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June 2, 2022

Reflections From the Virtual Lunch: Ken Koehn, CFO, Gould & Ratner

Ari Kaplan Interviews Ken Koehn, Chief Financial Officer at Gould & Ratner

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since SurePoint sponsored Ari Kaplan’s “The Virtual Lunch.”

For those of you not familiar with the “Virtual Lunch,” Ari Kaplan, legal industry analyst/speaker and Reinventing Professionals podcast host, brings together people from the legal community every day from 12pm – 1pm ET to discuss a variety of topics. You can sign up to join, here.

During the month of May 2021, Ari explored the theme of #GrowthAndEfficiency and featured guests from the SurePoint Community who shared best practices, strategies, and insights for adapting and innovating their firms in the remote world.  While it’s been some time since the interviews took place, the learnings shared will continue to guide and shape the future of law.

In the first interview, Ari Kaplan chatted with Ken Koehn, Chief Financial Officer at Gould & Ratner, about the pandemic, some of the problems and opportunities it’s created, and how pizza brought everyone back together. At the time of the interview, Ken also served as President of the Association of Legal Administrators, Chicago Chapter. Keep reading for some key takeaways from the chat, and then be sure to check out the video highlights!

The Interview

Ari Kaplan (AK): How have law firms been preparing for a post-pandemic world?

Ken Koehn (KK): It’s been a little difficult to prepare because we don’t know when “post-pandemic” is going to happen. Remember when this all started, we thought it would be over by May. The point of “post-pandemic” keeps moving.

We want to make sure we don’t lose sight of what we might have gained during the pandemic because some good did come out of this. The legal community moved forward 10 years in just 10 weeks. For example, our firm was on a paperless trajectory for five years. That happened overnight.

AK: How will the flexibility of whether or not to be in the office apply to law firms?

KK: We’ll definitely have expectations for when people will or will not be in the office. It won’t be a “wake up and see what they feel like” type of thing. Part of it depends on the role of the employee. For example, young associates really need the mentoring time with more experienced attorneys that they just don’t get when working from home. The accounting team, however, won’t have the same need to be in there. It won’t go back to five days a week with everyone in the office.

One of the things we found was that associates aren’t comfortable picking up the phone and reaching out to the senior attorneys. So, we’ve flipped it and really encourage our senior attorneys to call associates. We’re seeing things come up in those conversations that may not have warranted a phone call by themselves.

AK: Has the approach to driving growth and revenue changed over the past year?

KK: It’s been harder to get new clients during the pandemic. We can’t just take prospects out to “wine and dine” them like we used to. There’s been more focus on the current client base and finding additional work within that base. But travel and entertainment costs have gone down!

AK: How are you using technology to assess and improve profitability?

KK: We started a profitability initiative four years ago. We’ve done it all through SurePoint. It took about a year to develop our model. We set a revenue threshold and a profitability threshold.

We’ve divided our client base into four quadrants. Each quadrant gets a different emphasis.

  • High revenue/High profit- The superstar clients you really want to take care of.
  • High revenue/Low profit- We work with the attorney to find the reasons for the low profit.
  • Low revenue/High profit- These clients get more attention from the marketing team for upselling opportunities.
  • Low revenue/Low profit- Attorneys really need to justify keeping these clients on board.

AK: You had a creative way to address the lack of in-person events for the ALA Chicago chapter. An epic pizza party?

KK: We’ve had a few digital gatherings that have been successful. We did a wine tasting with a sommelier, we had a magician/comedian come on, and we had a painting party. The reaction was overwhelming.

For the pizza event, we had Chicago pizza delivered to the home of everyone who attended (and had renewed their membership!). People were so happy to connect with others and talk. We delivered a pizza to each person’s house the day of the event. We had our main digital event and then hosted breakout rooms. People really responded to the sense of community.  Plus, there’s a huge cost savings in these digital events.

AK: What leadership lessons have you learned from this last year?

KK: The importance of making sure people have a connection and know you’re there for them. This goes for staff and clients.

For example, I’d go out and buy pies for my employees and deliver them to their doorsteps. Their reaction made me realize I always have to do something like that. When we’re back in the office, maybe it’ll be taking someone out to lunch for no reason at all, aside from letting that person know he or she is valued and appreciated.

We are all sick of the term “new normal,” but it is clear we will never again operate as we did before.  The key for me, and our firm, is to take this opportunity to evaluate who we want to evolve into.  It’s an unprecedented opportunity to change and redefine, particularly in an industry not known for a fondness for change.

Ken Koehn, CFO, Gould & Ratner

Flash Forward…a Year Later

We asked Ken to share his own reflections on his interview and this is what he said, “I think one thing I may not have realized at the time is just how profound and permanent the change from “normal” was going to be.  We are all sick of the term “new normal”, but it is clear we will never again operate as we did before.  The key for me, and our firm, is to take this opportunity to evaluate who we want to evolve into.  It’s an unprecedented opportunity to change and redefine, particularly in an industry not known for a fondness for change.  We should look at this glass as half full, not half empty, and come out better on the other side.”

Want to see highlights from the video interview? You can view it here. What learnings resonate with you? How has your law firm changed as you return to the office? We’d love to hear from you. Contact us at

Thank you to Ken Koehn for being a special guest on the Virtual Lunch, for his leadership and service to the ALA and legal industry, and to Gould & Ratner for being part of the SurePoint Community.

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