Mike Milazzo is Kelley Drye’s Director of Strategic Pricing and is focused on delivering solutions to enhance overall client value and drive bottom-line performance for the firm.
With over 12 years of pricing experience, Mike works with the firm’s Executive Director, Chief Financial Officer, and senior firm management on strategic and operational initiatives related to pricing, project management, and process improvement. He consults with partners to develop appropriate pricing strategies and collaborates with clients and legal operations professionals to drive the development of creative pricing solutions to meet client needs and business objectives. Mike serves on the firm’s Client Value and Innovation Committee, is an accredited legal pricing professional (ALPP), and an active member of the True Value Partnering Institute organization – Law Firm Pricing Cohort.
I think our clients are looking for a few things from us during this time, the most prevalent being empathy and understanding. They want to know that we understand how their business works and that we understand how this pandemic is affecting their business. On that, we're gonna be by their side to help them get through this.
Welcome to pricing matters. A podcast by digitally legal digit tree is a data Analytics and cost management platform and service bringing data driven pricing and cost prediction to law. My name is a really a Spivey, and I will be your host as we speak to leaders who are making an impact in legal pricing, discuss market trends and find out from them why pricing matters. Welcome. See the pricing matters, Podcast. My guest today is Mike Milaneza. He is Kelly Dries, director of strategic pricing. Welcome, Mike. Hi.
How are you?
Good, thank you. E think it's, um it is always important to start with that question right now. I'm doing fine. I'm very lucky here in California and I mean my family safe and sound and, um, you know, just trying like everyone. Teoh keep going and office scene missing the human contact. But it's great to be able to speak to you today. Hey, uh,
weird. We're doing okay. My wife and I are wrapping up Week six of remote working. Um, so by now, we have a pretty good routine set. Uh, the most difficult part probably is when we both have conference calls at the same time and finding our own personal space. But other than that, we're doing pretty OK. Um, she's actually in her seventh month of pregnancy.
Congratulations. Thank you. Thank
you. I'm happy she doesn't have to commute anymore. Um, and I'm happy that I don't get any more. It's nice because we picked up probably about an hour and 1/2 in our day that we can, you know, go for a nice long walks around the table had been eating there the normal hours. We're making the best off with everyone struggling through,
uh, well, that's good to hear. And I'm glad you're all doing Wow. What I always find it's very helpful for our listeners to hear about your background, So I always say, you know, tell us more about your pricing, Jenny.
Sure. Um, I started them pricing in 2000 and eight at the technology company. Uh, we were doing business to business sales and leasing copy machines, printers, scanners, fax machines back then, um, so pricing was very exact. We knew what our costs were. Down switch. He even we've even price out the price of one staple for a copy machine. And that was 10.56 cents for that one staple. Um, so analysis was very clear. Profitability was very direct. Um, but there really was no pricing strategy, so to speak. Ah, the company. I was out. We have a mandate to gain market share. So that is terror for a finance, Preston. Because the salespeople to anything they had to do to win business the matter what the probability analysis said there, waas. Um and that was champion. So we would do analysis and kind of go by the wayside. So I was a little bit of a struggle. Um, I received the opportunity to work in legal in 2011 and I was pretty intrigued from start to go from a world where you were pricing physical products and everything was so exact to with the legal world where your pricing, a service, someone's mental capacity, their legal acumen and data is unclear. To put it best, that seemed like a great challenge to me. And nine years later, it's still interesting every day.
Fantastic. Thanks for sharing that. I mean, as you were talking about, you know, the exact price of a stapler I was wondering, Wow, this is going to have been a very interesting transition into the world of legal pricing where, you know, on dmat just can cost up to anything. But it seems to me from reading your bio and talking with you, you really took that sort of data peace into your role. And, you know, Data Analytics seems to play a key role in the pricing strategy that you've brought to your firm. So I don't have to talk a little bit more about data and you know how your leveraging data at your firm to increase that precision around pricing. And as we say, it's a It's a very different world.
