Accounts receivable

3 Strategies Real A/R Pros Use to Get Projects Approved

We spoke with ClientPay customers to find out the methods they used to convince partners, attorneys, and fellow coworkers to adopt new and better processes.

You know that feeling you get when you’ve found the perfect solution to a long-standing problem at work?

Confetti streams down from the sky! Trumpets play in triumph! And that huge weight you have been carrying finally feels lighter. You’re going to be a hero and make your own work easier.

Until your idea is rejected.

Sometimes law firms are slow to adopt new ideas – even when they could save money or improve client experience. Inspiring change at a law firm is easier said than done, but it is possible.

We spoke with ClientPay customers to find out the methods they used to convince partners, attorneys, and fellow coworkers to adopt new and better processes.

#1. Understand why people resist change.

There are several reasons why people resist change. The two most common are lack of interest and fear.

Part of getting someone interested in a new process or product is “selling” it to them. As any seasoned salesperson will tell you, the best way to sell is to listen.

When asked what one piece of advice he would give to others about implementing new processes or products, Ed Aguero, CFO of Cole, Scott & Kissane, gave this advice:

“I'd say take your time to talk to your staff and find out what their pain points are and find out what [solution] will make the right fit for your department.”

If you can answer the question “What’s in it for me?” you will have an easier time.

Fear, and all its forms, may be the most common motivation for resistance to change. Fear of the unknown is usually the biggest culprit at a law firm. To address this, communication is key. Let your colleagues know how the new process will impact their day-to-day lives at work. The more knowledge they have, the less they will have to fear.

Cindy Bouve, finance manager at Hamilton Stephens Steele + Martin, said,

“…I've always found that whatever you're looking to implement, whatever you're looking to bring on board, find out how it's going to impact somebody else, and show them how you can change their world.”

For Tina Roberts, manager of accounts receivable and billing at McGlinchey Stafford, having the right potential system made all the difference when beginning credit card acceptance,

“When we decided to start accepting credit cards, we knew we needed a processing company tailored to law firms that would allow us to deposit both trust and operating accounts.”

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#2. Identify and address your strongest critics.

In order to convince the toughest of your critics, you must be able to find them. Some will be easy because they will be very vocal about their concerns. Others could be trickier to spot.

Lack of participation is a key indicator that someone is not on board. Look out for no-shows, excuses, and arguments to be excluded.

Other things to watch out for are complaining, nitpicking, aggression and hostility, low morale, and bad attitudes toward the new process or product. Again, listen to these concerns and address them as best you can.

Choosing your most stubborn of attorneys or team members for a pilot phase of the proposed solution could be your best method.

Before the pandemic hit, Jennifer Sutton, director of finance at Ward and Smith, conducted a pilot where she strategically chose a few attorneys she thought might need more coaxing than others.

“I knew if we could get them on board, we wouldn’t have trouble with anyone else,” Sutton says.

Barb Terhurne, manager of conflicts, credit, and collections at Fredrickson & Byron, agrees with a pilot program. When adopting a new paperless system, she said, 

“We are currently putting in place [software] with a pilot group, and the firm has a 70-75% acceptance with the attorneys.”

Of course, this is not always feasible. Some processes or products require an all-or-nothing adoption.

#3. Know when to give up and when not to.

No matter how hard you try, you may not be able to bring everyone on board. For some, compromise may be the best way.

Cindy Bouve at Hamilton Stephens Steele + Martin has learned to accommodate when she must.

“There's always going to be an exception. And if you're too hard-nosed to accept that there will be an exception, then everything will fail.”

You could also find success in a more forceful style. At Ward and Smith, attorneys were told they had to go paperless or they could no longer be billing attorneys. The strategy worked.

Jennifer Sutton at Ward & Smith adds “…that truly helped us during the pandemic, when we all got sent into our homes and needed to keep the firm operational, we were able to get bills out seamlessly.”

Whatever you do, do not underestimate resistance to new ideas.

Ignoring those impacted or trying a one-size-fits-all approach typically doesn’t work. Attempt to address specific concerns with individuals, if you can, and always respond privately as opposed to a public forum.

Your communication should be consistent, accurate, and honest. This helps ensure that when your amazing idea is finally implemented, there is no confusion.

Jill Tolotta, director of client account services at Ballard Spahr, thinks all the hard work is worth it. She says,

“Changing our ingrained business processes is not easy, but the potential benefits outweigh the challenges of not doing so.”

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