The Mechanics of Law Firm Profitability: People, Process & Technology

Changing the Scope of Matter Management in Support of Client Value, Practice Efficiency, and Law Firm Profitability

In association with:


  • 21 March, 2019
  • 08:30 - 16:30
  • 450 N. Cityfront Plaza Drive, Chicago, IL, 60611, United States ()

Additional taxes may be applicable


8:30AM  Registration & Networking Breakfast

9:00AM  Opening Remarks - Conference Chairperson 
Tom Jones, CEO/President, Iridium Technology

From Theory to Action - Building a Profit Culture
While some law firms focus on the "why" or "if" questions related to incorporating the measurement of profit, other firms have turned their attention to "how" to incorporate profitability as a factor in pricing and partner compensation. In this keynote session, Tim Corcoran will present a multi-step process for shifting from a  traditional production-oriented culture to one where profit isn't just recognized, but influences strategic decisions regarding matter staffing and pricing, resource allocation, hiring, expansion, and a whole lot more. Adapting change management principles for the unique culture of law firms, this session will highlight how leaders can raise awards, navigate thorny negotiations, and secure buy-in by skeptical partners. 

Timothy B. Corcoran, Corcoran Consulting Group, LLC

Profitability—The Business World vs. Law Firms
Where are you today? Where do you want to go? And how will you get there?  In this opening segment, attendees will learn about and discuss:

  • Common law firm performance drivers and profitability levers 
  • Accounting vs. financial intelligence 
  • P&L through the financial lens 
  • “Must know” for managing partners
  • Identifying the real “cash cow”
  • Revenue erosion, risk and opportunities assessment

Ariela Tannenbaum, Chief Financial Officer, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati 

10:15AM   Morning Networking & Coffee Break

How Exactly Are Law Firms Calculating Profitability?
Feedback from the attendees last year sent a strong message that folks want to get more into the actual nuts and bolts of how firms are doing profitability reporting. This panel discussion will reveal the 
detailed calculations that four leading law firms are using for the their profitability reporting and analysis. Topics covered will include: 

  • The granularity of GL account groupings, 
  • Allocation methods applied to each GL account grouping, 
  • Title points ratios (3:2:1?), 
  • Interoffice transfers, 
  • Spreading expenses across offices and practice groups, 
  • How to handle partner compensation, 
  • Expense relief for rainmakers, and of course firm-specific 
  • exceptions. 
  • And a lot more! 

You asked for a session to take you down into the details of 
profitability calculations… this discussion will provide attendees with the sort of granularity they are looking for. 

Lisa Waligorski, Executive Director, Newmeyer & Dillion, 
Brian Fanning, Director of Practice Economics, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP,  
Ron Paquette, Director of Pricing, Akerman LLP

Thomas Van DerMoere, Chief Financial Officer, Neal, Gerber &  Eisenberg LLP
Tom Jones, CEO/President, Iridium Technology

Profitability Analysis: Reporting is Just the First Step 
Establishing a profitability methodology and model is an important milestone for any firm. But once you have established the model, what do you do with it? In this  interactive discussion, we will discuss 3 steps to leverage your profitability data:  

  • Reporting – you’ll first need to create a standard Profitability Report template that can be used to measure profitability at any level. The reporting should help the user understand the 2-3 key drivers of the profit results.  
  • Distribution – with the reporting template established, select a few cases to begin distributing quarterly profit updates for. Establish a schedule to distribute the reports and then meet with the key stakeholders. Ensure the meeting ends with 2-3 take-aways.  
  • Follow-up – when you next meet with the key stakeholders, it is best to start with reviewing what has changed in the profit results for the latest period, and then discussing the take-aways from the last meeting (ensuring accountability on the results from everyone).

