Daniel Lewis
May 17, 2017

How to Ask Law Firm Management for a Research Budget Increase

Recently, a new employee started on a Monday morning, and by Friday afternoon she had asked for $300/month in new software. Though skeptical colleagues balked at the brazen request from a new employee, I signed the check. Compared to the salary and overhead of an additional employee we planned to hire, this cost was tiny. The tools would multiply her productivity and decrease my total outlay. After reviewing the business value proposition, it became obvious that these products would drastically increase efficiency. A difficult purchasing decision became easy.

I learned a long time ago a funny thing about ROI (Return on Investment): there can be no R if there is no I. Early adopters reap outsized rewards because the natural fear of new spending gives the competitive advantage to innovative firms willing to take a leap.

In order to look like a hero while increasing your budget, consider these three simple things:

Clearly define why a research budget increase is needed

The first step is to clearly articulate a problem and then back it up with the proposed solution.

What are the problems solved by this additional budget? And what new opportunities will open if the budget is approved? And make no mistake: missed opportunities are problems. When you’re turning away new client matters because there isn’t enough time to handle additional workload, you’re suffering a missed opportunity that subtracts from the bottom line. Once you call missed opportunities by their real name, it’s easier to get a feel for the extensive benefits of a research budget increase.

Show the ROI

With the right technologies, there’s often more return than meets the eye. First, analyze the direct return. What will happen financially if the new budget is granted? Will revenue increase? Will costs decrease? Will there be an impact in areas that ultimately lead to high costs, such as unexpected employee turnover? Whatever the case, be prepared to show that the return to the firm will exceed the cost of the investment, ideally by a significant margin.

Then, look to indirect returns. Will the technology alleviate employee fatigue and attrition? Can you advertise your status as innovators to clients to retain and generate business?

Discuss what happens if no action is taken

One option that is always on the table is “do nothing.” When I hesitated to give my new employee the tools she requested, she told me about other companies that were using the technology. If the tools were valuable, I would be immediately behind the curve if I didn’t consider them, and be facing negative return as opportunities slipped away to competitors. A “do nothing” approach is extremely risky in a competitive environment.

Hostess went out of business because it continued to manufacture unhealthy snack foods in the era of healthy eating. Kodak didn’t keep up with the internet generation and slid into chapter 11 bankruptcy as its revenue slipped year after year. Don’t wait to see what happens if your firm chooses the same passive approach.


In a competitive environment, innovative firms are attracting new clients and getting a larger share of the business from existing clients. To keep clients, firms are adopting new technologies as quickly as possible.  When companies make a concerted effort to increase the quality of their services and let customers know about it, there are marketing and operational advantages.

Contact Ravel to learn how firms are using cost-recovery tools to get even more return on their research budget increases while providing their litigators with the best tools.

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