By Tyler Chapman
All in One or One per Metric
When determining your monthly reporting packet, it is essential to breakdown your metrics into ones that you deeply analyze, versus ones you quickly review for appropriateness. Examples of in-depth analysis would be a month over month attorney billing trends and client accounts receivable while one that may require a quick review would be monthly cash in vs cash out. It is important that your reports correctly reflect how much time you plan to spend reviewing the reports.
In my experience, I have seen firms try to cram too much info onto 1-page dashboards that end up overloading consumers and telling them nothing at the same time. Spend some time thinking about what information you are looking for and then organizing it into like-minded groups.
For example, break your reports into business reports and firm management reports. Items like Income Statement, Balance Sheet, Monthly Cash Flow would be your business reports packet. Perhaps include a cover sheet showing Net Income, Net Cash Flow, Year over Year Change, etc. to this packet, that lets the user glimpse the firm’s health and then dig in on the other pages. For your firm management reports, you would have your Work In Progress, Billing, and Collection Analysis reports with a similar dashboard cover sheet showing the realizations of each for immediate consumption, then the supporting reports behind it for more in-depth review.
Finding the best tools for your reporting
Most legal accounting programs will have built-in reports to help you manage your firm, but they may not always be sufficient, especially as your firm grows. If you feel you are outgrowing the stock reports, confer with your software provider to see if custom reports are an option. If they are not, inquire about getting the data in CSV or another standardized format. At this point, you can work with a business management consultant to build reports and dashboards in programs like Excel with a monthly data export that minimizes data entry.
Beyond Excel, there are various legal reporting platforms that can help you supercharge your reporting and it comes with the added benefit that they know the industry and usually have a handle on the necessary reporting metrics already.
In the prior section, I discussed the dashboards and reports from a physical print out perspective. It will be up to the firm to decide if they still want these physical report packages or if they are ready to go digital with either PDF copies or direct access in the reporting tool.
Attempting to fit all your firm’s data on a single page can leave you with both too much and not enough info at the same time. Break the information out into firm management versus business management to make consumption easier then use dashboards to quickly review metrics and have attached reports to provide the additional details to support the numbers presented on the dashboards.