Nikhil Gupta, Director Business Analysis, McCarthy Tétrault LLP

12:00PM   Networking Luncheon

Using Machine Learning to Predict and Maximize Profitability
In this session, learn how one firm uses machine learning models to both predict and maximize profitability at any level (office, practice group, client, matter, timekeeper, etc.).  As many factors influence profitability, we will generate feature-specific models and use Shapley values to pinpoint the influence of each factor.  For example, the actual impact of leverage on profitability may be hard to identify when viewed in conjunction with overhead costs, discounts and actual collections.  We will combine detailed analysis with higher-level predictive models and clustering.  Finally, we will demonstrate the use of black box optimization to generate work attorney assignments for a specific client matter, maximizing profitability.

Shawn Hainsworth, Senior Programmer Analyst, Cooley LLP

Aligning Law Firm Compensation with Profitability
Do you often wonder if your firm could be more profitable if it revamped its compensation system to more accurately reflect partner contribution?  Should origination still be disproportionately weighted or should a new system place more value on developing business rather than finding it?  What are other ways to truly motivate partners to cross-sell and collaborate?  Would a re-engineered system bring pay equity?  In this session, we will explore these questions (and more) to understand how to better align law firm partner incentives with the success of their firms and in turn, the firms’ profitability.

Joseph J. Morford, Managing Partner, Tucker Ellis LLP
James M. Fisher, Co-Founder & Co-Managing Partner, FisherBroyles LLP
Kevin Broyles, Co-Founder & Co-Managing Partner, FisherBroyles LLP

Debbie Epstein Henry, Expert, Consultant, Best-Selling Author & Speaker

2:15PM   Afternoon Networking & Coffee Break 

Tipping Point:  The Rise of Legal Operations  In-House Counsel and Law Firms Can Build a Relationship Based on Trust
The role of in-house legal departments and legal services providers is rapidly changing. Who would have thought that the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) would grow from a few hundred members to over 1700 members in a few short years? In-house legal departments are working more closely with legal operations and legal procurement professionals to get more value from outside law firms. How are law firms rising to the challenge and preparing for the future? This discussion will provide valuable insight into the mind-set of legal ops – a growing profession within corporate legal 
departments and law firms.  This discussion will feature perspectives from GCs, legal ops and law firm pricing and LPM managers, shedding light on how they are working together to create value and stronger relationships based on trust and a  deeper understanding of the business of law. 

Richard Brzakala, Director External Legal Services, Canadian Imperial Bank of  Commerce (CIBC) 
Christy Bentz, Chief Practice Services Officer, Norton Rose Fulbright
Dwight Floyd, Director of Pricing and Value, Eversheds Sutherland

Nancey Watson, NL Watson Consulting Inc.

You Can't Innovate in Six Minute Increments: This Issue of Time…
For lawyers and law firms, accurately capturing (billable) time can be the bane of their existence. Yet hours/time still remain the atomic unit of a law firm - the basis of profitability analysis as a “unit of 
production.” This is increasingly running counter to client demands for increased efficiency in practice. In this segment, attendees will hear from one firm who decided to invest in an AI-powered, time and billing solution to meet their clients' needs and solve the timekeeping dilemma once and for all. 

  • Learn the motivation behind the firm’s move to invest in automated timekeeping
  • What type of data the firm was hoping to uncover/extract with this endeavor?  
  • Why is timekeeping the first step to achieving the firm’s 
  • innovation initiatives?

Doug Leins, Chief Information Officer, Waller Lansden Dortch and Davis, Ryan Alshak, CEO, Ping 

Results from the Most Comprehensive Law Firm Profitability Survey Ever
Iridium Technology and LawVision partnered together at the beginning of the year to launch the most comprehensive survey of law firm profitability ever undertaken. The survey consisted of more than 50 questions, and covered the entire spectrum of law firm profitability topics. We asked about the mechanics of profitability (allocations, rules, exceptions), but also included questions about the use cases for profitability (how widely is the data distributed, what are the reporting mechanisms, what actions are taken based on profitability data, etc.) We have compiled all of the data, and it will be publicly presented for the first time at the close of this year’s ARK Profitability conference. Some of the findings will surprise you! 