It is, um, we look at the number different ways on different levels in order to guide their pricing strategy. So my team has spent years compiling a database of historic matters that we can use as benchmarks. The quote feature work. Our database typically breaks down matters on the task level, so we get completely granular. Look at time entries, look at narratives to see what work was actually being done. So you get a full sense of the resource is that we're gonna need to complete each task. We also try to capture quality 50 units. It gives context to the numbers, such as how confrontational our adversaries were, what quarter judge presiding over the case. Um, as those sorts of things could be influential in terms of the level activity. We then take that benchmark data along with the scope of work that the attorney anticipates occurring to create a task list or the beginnings of a budget so we can get a sense of who will be doing the work and how long they will be engaged. Once we have a sense of our inputs, then the fund really starts and creating a pricing strategy, and we'll look at a number of different data coins to establish such strategy. We'll look at who we think our competition is. If this is a picture R P request. Well, look at the demand of our attorneys doing the work to see if they're fully leveraged or not Well, determine their expertise in the area. Um, are likely that we're desire to work with that client a lot of different factors that will give us what I call the firm's price. And then hopefully that matches well with what the market bears and with our climb, six patients of the price would be
That is super helpful. Now, you make it sound very simple. So I would love to know a little bit, you know, was what are your greatest challenges in terms of the data? I'd love to know that. And you know what? You've learned that you can share with Alice nous. The data
is only as good as the person who entered it originally. So sometimes we're looking at time entries that were written back in 2010 5 Our database actually goes back to 1995. Um, so the quality of our data is not always the best. Um, and we don't have a system in place currently, even after meeting at the firm for nine years and trying to implement an easy system, which there really is none that we've found to just categorize the type of engagements were working on in the first place. We don't have a system where we can type in TCP a class action and get a list of old the TCP a class action that we worked on. It's a lot of time speaking with practice groups speaking with partners and try and develop a system where we can quickly identify engagements in the system so that we can leverage them moving forward. And then once we have our data, um, sometimes is a little bit of a selling job to the partner saying, No, this is actually the time that you spend on these of the actual inputs that went on the engaged Um yeah, out of our partners are accustomed to the work that they do in the work that the associates do. But sometimes they lose track of all the effort needed to run case successfully. So having that conversation and sometimes the sticker shock, saying that this is the actual cost inputs from the work that we did is a little bit of struggle.
It would love to be a fly on the wall and some of those conversations. Do you have any, You know, any top tips? Because I'm pretty sure you're you're not the only one having them. You know, just a few ways to navigate that conversation that you've found to be successful
through. The strongest case you can make is having more data. So if you say to a partner, well, this one manner that you worked on last year went this way. Phil come with 10 different reasons as to why that was an abnormality. Well, this is not gonna happen again. And we worked too hard and the associate was new, so they work too much and come up with a lot of different excuses. But if you could establish a pattern of 10 cases that all flowed the same way, or at least show where they went differently. So you have possibilities and say it may go down the expeditious past that you think is going to go down. But here's what else may happen. The more data that you can leverage, the stronger your argument can be.
Solution. We couldn't agree more points. It makes sense because it's it's much. It's easy to argue one case, but it's much harder. Teoh argue against a pattern of behavior and it's easier to, you know, start changing that if you if you can actually track that path. So I'm gonna switch a little bit. Teoh, um, you know, talking about I left, you know, your elements of the pricing strategy. And, you know, I love the term, you know, giving us the firm's price. So I'd love to know, You know what? Do you one of the elements of the most successful pricing arrangements that you've put in place? Um, tell us a little bit about that.
Sure. For me, there really is only one element to a successful pricing arrangements, and that is to meet the clients need whatever that may be. The problem is, as we all know, that the client isn't usually gonna tell you were straight out what their needs are. Some do and they're great. But sometimes you have to sift through the weeks to figure out what is their true need. We read a lot of industry articles or sometimes be here straight from the clients that they're interested in alternate fee arrangements, work fixed fees in order to save money. Ah, while that's true that you can save money sometimes with fixed fees. It's not a direct correlation between the two. Sometimes you mean have a cost savings If you went with a narrowly pressing arrangement, Um, the question to me is, what? This year, we'll need it. It could be the same money it could be to better manage your cash flow. It could be to lower your risk threshold. It could be just a simplify the billing process. It could be a combination of those things. Um, so when we know the answer to that question, then we can create a successful pricing arrangement that will deliver that need to the client. Um, and as pricing professionals, we're gonna make sure that is also beneficial to the firm to
absolutely. And, you know, you makes me think about, um, you mentioned, you know, some clients are really good at understanding, knowing, identifying their needs. What do you do with the clients where that's a bit more of a struggle? Do you have any specific questions? You ask her, How do you get them to dig deeper into their into their need?
