and happier clients mean more subsequent referrals, too.  With this case development strategy firmly in place, you are apt to exhaust policy limits more frequently.  Aggressive case development sends adjusters the message that you are on top of your cases, and this will drive up settlement value for future cases as well.

Don’t let hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars fall by the wayside! Take steps today to increase the value of your existing cases and put systems and processes in place now that will increase your profits from future cases. It’s a win-win for your law firm!