Tom Jones, CEO/President, Iridium Technology and 
Mark Medice, Principal, LawVision Group LLC

4:00PM   Closing Remarks - Conference Chairperson
Tom Jones, CEO/President, Iridium Technology

4:30PM    End of Conference


Full Description

Download the full event program here

Download the full event program






The “Business of Law” has become a primary focus as a convergence of market forces, technology and economics continue to push law firms toward a clearer view of the bottom-line (giving rise to new platforms, functions and firm-wide initiatives, aiming to shine a light on the relevant economics of the business itself).

While some law firms focus on the "why" or "if" questions related to incorporating the measurement of profit, other firms have turned their attention to "how" to incorporate profitability as a factor in pricing and partner compensation—shifting from a traditional production-oriented culture to one where profit isn't just recognized, but influences strategic decisions regarding matter staffing and pricing, resource allocation, hiring, expansion, and a whole lot more. 

Ark Group’s 8th annual Mechanics of Law Firm Profitability conference will once again be illustrative of the changing scope of matter management in support of client value, practice efficiency and ultimately law firm profitability. This year’s conference will once again provide an ideal platform for networking, discussion and debate, as we collectively examine what law firm profitability truly entails — shedding light on how firms are marshaling their resources to 
provide the necessary framework, metrics and leadership to manage (not just the practice, but also) the business of law more strategically, and profitably. 

Establishing a profitability methodology and model is an important milestone for any firm. 

But once you have established the model, what do you do with it? Attendees of this conference will also gain an understanding of how other firms are leveraging their profitability data—from reporting to distribution to follow-up! 

And what impact is technology and machine-learning having on profitability models to help predict and maximize profitability at any level?

While hours/time still remains the “atomic unit” and basis of profitability analysis as a unit of production within law firms, this is increasingly running counter to client demands for increased efficiency in practice. Standard business principles have become a reality for law firms today as clients have become much more sophisticated and proficient in negotiating costs, evaluating performance and defining the scope of engagements. Success will be closely tied to a firm’s ability to adapt... 

Top industry speakers

Timothy Corcoran

Tim Corcoran is a principal with the Corcoran Consulting Group, He advises law firm leaders, in-house counsel, and legal service providers on how to profit during a time of great change. This includes assisting law firm leaders with business strategy, primarily in the areas of operational excellence and business growth, and assisting in-house counsel manage preferred provider programs. He also advises legal service providers on market dynamics and sales force readiness. He is an expert on law firm and in-house counsel relations.

Ariela Tannenbaum

Chief Financial Officer,  Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

Richard Brzakala

Director External Legal Services, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC)

Christy Bentz

Chief Practice Services Officer,  Norton Rose Fulbright

Dwight Floyd

Dwight Floyd is the Director of Pricing & Value at Eversheds Sutherland. Dwight and his team work with Eversheds Sutherland attorneys and clients to provide superior value by developing and implementing creative pricing and service delivery strategies.  Value is rarely increased through wholesale discounting or telling clients what they need but instead by targeting – actually asking – clients about their specific goals and what they want to achieve. Dwight works closely with attorneys and administrative staff to increase Eversheds Sutherland’s efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, and innovation in a dedicated pursuit of delivering its client’s goals.

Ron Paquette

Director of Pricing, Akerman LLP 

Thomas Van Der Moere

Chief Financial Officer,  Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP 

Lisa Waligorski

Executive Director, Newmeyer & Dillion


Nikhil Gupta

Director Business Analysis,  McCarthy Tétrault LLP

Shawn Hainsworth

Senior Architect, Analyst, Cooley LLP

Deborah Epstein Henry

Co-Founder, Bliss Lawyers; Founder, DEH Consulting

Joseph J. Morford

Managing Partner, Tucker Ellis LLP

James M. Fisher

Co-Founder & Co-Managing Partner, FisherBroyles LLP

Kevin Broyles

 Co-Founder & Co-Managing Partner, FisherBroyles LLP

Doug Leins

Chief Information Officer,  Waller Lansden Dortch and Davis

Tom Jones

CEO & Founder, Iridium Technology LLC

Mark Medice

Principal, LawVision

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