For me, the easiest way is to show them a couple of options. If we're not sure what the clients need is will propose a number of different solutions to them, and you'll see them quickly gravitate to him, one inherently based upon what they're sure need. This, um, so it's a simple menu of A, B, C and D. We could do it this way with their hourly arrangement with a discount, or we can guarantee a price and do it this way. So if you give them options, uh, that will one engage them in conversation, and two, you'll quickly see which route they gravitate towards. And that will give you a good sign
accident biscuits to present some solutions. And so what I want to talk about, you know, you sort of alluded to, you know, some of the processes you have in terms of your sort of data. Analytics that and scoping. So I'd love to know. You know what role does technology and process management play in making
your team successful? Yeah, a department. Our goal is to share data, whether it's through a budget or through matter of Krul's or probability analysis. Our goal is to show day with 100 accuracy, complete transparency and probably just some most importantly, as quickly as possible. Um, everyone wants information now on. And that's what technology and process management schools do for us in the last us to take our treasure trove of data, which is massive, and pick out the data that we want to shoot. They're in the Sunday did it rather quickly. We use a variety of tools, from our data analysis and modelling programs to a business intelligence platform to give our partners quick hits of data. We don't want to overwhelm them with a lot. We just want Give them what's put into them, whether it's a weekly budget update via email or a little bit more complex breakdown of client possibility or any ad hoc because that they may have you want to answer their questions directly and as quickly as possible. We don't have a process that answer the question directly. Are tools allow us to identify and run it pretty quickly, aside from tools that allow us to do our job better, I found that working remotely has encouraged. I won't say forced but encouraged look at tools to help us communicate better as a team. Um, and over the last few weeks, we have started using applications like Microsoft teams and Planner to help us organize ourselves and share information, living more easily and so my thing A little bit more of a modern fashion, since we can't go to each other steps and talk out problems and what not?
Thank you for sharing it. And I think you bring me very nicely onto you know, the next part of our conversation is, you know, we can't really ignore the situation that we're in. And I'd love to talk about pricing in the next normal, Um, is what I'm calling it, Um and you know, let's dig in a little in terms of you know, what you're seeing and you know what you think clients are expecting from the firm's during this time of crisis.
I think our clients are looking for a few things from us during this time, the most prevalent being empathy and understanding. They want to know that we understand how their business works and that we understand how this pandemic is affecting their business. On that, we're gonna be by their side to help them get through this, it may require us to be more lax and payment terms. It may require us to provide counsel with no strings attached, I think are turning. Our attorneys have to check in, have human conversations and are empathetic and truly foster a symbiotic relationship which, unfortunately, means hurting when their coins are hurting. Um, not only benefiting when they benefit and being there. Now, we benefits and dividends. You know, a year your naps whenever we get through the struggle.
Yeah. Thank you. I think empathy is is our greatest tool in this time. I couldn't agree more. And so coming years, sort of taking it back to your team, you know, And, you know, the type of work that Ural doing, you know? What do you think of some of the greatest challenges for pricing professionals during this this crisis and you mentioned some of thing in terms of communication. Um, so I'd love to know. You know what you think the challenges are and how how your team is overcoming
The biggest struggle for us is the uptick in the bottom of work that we've been receiving, which I'd probably say is typical. Downs her. Ah, the pricing industry, so to speak, was formed out of the crisis in 2008. So it shouldn't be surprised that at this time the clients of this highly Ryan expenses, which means more work for us creating budgets monitoring, spends creating alternative solutions to help them in their time of need. Um, ironically, I think during this pandemic, pricing departments have a real opportunity to take large strides and show how they can add value, cementing their role in the client relationship as the integral member and showing that your value,
Yeah, I couldn't agree more. And so, talking about value, it's a AM somewhat ambiguous concept, and we're always trying to define it. But, you know, I'd love to know from you any predictions you have on how that concept of value is is gonna evolve as we move through this pandemic, right? Yeah, I think
his client in the value or the find value differently, and it's important for us to segments our clients and that paint all of them with a broad brush. If you're lucky enough to have Netflix and Amazon is your clients, they're gonna value different things right now, as opposed to If you have clients in the retail industry or medical industry. Um, for those client store and more non essential industries, I think there's gonna be a major shift and they will find value in help them find out confirms that can help them anticipate what's gonna happen next. Whether that will be helping clients with transition. As employees start coming back to work and safety dynamics may change or increased litigation that may occur. Post crisis things of that nature.
Yeah, thank you for sharing that. And, um, this is the pricing matters podcast. So I always like to ask this question. And so Mike White is pricing massive.
Teoh, you are firm, like most firms do a lot of great things. Um, our environmental team fights to make sure that our soil on border are free of contaminants. We have partisan associates working on the U. S. Border, helping refugees claim asylum. I'm representing them through all the processes that they have to go through at the National Immigration Justice Center. Um, so just to be a small cog in that wheel and being able to help partners run their business so they can focus on what they do best, which is practicing, um, law and doing all the things that help their clients and in turn, help our society. Just being a part of that, I think, makes it all worthwhile for me.
Thank you. That's a really great answer. Well, this has been a fantastic conversation and some really great insights for a around this nus. Thank you for joining me. Thank you for listening. Pricing matters. A podcast by digitally legal. To find out more about our guests, please visit a pod cost page at Digital Eagle ford slash Pricing matters. If you have any feedback from any guests that you think we should feature, please reach out to me at Aurilia at digital TV go dot com. Thank you for listening. See you next time.