By Susan Plummer, Director of Finance, Best Best & Krieger
The Issue: Lack of a Firm Wide Strategy for Support Services
Best Best & Krieger, LLP is a 180-attorney law firm that has been in business for more than a century. The firm has grown to include several dynamic practice groups across eight offices throughout California.
As with most firms, we have become increasingly mindful of operational expenses and their impact on the firm’s bottom line. Facilities management is one area that has always been a challenge for us to manage efficiently on a firm-wide basis. However, these legal support services, including the copy room, mail and overnight deliveries, faxing, hospitality, inventory and supplies management, as well as administrative and maintenance tasks, are essential elements in the firm’s day-to-day operations.
To manage these processes and allow us to focus on billable work, we had retained the services of three different facilities management vendors to help us evaluate and make decisions about personnel and equipment. However, since the final decisions were made on a per-office rather than centralized basis, the end result was that the firm had three different equipment platforms, three labor staff vendors and multiple contracts with multiple termination dates. This lack of consistency was particularly frustrating for attorneys and staff who traveled from office to office because they had to quickly acclimate to new equipment and processes.
With costs for our legal support services reaching approximately $1.7 million per year, we decided to centralize these decisions according to a strategic and consistent firm-wide policy. Specifically, we were looking to achieve consistency throughout our offices, reduce the number of vendors, negotiate better pricing and improve our contract terms. We also wanted to fully evaluate costs billed by our current vendors. At the same time, we wanted to be sure our bill-back rates for these services were competitive.
The Mattern & Associates Solution
After considering a number of consulting firms, we selected Mattern & Associates, LLC, Support Services Advisors to help us streamline our facilities management processes. President and Founder Rob Mattern and his team are well-respected and extremely knowledgeable, with a proven methodology for analyzing, benchmarking, strategy development and decision making.
We started working with Mattern a year ago, taking the time to truly define our needs and get manager “buy-in” from each office. Mattern led us through a Best Practices Operational Review of our outsourced support services operation, which included an assessment of the current situation, handling RFPs through the contract stage, and monitoring and maintaining contracts through their duration.
Mattern began by analyzing all the billing and contracts, and then conducted on-site observations to see how things truly flowed in each of our offices. This evaluation included their administering a survey to determine end user satisfaction levels with current support services and equipment.
Looking at print process, price, and people, Mattern put the responsibility back on the vendor. They talked with all of our offices about their processes, needs, workflow and their likes and dislikes. They also interviewed us to determine our expectations for pricing, equipment and paper services. Mattern presented a comprehensive report of findings and recommendations, noting what was already good, highlighting where improvements could be made, and documenting where the firm stood vis-à-vis comparable firms in the industry.
Based on this report, Mattern created an RFI to narrow down the vendors which would receive the RFP. Five vendors were selected to complete the RFP, each of whom also presented in-person. All the office managers were involved in the decision process. After we narrowed the list down to three finalists, another on-site meeting was held with higher management, including the COO, to choose the winning vendor.
Mattern spearheaded all of this, which enabled us to remain focused on our core business. Mattern’s project manager was often on-site, always available, and very quick to respond. He not only provided a professionalized approach, but also delivered outstanding customer service, going above and beyond to offer a personal touch that really resonated with our staff. We considered the Mattern team to be true partners.
The Results: Vendor Consolidation and 23% Monthly Savings
Ultimately, we were able to achieve our goals. We successfully developed a firm-wide strategy for support services and simplified our vendor selection and contract negotiation processes. We replaced three vendors with just one, resulting in savings of close to 23% per month in comparison to our previous contracts, without compromising quality or service.
By offering our firm specialized industry knowledge and the benefit of invaluable benchmarking data, Mattern helped us determine the “going rate” for costs. They allowed us to obtain an office services vendor that saved us money and even potentially enhanced the services we had before. With Mattern’s fee structure, we paid a deposit up-front, and then the chosen vendor reimbursed the fee, so hiring Mattern was truly a no-lose proposition for us, from start to finish.
Another key advantage Mattern delivered was in contract structuring and negotiation. They structured our vendor contract with built-in flexibility, allowing us to upgrade or downgrade services and equipment according to need, without us having to modify or extend our contract.
Now, Mattern provides contract monitoring and maintenance to safeguard the terms and help with any addendums that might be needed. In the future, they will also remind us to review the contract and process a year prior to expiration.
The Mattern team did all the leg work, dealing with the vendors from the RFI and RFP stage, all the way through to announcing the selection and handling the negotiations. I had full confidence in their ability to manage this process and minimal time was required on my end. Moreover, this was really an enjoyable project. Negotiations are usually difficult, but this was actually pain-free.
Given their in-depth industry knowledge, efficiency-minded approach and committed team, we would certainly retain Mattern & Associates again in the future. In fact, we are now considering hiring them to help us find service providers for additional services such as off-site records storage, office supplies and overnight delivery. They are truly experts in their field and are a pleasure to work with as well. You can’t get much better than that!
Susan Plummer is Director of Finance at Best Best & Krieger, LLP, a full-service law firm with eight offices strategically located to serve California’s most dynamic communities.