How one COO slashed his firm’s overhead by 20 percent

Roger Rosemin is one of many Bay Street COOs trying to cut the fat at law firms
Roger Rosemin is one of many Bay Street COOs trying to cut the fat at law firms

When Roger Rosemin entered the office of Thornton Grout Finnigan LLP this past April, his eyes fell on the printers. They were miraculous, capable of spitting out enormous documents at light-speed and in gorgeous colour. “But it was ridiculous,” he chuckles. “It’s a law firm, not a print shop.”

Rosemin, a non-lawyer with an MBA from the Rotman School of Management, had just joined the firm as its chief operating officer after spending four years in the same role at Chaitons LLP. His mandate was, in large part, singular: save the firm money. He quickly sent the printers back to the vendor and leased cheaper equipment.

That was just the beginning. Next, Rosemin took the firm’s law-journal subscriptions paperless. Then he hired a small in-house tech-support team to replace some of the work that the firm previously outsourced to expensive third parties. Overhead, he boasts, is down by 20 percent.

By handling such tasks, Rosemin lets the lawyers focus on practising law. “Time is my inventory,” says Robert Thornton, a founding partner at the firm. “The time that I spend not billing is time away from the top line of the business.”

Rosemin’s story is part of a broader trend. In recent years, firms across Bay Street have hired non-lawyer COOs of their own. The reason is simple. “Clients want more for less,” says Rosemin. “It was once easy to be fat on the backside because revenues always covered it. Now firms want to get leaner.”

Cover of the Fall 2015 Issue of PrecedentThis story is part our series on how Bay Street firms are getting better, from our Fall 2015 issue.